Tomorrow, college football recruiting gurus will close the book on rating the 2018 recruiting classes, but that should not be the end of the story. Not only will there be surprise high achievers in each recruiting class, but transfers and players returning from missions and then changing programs can have a significant impact.
Case study No. 1 is the 2015 recruiting class from the state of Utah. Now that the smoke has cleared, BYU has six of the top 11 rated players from that class on its roster.
Since that February 2015 signing day, three of those six highly rated players have transferred to the Cougar program or enrolled at BYU after serving a church mission. The three players and their original letter of intent schools are Austin Kafentzis (Wisconsin), James Empey (Utah), and Christian Folau (Oregon State).
In addition, two of the top players in the 2014 recruiting class have switched to the BYU program after serving their missions: Joe Tukuafu (Utah State) and Ula Tolutau (Wisconsin).
This is on top of two No. 1 rated high school players from Idaho who are scheduled to play for the Cougars this fall: Tristen Hoge from the 2015 recruiting class, who played at Notre Dame, and Wayne Tei-Kirby from the 2016 class, who played for Oregon.
When the reputation and careers of two other highly rated Idaho high school players are included (QBs Taysom Hill and Tanner Mangum), BYU's ability to ultimately land top talent from the neighboring state is quite significant.
With hand wringing by Cougar fans reaching epidemic levels after a highly disappointing season, there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and it is not a fast-moving train.
There will be defections in the opposite direction, and some of them will be unexpected, such as the recently returned missionary leaving the BYU program and enrolling at Utah, but in the end BYU will get more than its share of talented transfers. As the team improves and returns to its status as a winning program, additional top talent will be recruited and will stay in the system.
I like the attitude of big BYU defensive lineman Khyiris Tonga, who originally intended to start his career at the University of Utah but enrolled at BYU after his mission. He had a surprisingly good freshman season and is upbeat and determined that the team will succeed after a down year.
Tonga said he loves BYU, his teammates and the BYU program, and feels he is in the right place. It is going to take a few more Khyiris Tonga types to step up and make the next few seasons successful. With lowered expectations by the fans, a winning season would be a nice start.
Ken Driggs of Mesa, Arizona, is a BYU graduate and served as Cosmo in the ’60s. Contact him at [email protected].