BYU targeting former Utah State standout AJ Vongphachanh in transfer portal

Recruiting battle for Vongphachanh will include multiple Power Five schools, but new BYU LB coach Justin Ena has history with him.

BYU hasn’t been shy about its need to add defensive transfers before it joins the Big 12 next season. Head coach Kalani Sitake estimated the program will add a couple of pieces after spring practice to boost its talent level.

One of those players BYU is keying in on is former Utah State linebacker AJ Vongphachanh. With one year of eligibility remaining, Vongphachanh could add immediate production at linebacker and has the versatility to help at edge rusher. He led the Aggies in tackles last season with 101 (36 of those being solo tackles).

Vongphachanh, who entered the NCAA Transfer portal last week, confirmed BYU has reached out to him. He has also been recruited by Washington State, Minnesota, Texas A&M, Miami and Louisville.

“Through this process, I’m just hearing everyone out and what their plan is for me,” Vongphachanh told The Tribune. “Because, you know, that’s the most important thing for me, not going into a place that doesn’t need me. That’s the first thing, just looking for a place in need of [my] position and then going from there.”

Vongphachanh has been a full-time starter in Logan for the last two years. He originally went to Utah State as a defensive end, but then transitioned to linebacker because of a team need. Since then, he has bounced around positions. He settled at insider linebacker the last two years.

For BYU, there is a need at linebacker. Outside of Ben Bywater and Max Tooley, BYU does not have proven production at the position after Keenan Pili (a transfer to Tennessee) and Payton Wilgar (who hopes to be an NFL prospect) left the program. Right now, BYU is playing a trio of freshmen during spring practice.

At edge rusher, too, BYU could add depth. It has already dipped into the transfer portal to get Isaiah Bagnah out of Boise State, but any extra help would be welcomed.

Notably, Vongphachanh has a relationship with new BYU linebackers coach Justin Ena. Ena recruited him out of high school at Utah State when Ena was the defensive coordinator and inside linebackers coach there. He was on staff in Logan during Vongphachanh’s freshman and sophomore seasons.

“I’ve had a pretty good relationship in the past with him,” he said.

Vongphachanh does not have a timeline for his recruitment. He said he would be open to playing in any scheme.

“I do want to get it done sooner than later,” he said. “I’m not the type to keep stringing it out. But, you know, I want to make sure I’m making the best decision possible.”