Kalani Sitake speaks on 2017 BYU football recruiting class

BYU head football coach Kalani Sitake at the Signing Day press conference. Sitake and the Cougars added 24 players to the roster on Tuesday. (Ryan Turner)
BYU head football coach Kalani Sitake at the Signing Day press conference. Sitake and the Cougars added 24 players to the roster on Wednesday. (Ryan Turner)

BYU football head coach Kalani Sitake and his staff unveiled their second Signing Day class on Wednesday, Feb. 1, the second for Sitake’s staff. The Cougars added 24 new recruits to the roster.

“The key to me is that we were able to get so many versatile players,” Sitake said of the additions. “They have all the intangibles. I don’t think they’re limited to (their current) position.”

It wasn’t hard to see what the emphasis was this year for Sitake and his staff. After plenty of discussion a year ago about the switch from a 3-4 defense to a 4-3 defense, the Cougars wanted to revamp their defensive front.

The switch meant defensive linemen needed to be more athletic and better pass rushers, so the Cougars addressed that need by adding seven defensive linemen —including five of the top six defensive ends in the state of Utah.

One of those defensive ends was one of two four-star commits in the 2017 class, Langi Tuifua.

The other four-star player made headlines with the way he committed.

Timpview High School safety Chaz Ah You was approached by Bleacher Report to create a commitment video. Ah You landed a helicopter at the mid-field Y logo at LaVell Edwards Stadium before removing his jacket to reveal a BYU jersey.

But while Sitake is known as a defensive coach, there was also a heavy emphasis on the offense. After one year of offensive coordinator Ty Detmer’s pro-style offense, the coaching staff felt there was a need at offensive line and tight end.

The Cougars added three offensive linemen and three tight ends, including John Taipe Vaka who is ranked the No. 11 junior college offensive line prospect in the country. Vaka is 6-foot-5-inches and weighs in at 280 lbs. and Sitake said size was an emphasis in recruiting.

“We got bigger,” Sitake said. “I’m used to offensive linemen at BYU being humongous. So, we added some humongous kids.”

BYU also added tackles Seth Willis and Paula Finau, who combine to weigh 675 lbs.

As is often the case with BYU football, nearly half of the incoming recruits will be serving LDS missions before coming to campus.

While that makes scholarship allotment difficult, Sitake said it’s a challenge they welcome.

“We want to make sure we have a presence in our LDS population, specifically in Utah and southern California,” Sitake said. “We take every phone call from every member that calls and says ‘Hey, we have this humongous kid in our ward.’ We go and watch the film.”

Sitake has emphasized the importance of winning the in-state recruiting battle since the day he was hired as the Cougars head coach. Those efforts were rewarded on Feb. 1 as the Cougars signed 12 players from Utah.

“We had a focus on LDS athletes,” Sitake said. “A lot of our signings came from Utah and that was our focus this year.”

BYU finished with the No. 58 class in the country according to Scout.com. That puts the Cougars between the other Division-I programs in the state. Scout.com ranked Utah No. 30 and gave the Utah State Aggies the No. 81 spot.

But while so many stay focused on stars, rankings and hype, Sitake said he’s not worried.

“We’ll see what happens over the next few weeks and next few months . . . We got a lot of good players with a lot of promise,” Sitake said. “They’re great players, but also great young men.”

Highlights from the 2017 recruiting class can be seen here.

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