For many years now, college football fans in the state of Utah have heard the narrative that Kalani Sitake is an excellent recruiter.
Having been hired as BYU’s head football coach late during the 2016 recruiting cycle, he was limited as far as how much of an impact he could make on the Cougars’ class, meaning that 2017 was the first time the “Kalani Effect” could really be seen.
So how did he and the rest of his still relatively inexperienced coaching staff do on Wednesday’s Signing Day? As is always the case, there was some good and areas where the staff seems to have missed.
When Sitake was hired in December of 2015, many figured he’d emphasize building a strong pipeline of Polynesians into the BYU program. All told, nine of the 23 players the Cougars signed Wednesday come from Polynesian families.
As it happened, two four-star prospects from Utah and a number of the state’s best players were included in this haul. Safety Chaz Ah You (Timpview HS) and defensive end Langi Tuifua (Bingham HS) had significant Power 5 interest but opted to go to Provo.
Additionally, three-star defensive linemen Alden Tofa (West Jordan HS) and Lorenzo Fauatea (Hunter HS) chose the Cougars on Signing Day, and Mason Fakahua (Cedar HS, athlete) and Tongi Langi (Bingham HS, safety) also signed with the class. Returned missionary Khyiris Tonga will also go to BYU after committing to Utah before his service.
Outside of Utah, California defensive tackle Seleti Fevaleaki Jr. chose the Cougars over Boise State, and the Cougars got offensive lineman Paula “Mango” Finau out of Hawaii.
Beyond the talented group of Polynesians landed from the Beehive State, BYU also signed Payson lineman Tyler Batty, Olympus linebacker Ben Bywater and the Lone Peak trio of Ammon Hannemann, Preston Lewis and Jackson McChesney. That means 11 high schoolers from Utah, plus Tonga, chose the Cougars compared with two who signed with the University of Utah.
As far as position groups are concerned, BYU certainly emphasized bringing the tight end back into the program, signing three (plus Californian Tanner Baker, who doubles as a defensive end, and returned missionary Joe Tukuafu).
Defensive line also received high returns, as a total of seven players who are designated as DLs signed.
While the Cougars loaded up at tight end and defensive end, they faltered at wide receiver, which seemed to be at least a somewhat urgent need.
Texan Tariq Buchanan wound up being the only signee designated as a wide receiver, although Keenan Ellis could see time there as well in addition to the secondary. Even though those two will play in 2017, BYU still appears to be weak at the position.
Additionally, linebacker could be an area of concern moving forward after the departure of Sae Tautu, as well as hybrid defensive end Harvey Langi, but Bywater was the only player added at the position, and he’ll serve an LDS mission before beginning his collegiate career.
Ah You and Tuifua were certainly the highlights of Signing Day for the Cougars, and they’ll likely prove to be anchors of the BYU defense during their careers. Beyond them, however, there doesn’t appear to be a whole lot of flash to the class, although it’s solid for the most part.
Given the ever-increasing talent in the state of Utah, the Cougars will need to continue to get prospects from the state moving forward and position themselves to not only beat the Utes for that talent but programs from outside the state as well.
These battles will prove just how good of a recruiter Sitake is at a unique place such as BYU.