BYU football recruiting: The aftermath of National Signing Day 2014

Gene Sweeney Jr.

Recruits have been signed, the fax machine has been put back wherever they keep it for the other 364 days of the year, and the coaching staff is taking well deserved time-off. Now the only question that remains is-are these players really any good?

National Signing Day 2014 is now behind us and BYU football's 2014 recruiting class is all locked up. The question now is where the BYU football program now stands with 20 new players added to the Cougars' roster.

Class Evaluation

In order to evaluate just how good this class is, I compared BYU's last five recruiting classes based on 247sports' team class ranking and average player rating of the Cougars. I understand that this data isn't perfect, but neither is any other data we have to evaluate high school athletes and while individual players may end up preforming at a much higher or lower level than their star ranking suggests, it's the best means we have to look at recruiting classes as a whole.

Class Rank

2010 - #25

2013 - #64

2014 - #66

2011 - #70

2012 - #72

Average Player Ranking

2010 - 0.8408

2014 - 0.8151

2012 - 0.8140

2011 - 0.8083

2013 - 0.7975

Based on that data I would rank the 2014 class as Bronco Mendenhall's second-best class behind 2010 in the last five years. While many of you probably look at the class of 2010 as a huge disappointment because of Jake Heaps and Ross Apo's inability to develop into the players they were excepted to be, that same 2010 class did produce some solid talent in Bronson Kaufusi, Josh Quezada, Alani Fua, Tayo Fabuluje, and Jordan Johnson. The fact that at least on paper the 2014 class looks to be BYU's best class since then should be promising to BYU fans.

Recruiting Wins

One of the biggest positives surrounding this recruiting season is the number of wins BYU had late in the process and how well they fared in head-to-head recruiting battles with big-time programs. Historically, when BYU recruiting targets wait until near the end of the recruiting process to commit they end up going somewhere other than Provo, but that wasn't the case this year. The Cougars had six targets (Devon Blackmon, Jaterrius Gulley, Isaiah Kaufusi, Damien Mama, Isaiah Nacua, and Courtland Sutton) still uncommitted coming into the final week before National Signing Day and another target, Uriah Leiataua, committed to Stanford. BYU ended up signing five of those seven targets. If BYU can make that it trend over the next few years, it would be huge for the Cougars.

In terms of recruiting in the West, USC is king and the Cougars had to face off head-to-head with the Trojans on three different recruits this year (Nick Kurtz, Damien Mama, and Fred Warner) and won with Kurtz and Warner. BYU also went head-to-head with Stanford, another recruiting giant in the West, on Uriah Leiataua and was able to flip the three-star defensive end on National Signing Day. Leiataua, Kurtz, and Warner are all very talented prospects and big recruiting wins for the Cougars.

Recruiting Misses

The most notable miss of this recruiting season for BYU was offensive guard Damien Mama who put on a USC cap in front of a National Audience on ESPNU Wednesday. In terms of what most expected this wasn't a big miss for the Cougars, Mama heavily favored the Trojans through the whole process and there was little Bronco Mendenhall's staff could do about it. In terms of BYU's needs, Mama was a huge loss. The Cougars need better production out of their offensive line and Mama's skill set would have gone a long way in helping BYU sure things up in the trenches.

The Cougars also missed on safety Courtland Sutton (SMU), running back Cedric Dale (Purdue), and wide receiver Keyon Dilosa (Missouri). While BYU would certainly would have loved to have these players on its roster, none of them leave a hole in the roster or recruiting class that BYU can't easily compensate for.

Strengths

Coach Mendenhall mentioned in his press conference yesterday that the focus of this particular class was wide receivers and linebackers and BYU did a great job of that. On the wide receiver side of things UTEP transfer Jordan Leslie and junior college transfers, Nick Kurtz and Devon Blackmon, fill immediate needs for the Cougars in the passing game. The lone wide receiver recruit out of high school, Trey Dye, adds some additional depth to a receiving core that lost Cody Hoffman, Skler Ridley, and J.D. Falslev all to graduation following this past season.

The linebacker core was another position group that lost a number of starters to graduation. Replacing Spencer Hadley, Kyle Van Noy, and Uani 'Unga will not be an easy task, but the addition of Tyler Cook, Isaiah Kaufusi, and Fred Warner is definitely a step in the right direction.

Holes

With Ammon Olsen transferring back to SUU, BYU only has two scholarship and three walk-on quarterbacks on roster. Unfortunately the timing of Olsen's transfer didn't give BYU the chance to sign a quarterback on signing day. According to a tweet from the Salt Lake Tribune's Jay Drew, the Cougars will save a place on the roster for one. Whether that quarterback comes via transfer or a late signee is not clear at this point.

Last season BYU signed eight offensive lineman to scholarships including four junior college transfers, yet one of biggest struggles the Cougars dealt with last season was the inconsistent play of the offensive line. The Cougars added three offensive linemen (Austin Chambers, Chandon Herring, and Tejan Koroma) as part of the 2014 class, but Chambers and Herring will both serve LDS missions prior to enrolling and won't be available until 2016. Koroma has a very good motor and shows well on film, but at 250 pounds may need to put on some size before being a legitimate option at this level.

Missionaries

One of the unique aspects of recruiting at BYU is that a good portion of your recruiting classes will leave for two years on an LDS missions before ever stepping on the field for BYU. From what I've been able to gather there are currently nine players who plan on serving a mission prior to enrolling and two who plan to serve. When I spoke with Kavika Fonua the other day, he was not yet sure which of these categories he will be in.

Plan to serve mission before enrolling at BYU:
  • Matt Bushman
  • Austin Chambers
  • Zach Dawe
  • Teancum Fuga
  • Chandon Herring
  • Isaiah Kaufusi
  • Uriah Leiataua
  • Earl Mariner
  • Isaiah Nacua

Impact on the 2014 Football Season

There are several players in this class who I think can make major contributions to the BYU Football team. The easiest choice might be is probably UTEP transfer, Jordan Leslie. Leslie has already proven himself at this level and already has 2015 receiving yards and 15 touchdowns to his name in three years at UTEP. Cody Hoffman has been BYU's most important target in the receiving game for years and with him gone it leaves a void that Leslie should be able to come in and, at least to a small part, fill for the Cougars. Nick Kurtz and Devon Blackmon also have the skills to step in an contribute and I would venture to guess they will also have plenty of opportunity to see the field. At 6'6" Kurtz gives quarterback Taysom Hill a huge target to throw to. Blackmon's speed not only gives the Cougars a big play threat, he also stretches the defense and opens things up for other receivers underneath. I'd also expect to see Blackmon a part of BYU's special teams unit as a returner.

Tyler Cook and Fred Warner are two guys on the defensive side of the ball who fit very well into BYU's defensive schemes and have the ability and overall athleticism that will make it very difficult for the coaches to keep them off the field for very long. The linebacker depth chart isn't quite as wide open as the receivers, but even if Cook and Warner don't crack it they should get some opportunities on special teams.

One dark horse player that may have an impact this season, if he doesn't end up leaving on a mission first, is Kavika Fonua. Fonua has the combination of speed, athleticism, and strength that a safety need to be an impactful player at this level. While I think the starting safety positions are probably locked up, I wouldn't be surprised to see Fonua work his way into a backup role or some nickel packages.

Now it's your turn. What do you think about the incoming class as a whole? And which of these players will we see making big plays for the Cougars this upcoming season?

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