PROVO — Over the weekend 11 of the 2012 BYU football signees made their way to campus. The freshmen received room assignments and kissed their families goodbye before beginning classes and workouts on Monday.
Nine of the 11 will compete for spots for this coming season, while two (Tanner Mangum and Micah Hannemann) will grayshirt, which means they’ll take under 12 credit hours and not be named to the roster this fall as to keep all of their eligibility intact after serving planned missions beginning next year.
Up until last weekend, each of the 11 had received various star rankings, offers and accolades. Most of them had college coaches fawning all over them — telling them how much they were needed while providing lavish official visits to their campuses.
Now, however, they're merely bright-eyed freshmen hoping to contribute one day for BYU.
One of the more notable prospects arriving over the weekend was inside linebacker signee Butch Pau’u, a 5-foot-11, 220-pound prospect who was the big man on the campus of Servite, one of Southern California’s premier prep football programs. While starring for Servite he received loads of accolades from media — both locally and nationally.
In short, Pau’u was “the man.” So what is he now upon arrival to BYU?
“I’m nothing,” said Pau’u. “All I know is that I have a lot of good players ahead of me that have been in the program and I need to catch up with them. If I do get a big head or start thinking I’m something I’m not, I got my mom just a phone call away who will put me back in my place. I’ve earned nothing here and I’ll need to work my tail off.”
Indeed, there are few things BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall hates more than a sense of entitlement from his incoming players. Pau’u seems to know this very well along with many of the other incoming freshmen who have each been told extensively about how things will be in Provo.
Pau’u will have his work cut out for him this August — trying to earn a spot in what can well be considered the deepest position on the team. Both inside linebacker positions are stacked with experience and rising talent that aren’t looking to give up their slots on the depth chart anytime soon. Pau'u will be competing with returning starters Uona Kaveinga and Brandon Ogletree along with Manoa Pikula, Zac Stout, Uani Unga and Tyler Beck, among others.
Surely if Pau’u finds himself on the two-deep, he’ll have well earned it.
“I just want to play and contribute anywhere — that’s my attitude,” said Pau’u. “Hopefully it’s playing regularly at linebacker, but if not, I’m going to do whatever I can to contribute on special teams or on scout team — anything to help this team.”
Pau’u is aware of the grind ahead of him but feels well-prepared for it. He’s undergone some vigorous workouts that include playing tennis, which is a sport seemingly out of place for a buff inside linebacker prospect.
“It helps a lot with my footwork and it helps me with my mentality,” said Pau’u, who was a member of Servite’s tennis team. “I have a little sister that can beat me, so I don’t know if I’d say I’m good. But I’m decent. And I love it – I love how it helps me play and I’ll keep on playing tennis during the offseason.”
Another incoming freshmen whose arrival has been well anticipated by fans is running back Jamaal Williams from Fontana, Calif. Williams rejected some late overtures from schools such as Oregon — holding true to his Cougar commitment last July. He was the only running back signed last season and is someone coaches see contributing immediately to the position.
Williams, who is fresh off his 17th birthday, said goodbye to his mother and sister over the weekend with a lot of promise ahead of him. Adjusting to BYU and its football program is a challenge for anyone, but considering Williams’ age and that he’s not LDS, his adjustment could be assumed to be even a greater challenge.
“I just have to keep in mind the great opportunity I have ahead of me and stay humble,” said Williams. “I’ve been around BYU and BYU coaches enough to know that it’s where I need to be. I know I’m going to have challenges, but that’s why I need to keep my mind right and just stay humble and grateful for the chance to be (at BYU.)”
Williams will soon be competing with up-and-coming running back talent such as Michael Alisa, Adam Hine and Paul Lasike, among others, in what will be one of August’s featured position battles.
Williams, like Pau’u, understands that it’s what he’s yet to do and not what he’s done that will earn him a spot.
“I have to learn as much as I can from everyone and work harder than I ever have in my life,” said Williams. “I expect a lot from myself and it starts now.”
Incoming freshmen will begin practicing with coaches during the first week of August.
Tofi Taumata , 6-3, 270 DL, Perris, Calif.
Theodore King, 6-3, 250 DL, San Jose, Calif.
Jamaal Williams, 6-2, 185 RB, Fontana, Calif.
Jherremya Leuta-Douyere, 6-0, 240 OLB/DL, Anaheim, Calif.
Butch Pau’u, 5-11, 220 ILB, Anaheim, Calif.
Micah Hannemann, 6-1, 185 DB, Alpine, Utah (grayshirt)
Austin Hoyt, 6-7, 270 OL, Jackson, Calif.
Dylan Collie, 5-10.5, 200 WR, El Dorado Hills, Calif.
Tanner Mangum, 6-3, 185 QB, Eagle, Idaho
Rhett Sandlin, 6-3, 225 LB, Sandy, Utah
Matt Hadley, 5-11, 190 DB, Connell, Wash.