BYU football coach Kalani Sitake is known for his passion regarding recruiting.
During his first Signing Day in Feb. 2016, Sitake didn’t mince words about the importance of recruiting, calling it the “lifeblood of college football.”
Fast forward nearly one full year and Sitake is continuing to emphasize recruiting. After a successful 9-4 season that included a win in the Poinsettia Bowl, BYU football announced the additions of 10 new players to the roster.
With these mid-year additions, the Cougars will add depth to their 2017 recruiting class which is ranked No. 67 nationally, according to Scout.com.
Two players are transferring to BYU and both play on the defensive side of the ball.
Wayne Tei-Kirby, a 6-foot-3-inch, 315-pound defensive lineman, transferred to BYU after a successful freshman campaign with the Oregon Ducks. Tei-Kirby recovered a fumble in Oregon’s 30-28 upset win over the University of Utah last season and brings high level experience to the Cougar defense.
Austin Lee is the other transfer. Lee suited up for the Utah Utes as a defensive back during the 2015 season and sat out the 2016 season while attending Salt Lake Community College.
Although BYU does tend to attract talented LDS athletes, Sitake said pressuring LDS athletes isn’t in the recruiting game plan.
“(A recruit) shouldn’t feel obligated just because they’re LDS to come to BYU,” Sitake said at 2016 Signing Day.
On the offensive side of the ball, the Cougars will add some major talent at running back and tight end.
Running back Ula Tolutau played at East High School in Salt Lake City and was named Deseret News’ “Mr. Football” in 2014. Tolutau originally committed to Wisconsin, but committed to BYU following his LDS mission.
The 6-foot-1-inch, 230-pounder rushed for 2,465 yards and 31 touchdowns during his high school senior season and will bring a physical running style to Ty Detmer’s pro-style offense.
Tight end Matt Bushman, a returning missionary, was rated the No. 14 tight end in the nation by ESPN.com coming out of high school and caught 123 passes for 2,891 yards and 42 touchdowns during his high school campaign.
Other BYU-commits returning from missions are defensive-lineman Earl Mariner, defensive back Garrett England and defensive lineman Teancum Fuga, the younger brother of former BYU standout defensive-lineman Romney Fuga.
Tight end Joe Tukuafu is a returned missionary who changed his mind, deferring from Utah State to play at BYU.
Defensive end A.J. Lolohea recently returned from his mission to Tonga and decided to come to BYU after initially committing to Weber State.
Keanu Saleapaga, a defensive end out of California, had verbally committed to USC before ultimately deciding to play at BYU. Saleapaga was named the No. 9 defensive end in California by Scout.com
Sitake and his staff have proven that BYU can take talent from some of the top schools in the nation. Defensive coordinator Ilaisa Tuiaki said that was all part of the plan.
“We’re just trying to get after the best players that are the best fit for BYU,” Tuiaki said earlier this year. “We’ll go against anybody. It doesn’t matter who is recruiting them, we’ll go after them.”
On Feb. 1, 2017, Sitake and BYU football will unveil the next Cougar recruiting class on Signing Day.