The faxes are in, the papers are signed, and BYU football's 2015 recruiting class is now officially in the books. There are lots of players that create cause for excitement and optimism, but when placed in context, BYU's 2015 recruiting efforts present a bit of a mixed bag. Let's take a look at the good news, and the not-so-good news.
The Good News
1) BYU could have a dangerous running back platoon soon. The Cougars have been fortunate to get some great production out of the running back position thanks to Jamaal Williams, but he's struggled with injuries, and his career is winding down, so finding a replacement for BYU is critical. That positional need may have been addressed in a big way in this cycle. The Cougars signed three-star Charles West out of Texas, beating out hot-recruiting SMU, and Arkansas. West isn't a big dude, but he is blazing fast (4.45 40 yard dash time) a skill-set that is always at a premium for BYU. West is somebody who could potentially challenge for playing time right away, and could very easily be a quality replacement for Williams down the line.
If Charles West is the lightning in the backfield, the Cougars may have also picked up some thunder. Three-star running back Squally Canada transferred to BYU from Washington State. He'll have to sit out a year, but that's fine for BYU, who might not need him this season if Williams is relatively healthy. Canada has the frame to support a little more weight than West, and could end up being a great inside/outside combo at running back. Neither player is a 100% sure thing, but BYU has to feel much better about their depth at the position than they did before.
2) BYU is serious about opening up that Texas pipeline With recruiting in Utah becoming increasingly competitive, and with BYU's schedule becoming significantly harder over the last few years, their traditional grounds of Utah + West Coast + Mormons isn't enough. The team has tried to establish strong recruiting ties in Texas, and it looks like those are starting to pay off. Even if the commitments in this cycle are two or low three stars, recruiting is very much a relationship-driven enterprise. A HS coach who sees a lower regarded player succeed at BYU may help open doors for larger fish down the line.
Of course, it'll take a lot of hard work to keep a pipeline of strong talent coming. SMU and Houston just hired two new coaches with strong Texas ties and a reputation for being excellent recruiters, so BYU will have lots more competition for the three-ish star level talent moving forward in Texas.
3) This is not a Dan Smith class. Look, we all know about the stereotypes about BYU and Provo, many of which are borne out of demographic data. This class will help in breaking some of those stereotypes. It still has plenty of Utah kids, but has players from all over the country, and Tonga, including multiple non-LDS players. Seeing kids succeed and be happy at BYU from diverse backgrounds will make for a compelling story to tell recruits moving forward, and will help overcome a major objection in the process.
4) BYU did a good job improving their depth. After BYU was hit with a spate of injures all over the defensive side of the ball last year, BYU's depth situation was a bit exposed. It's very important to have excellent starters, but having competent replacements and backups is key, since folks get hurt. The overall talent level in this group is a little better than previous years, and while there may not be a ton of guys who will start of make big additions this season, there are several who can be perfectly fine rotational players and grow into starters, like Zayne Anderson or Will Sedgwick.
5) They signed a literal mountain. DUDE.
The Bad News
1) This class is light on top-end talent. BYU hasn't signed a consensus four-star player since 2012, and they didn't get any in this cycle. There are a few players here that have high ceilings, like Kieffer Longson and Dayan Lake, but is there anybody here that you can be *really* confident will say, compete for an NFL draft spot? As BYU continues to transition into playing more and mores teams a season that are bringing in elite talent, not having any elite guys themselves makes accomplishing those goals harder. Recruiting rankings aren't perfect, and BYU has plenty of examples of players over performing theirs, but they do matter. Speaking of that...
2) BYU is about to face a bunch of teams who are recruiting a lot better. BYU's recruiting class finished this year at 61 in the 247 Composite, a fair distance behind many of the schools on their schedule next season. But for many schools, especially the larger Power Five programs, this year's class won't matter too much. Here are the three year recruiting averages for some of the teams BYU is facing next season, using the 247 Composite:
Nebraska: 30.33, 12 total blue clippers (5 or 4 star athlete)
Boise State: 59.66, 2 total blue chippers
UCLA: 11.67, 42 total blue chippers
Michigan: 19.66, 36 total blue chippers
Cincinnati: 64.33, 0 blue chippers (but got a 5 star QB via transfer)
Missouri: 34.66, 6 total blue chippers
BYU: 62.66, 0 blue chippers
So for half of BYU's schedule next season, they're facing teams that are either outrecruiting them (sometimes significantly), or are their essential peer. Add in the fact that San Jose State just signed their best class in school history, that BYU travels to Utah State, and that they're facing one of the best G5 programs in the country in East Carolina, and suddenly, that schedule looks a lot tougher.
This class would be good for 3rd in the MWC, within a shout of first. BYU is bringing in the caliber of talent to say, win a MWC title and beat 1-2 teams with talent advantages a season. If they want to beat 4-5 teams with those advantages, which they'll need to do to reach their stated program goals, they'd have to either buck a ton of college football history, or continue to upgrade their talent level.
So, tl;dr? There's a lot to like in this class. The talent level on the defensive side of the ball has improved, BYU could have some interesting options at running back and some of the skill positions, and there are some intriguing sleepers/sign-and-send candidates. But if BYU wants to be a regular Top 25 team, they're going to need to continue to improve that talent level even more, no matter how hard that might be with geography, the honor code, and everything else. Signing a more diverse class is a great first step.