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Photo courtesy Shannon Liebrock
Chandler High quarterback Jacob Conover, who verbally committed to play for BYU, runs on to the field prior to the Wolves' game against Mesa High in Chandler, Arizona, on Friday, Aug. 31, 2018.

BOISE — Amid bowl preparations, BYU announced the addition of 14 players Wednesday, the first day of the early signing period for college football.

Coach Kalani Sitake expressed his enthusiasm about the new prospects before practice at Boise State, where his team is getting ready for the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl. The Cougars will take on Western Michigan at Albertsons Stadium Friday (2 p.m., MST, ESPN).

"We have a lot of guys that we’re excited about signing," Sitake said.

Highlighting this recruiting class is four-star quarterback Jacob Conover, an ESPN Top 300 recruit that had offers from many schools around the country, including perennial power Alabama. Conover led Chandler High in Arizona to three straight state championships while throwing for more 10,000 yards and 102 touchdowns as a three-year starter.

Conover is scheduled to leave for his mission to Paraguay in February and it’s anticipated that he’ll return for the 2021 season.

“He’s a national recruit. He’s a guy that had tons of attention and picked up a bunch of offers. We’ve been battling, trying to hold on to him. But for the most part, he’s been solid, 100 percent,” Sitake said of Conover. “I think we’re always worried the bigger schools coming in and offering. He’s probably been one of our best recruiters. He’s a great leader. He’s won multiple state championships. He can sling it and he’s a team guy. I’m just really happy to have him. The off-the-field stuff I’m really excited about — his leadership, his confidence and the moxie that he brings to his team.”

Another prized recruit is American Fork High wide receiver Chase Roberts, an Under Armour All-American who recorded 1,717 yards and 18 touchdowns as a senior. During his career, he had more than 3,700 receiving yards and 40 TDs.

" We have a lot of guys that we’re excited about signing, "
BYU head coach Kalani Sitake

Roberts hasn’t decided whether he’ll go on a mission before playing at BYU. “It’s up to him and his family what they want to do,” Sitake said. “We’re here to oblige whatever he wants.”

The 6-foot-4, 195-pounder committed to BYU early but he received considerable attention from other schools, including Utah, in the weeks and days leading up to early signing day. Roberts was one of the last one in BYU’s group of signees to send in his national letter of intent Wednesday.

Kristin Murphy
American Fork's Chase Roberts runs past Herriman's Cole Eggers during a football game at Herriman High School in Herriman on Thursday, Sept. 6, 2018.

“I felt good about it from the beginning,” Sitake said of Roberts' commitment to the Cougars. “The guys that signed today, they’re BYU guys. I wasn’t really worried about it. I’m just really happy to have them. It helps that we have guys that have been sought after by other places and haven’t really wavered at all. I’m excited they’re part of our program.

“With us and recruiting, we target guys early and then see if their academics can get them into school. We make adjustments," Sitake added. "But when we compete for recruits, it’s usually dealing with guys that have gone on (recruiting) visits. Right now, I feel good about our retention rate with guys that came on visits and signed with us.”

On the defensive side, the Cougars signed Lone Peak High linebacker Michael Daley, who earned Deseret News 6A MVP honors in 2018 after registering 24.5 sacks and 40.5 tackles for loss and leading the Knights to a state title.

BYU signed several players that could play one of several positions, such as junior college signee Eric Ellison, who committed Monday and is listed as a defensive back, though could play running back or wide receiver; George Udo, who could play either defensive back or linebacker; and 6-foot-8 Herriman High product Blake Freeland, who could play on either on the offensive or defensive line.

“Having versatile players would help out quite a bit, having guys that can move to different positions. It’s not just limited to only one. That’s going to be key for us,” Sitake said. “There are guys that are playing positions right now that a year or two from now that may outgrow it or they may stay in the same position. But it’s important to have versatility in our recruiting and the ability to kind of foresee where they’re going to be later on in life after a mission or after a year in the program in the weight room. We have a lot of great athletes that can play a lot of different positions. I’m excited about that part.”

BYU offered scholarships to numerous running backs but it didn’t sign any Wednesday. Earlier in the week, the Cougars missed out on three-star running back Aidan Robbins, who visited Provo and strongly considered BYU but ultimately reaffirming his commitment to Louisville.

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The next signing period takes place Feb. 6 on National Signing Day and Sitake said the program plans to “add a few more” prospects then.

“We’re going to recruit the best available in the next six weeks,” Sitake said.

BYU is also expected to welcome back 19 scholarship players in time for the 2019 season that are returning from serving missions.

Four are expected to be mid-year additions in January — Solofa Funa (linebacker from Spanish Fork), Caden Haws (offensive lineman from Little Rock, Arkansas), Freddy Livai (defensive end from Fontana, California) and Keenan Pili (linebacker from Provo).