PROVO — While most college football programs will sign close to 25 prospects on Feb. 1, which is national letter of intent day, BYU likely won't come close to signing even 20 prospects. It may sign less than 15.
The reason for so few? LDS missions.
BYU has set aside 12 scholarship spots for returning missionaries for the 2012 season. Add to that the scholarships that will be taken up by Taysom Hill and Ammon Olsen, and that number increases by two.
A good way for BYU fans to look at this coming signing class isn't to focus on the limited number of signees, but to couple them with the scholarship players coming back off of missions. Bronco Mendenhall will likely highlight the 14 returning missionaries right along with the players who ink letters of intent during the LOI luncheon, giving BYU, in reality, more than 25 incoming players for 2012.
The list of returning missionaries includes names that participated on the team for one or more years before leaving along with those who are returning having left straight for missions out of high school. Like most incoming players, how they'll be able to contribute next season is very much an unknown until they participate in practice sessions.
Fono Vakalahi, 6-foot-3, 335 pounds, OL; Brett Thompson, 6-3, 216, WR; Mitch Mathews, 6-6, 202, WR; Trevor Bateman, 5-9, 178, DB; Tui Crichton, 6-3, 357, OL; Terrance Alletto, 6-3, 287, OL; Craig Bills, 6-1, 209, DB; Remington Peck, 6-4, 240, DL; Jacob Hannemann, 6-1, 190, DB; Bronson Kaufusi, 6-6, 240, DL; Russell Tialavea, 6-3, 266, DL; Brad Wilcox, 6-7, 265, OL.
Most of those will return without any collegiate playing experience, while others, such as Thompson, Bills and Tialavea, all were able to gain good experience prior to their two years of church service.
Overall, BYU looks to sign between 14 and 18 athletes out of high school this year, with at least five of those planning to leave for a mission upon graduating — therefore not counting against the scholarship total for 2012. Those planning to leave for missions straight out of high school include Josh Weeks, Tanner Mangum, Butch Pau'u, Troy Hinds and Steven Richards.
Committed prospects for 2012:
Matt Hadley, 5-11, 190, DB, Connell, Wash.; Rhett Sandlin, 6-3, 225, LB, Alta HS; Josh Weeks, 6-4, 200, WR, Show Low, Ariz.; Tanner Mangum, 6-2, 185, QB, Eagle, Idaho; Dylan Collie, 5-10, 185 WR, El Dorado Hills, Calif.; Phillip Amone, 6-0, 220, LB, Orlando, Fla.; Austin Hoyt, 6-7, 240, OL, Jackson, Calif.; Steven Richards, 6-2, 240, DL, Alta HS; Micah Hannemann, 6-1, 185, DB, Lone Peak HS; Butch Pau'u, 5-11, 220 LB, Anaheim, Calif.; Jherremya Leuta-Douyere, 6-0, 230, DE/LB, Anaheim, Calif.; Jamaal Williams, 6-1, 190, RB, Fontana, Calif.; Troy Hinds, 6-5, 225, LB, Davis HS; Sawyer Powell, 6-1, 225, LB, Richland, Wash.
BYU has signed Marques Johnson, a 6-2, 305-pound defensive lineman from El Camino Junior College who has enrolled and will participate in spring practices. BYU still may sign another JC defensive lineman, although it certainly might stop with Johnson due to the lack of available scholarships.
If BYU is to sign more than the 14 players already committed, then those commits will likely come in shortly after Jan. 14. That date marks the big official visit weekend that BYU holds where it attempts to have all players with scholarship offers on campus at the same time.
Most programs do not opt to bring every prospect with an offer in on the same weekend, but BYU has found some good success in doing so. Traditionally, BYU receives its final commits for the year during, or shortly after it hosts all the recruits on their official trip.