Since Kalani Sitake took over as head coach last November, one of his top priorities has been recruiting. In his first year as head coach he has offered many more scholarships to prospects than the old regime, by a rate of nearly three to one. And Sitake has not been shy about chasing after the most highly rated national recruits, having extended offers to nearly 30 four or five-star recruits during his first year as head coach. One of those offers came last month to four-star wide receiver Chase Williams:
Blessed to receive my 7th offer from BYU!!! All glory to god 🙏🏽 pic.twitter.com/6UmI4IRYK7— -DUB (@_ujdkchase) September 20, 2016
The Cougars' national schedule has provided opportunities for the coaching staff to scout out prospects in both familiar and new recruiting grounds. Williams — who is from Corona, California, just outside Los Angeles — was offered his scholarship just two days after BYU faced UCLA. That same week the BYU coaching staff went across the country to offer four teammates at Imhotep High School in Philadelphia. Those recruits were able to attend the BYU vs. West Virginia game that weekend.
The most recent scholarship offers have been extended to student athletes from California, Tennessee, Nevada, Georgia, South Carolina, Pennsylvania and Utah.
Mid-season report for current commits
In addition to the 11 scholarship offers that have been extended since school started in August, the coaching staff has been keeping tabs on the 29 current commits, most of whom have now passed the midway point in their prep seasons. A few commits around the country have really separated themselves from the competition and look to be impact players for BYU down the road.
The Reno, Nevada, Huskies (6-0) are the only undefeated team left in their division, largely thanks to the play of running back/linebacker Brandon “Ale” Kaho (Class of 2018). In his first four games this season, he had 41 carries for 363 yards and 10 touchdowns, four receptions for 63 yards (15.8 avg) and another score, is 1-1 passing for a 39 yard touchdown, and has seven solo tackles, a tackle for loss, an interception, and has even done some kicking (one punt and four PATs).
Elgin, Texas, do-everything wide receiver TJ Buchanan has rushed 27 times for 151 yards and made 29 receptions for 371 yards and six total touchdowns. He also has a two-point conversion, has returned 12 kickoffs for 160 yards, four punts for 66 yards, and has eight total tackles (six solo, two assisted). Like Kaho, Buchanan has also had the opportunity to do some kicking, punting twice for 37 yards.
Donovan Hanna is yet another do-everything player. He has had considerable success at the American Leadership Academy (Queen Creek, Arizona), where former BYU quarterback Max Hall is an assistant coach. The ALA Patriots are currently 6-1, largely thanks to Hanna, who is the first player from the school to be offered a D1 scholarship. So far this season he has 28 receptions for 505 yards and four touchdowns, one carry for 3 yards, 10 tackles (five solo), two tackles for loss, one sack, and has punted four times for 114 yards.
In California, the St. Francis Lancers (5-0) just defeated Bellarmine College Prep 21-12 in a rivalry game, dubbed “The Holy War.” The win snapped a streak of 11 consecutive wins for Bellarmine. BYU commit Tyler Manoa plays on both the offensive and defensive lines and is a big reason for St. Francis’ success this season. He has 13 total tackles, five tackles for loss, four sacks, two quarterback hurries and a safety.
And on the East Coast a surprisingly dominant Newtown, Connecticut, team is 4-0, largely thanks to the impressive play of the offensive line, which is anchored by BYU commit Seth Willis. Talking about his offense that is averaging 44.3 points per game, Newtown head coach Steve George told the News Times, “Our offensive line is playing really well right now. We’re able to move people off the ball, and we expected that with the leadership we have, especially with (offensive lineman) Seth Willis.”
While BYU commits are having success around the country, they are also seeing plenty of success here in the state of Utah with several local high schools fielding multiple BYU commits. Lone Peak (6-1) has four commits: safety Ammon Hannemann, defensive end Preston Lewis, offensive and defensive tackle Connor Pay and running back Jackson McChesney, who currently has 65 carries for 446 yards and seven touchdowns, as well as 15 receptions for 204 yards.
Meanwhile, Olympus (also 6-1) fields three BYU commits: Ben Bywater and Nathan and Cameron Latu. Running back Bywater is having a phenomenal senior season with 87 carries for 452 yards and five touchdowns, nine receptions for 74 yards, 46 tackles and a sack. Meanwhile, the Latu twins have really strengthened the Olympus defense with Nathan recording 11 tackles and a sack, and Cameron making 43 tackles and a whopping eight sacks. He also has six receptions for 79 yards at the tight end position.
Speaking of tight ends, the stellar group of tight end commits has been hampered by injuries this season. Georgia tight end Tanner Baker has been out all season with a knee injury, while fellow TE recruit Isaac Rex also injured his knee in the third game this season. While Baker will be out the entire season, Rex — who had seven receptions for 82 yards and a touchdown in his first two games — expects to be back for the playoffs in a few weeks. The third tight end recruit — Bentley Hanshaw — has been healthy and very productive for 4-1 Moorpark, California. Bentley has 12 receptions for 244 yards and six touchdowns this season, scoring in almost every game thus far. He’s ready to suit up for the Cougs, as demonstrated in one of his most recent tweets:
While the tight end group is a little banged up, the kickers recruited to the Y are healthy and producing. Ryan Rehkow, kicker for Central Valley High School, Washington, is 4-8 on field goals this season (long of 49 yards) with three of his four misses coming at distances of 47 yards or longer. He is also nine-of-nine on PATs, and has 26 punts for 1190 yards. Class of 2018 commit Sekope Lutu Latu hasn’t had many opportunities to punt for Kahuku High School, Hawaii, as the nationally ranked Red Raiders are averaging 47 points per game while only allowing an average of 4.5 points per game to their opponents. Latu has had plenty of kickoff opportunities, sending most of his kicks through the end zone, and is six-for-six on field goals. He has played the last three games at tight end where he has four receptions for 102 yards and a touchdown.
BYU will assuredly continue to watch the current commits and scour the country seeking additional commitments as the season wears on. A complete list of weekly and season statistics for each of the 27 Cougar commits can be found on the BYU Insider Prep Tracker.
Tyler Christensen is a teacher, writer and web designer. He maintains the blog www.byuinsider.com, which centers on BYU recruiting and statistics. Follow him on Twitter @byu_insider.