PROVO — With a stable of talented young offensive players in the program like quarterback Jake Heaps, wide receiver Cody Hoffmann and running back Joshua Quezada, BYU's coaching staff has focused on filling recruiting needs on the defensive side of the ball.
On national letter-of-intent day on Wednesday, the Cougars are expected to announce 15 signees, according to recruiting coordinator Paul Tidwell, with an emphasis on defense.
"The majority of the guys signing will be defensive players," said Tidwell. "We targeted some defensive holes and defensive positions. We're happy and excited about the young men who have committed to us and we're looking forward to Wednesday."
Six of those projected signees are defensive linemen — Corbin Kaufusi, Moses Kaumatule, Lene Lesatele, Aulelio Olomua, Baker Pritchard, and Kesni Tausinga.
"It just happened to be a year where there were some good in-state defensive linemen out of high school that we've had some success in recruiting," said Tidwell. "It worked out that they were all on board and interested in BYU. We chose to take them. It's going to be a good thing to have that kind of depth and quality of players."
Two highly touted linebackers have also committed in Austin Heder and Adam Pulsipher.
The Cougars aren't expected to add any defensive backs to the roster in this class. However, defensive back Preston Hadley, a Snow Junior College transfer, enrolled in school in January. Another JC defensive back, Joe Sampson, the cousin of former BYU cornerback Brian Logan, committed to the Cougars last fall, but won't be signing.
The 2011 class won't feature any running backs or receivers because BYU boasts a bevy of young players already at those positions. Up until about a month ago, the Cougars were recruiting Bingham High star running back Harvey Langi, who ended up committing to Utah.
Tidwell said running back Adam Hine, who signed in 2009, will return from a mission in August. Because he returns so late in the year, he'll likely redshirt this season, Tidwell said.
With six defensive linemen and three offensive linemen — Ryker Mathews, Brian Rawlinson and Ului Lapuaho — the Cougars are trying to establish depth in the trenches.
"We always say you can never have enough big guys and guys on the defensive line and offensive line," Tidwell said. "We just want to make sure those positions are deep and that those positions are filled."
On the D-line, BYU is losing first-team All-Mountain West Conference honoree Vic So'oto to graduation and one of last year's top signees, defensive lineman Tayo Fabuluje, opted to transfer to TCU. Meanwhile, Hebron Fangupo is transferring to BYU from USC.
Aside from linemen, BYU is signing only four offensive players — quarterback Alex Kuresa, fullback Manoa Pikula, and tight ends Colby Jorgensen and Matt Sumsion.
Most of the players in this class committed before the 2010 season began.
BYU started 1-4 and coach Bronco Mendenhall fired defensive coordinator Jaime Hill. Mendenhall took over that role the rest of the season and is expected to continue in that capacity next year. The Cougars rebounded to finish with a 7-6 record.
Since the season ended, offensive coordinator Robert Anae and receivers coach Patrick Higgins have left the staff for Arizona and Purdue, respectively. Quarterbacks coach Brandon Doman was promoted to offensive coordinator.
Amid the coaching changes, the recruits that had committed "stayed firm," Tidwell said.
"The ones that I'm working with, there's been no wavering. Everyone's excited, I think. I think everybody's still with us and excited to just move forward. I think they understand that if there's any changes, they're not going to be stagnant changes and there's not going to be changes that will take the program backward, it's going to be changes that take us forward. I think everyone understands that and they're excited for the future of the program."
Four of the players that are signing plan on serving missions before enrolling, Tidwell said.
Tidwell added that he and the rest of the coaching staff have been busy the past month meeting with players who have committed to the 2011 class as well as looking at players the Cougars are targeting for 2012 and 2013.
BYU already has secured four commitments for the class of 2012.
The good and the bad
Biggest catch: American Fork High offensive lineman Ryker Mathews is regarded as one of the top linemen in the state. Mathews, who played in U.S. Army All-American Bowl, also received scholarship offers from Utah and Kansas.
The one that got away: Bingham High running back Harvey Langi is one of the top running backs in the West. In the end, Langi narrowed his choices to Utah, Stanford and USC, ultimately choosing the Utes.