BYU football’s early signing period: Everything you need to know

“Babe, wake up! It’s National Signing Day!”

Today is the most important day of the year for every college football coach in America. The battles won and lost today in recruiting largely determine the success of every program in the country, including BYU.

Though stars have not always mattered at BYU. Getting the right guys to come to BYU certainly does.

After finishing the season with a 5-7 record, including losing 5 straight to the end the season, BYU head coach Kalani Sitake and his staff put together their 2024 recruiting class seeking players to bolster the roster ahead of their second season the Big 12. 

Last offseason BYU flipped half of its roster through the transfer portal and recruiting by adding 21 transfers and 10 freshman signees to the 2023.

This year the Cougars will not be facing the same challenge as last season in overhauling its roster. With many key contributors returning such as Conner Pay, Ben Bywater and Tyler Batty, and almost no attrition to the portal, so far. The Cougars look to bolster their depth and replace players who ran out of eligibility or turned pro like Kingsley Suamateia, Isaac Rex, Max Tooley, AJ Vongphachanh and Aidan Robbins. 

Offense

Ryner Swanson

Headlining BYUโ€™s 2024 early signing day class is four-star recruit Ryner Swanson. Swanson, a tight end, recorded 2,225 yards and 27 touchdowns at Laguna Beach High School in California. BYU was able to beat out Texas, Oregon, Arizona, Arizona State, and a whole plethora of Power 4 conference teams. For the second year in a row, offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick has added a four-star tight end to the roster.

โ€œWeโ€™re really excited about him. Heโ€™s just got an awesome personality and brings alot of energy to everything he does,โ€ said Roderick. โ€œWe have really high hopes for him.โ€

With Isaac Rex, the BYU career touchdown receptions leader for tight ends, leaving the program both Jackson Bowers and Swanson should compete for the starting spot next season. 

Next off the board, quarterback. The Cougars signed two prospects at footballโ€™s most prominent position.

Noah Lugo

Noah Lugo, a three star prospect from Haslet, Texas amassed 4,756 total yards and 53 touchdowns in his career at Eaton High School. In August, Lugo flipped his commitment from Jeff Traylor and UTSA and went all in on BYU.

โ€œLugo is joining us in Januaryโ€ฆheโ€™s an elite track athlete,โ€ said Coach Roderick. โ€œHeโ€™s one of the fastest hurdlers in the state of Texasโ€ฆ he can really run.โ€

Speaking of hurdlesโ€ฆ

Lugo is dangerous dual threat quarterback with athleticism that jumps off the screen when he runs. BYU fans saw the difference a running quarterback makes with Jake Retzlaff at the helm to end the season. What was one of the nations worst rushing offenses, took a major leap once defenses had to worry about a rushing quarterback. If Lugo can develop as a passer he will get an opportunity to be the Cougars signal caller one day.  

Enoch Watson

The Cougars also signed three star quarterback Enoch Watson out of American Leadership Academy in Queen Creek, Arizona. While at ALA he was coached by two Cougar legends Ty Detmer and Max Hall.

Watson plans to serve a two year mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints before coming to Provo. A little bit of a โ€œlate bloomerโ€ Watson took off his senior year and completed 189 of 298 passes for 2,581 yards and 29 touchdowns in his senior campaign at ALA.

Who will these quarterbacks be throwing to? Two local prospects: Tei Nacua and Jett Nelson. 

Tei Nacua

BYU fans are sure to recognize the last name Nacua. Tei Nacua is a three star prospect and is the youngest Nacua brother. Kai, Isaiah, Samson and Puka all played for BYU and he will get his chance to add to the Nacua legacy. Nacua had 139 receptions, 2,121 yards and 20 touchdowns during his career at Timpview and will play for BYU in the fall. 

Jett Nelson

Nelson, another three star prospect out of American Fork High School will serve a two year mission before playing for BYU. Nelson is long at 6โ€™5, 210 pounds and caught 60 passes for 960 yards and seven touchdowns during his senior season at American Fork. Nelson is also a legacy recruit, his father Casey Nelson and uncle Tyler Nelson played football for BYU as well. 

Ikinasio Tupou

Ikinasio Tupou was the BYU’s lone offensive line signing from the early signing period. He is a three-star prospect from Palo Alto, California. At 6’6, 290 pounds Tupou was a monster. He treated offensive lineman like an Ihop. At Palo Alto High School he totaled 97 pancake blocks. Who doesn’t love themselves some pancakes?

There was some optimism this morning according to Casey Lundquist from SI.com that Tuku Mafi, an offensive line product from West High School would flip his commitment from Oklahoma State. But this morning Mafi signed with Cowboys. 

Defense

Therrian “Tre” Alexander III

The very first signing of the day for BYU came from Therrian โ€œTreโ€ Alexander III from Ellenwood, Georgia. The three star cornerback prospect is a huge get for defensive coordinator Jay Hill and his defensive staff. BYU does not typically get recruits of Alexander IIIโ€™s caliber out of the state of Georgia. Alexander III had multiple ACC and SEC offers including Ole Miss and Mississippi State. 

โ€œTo pull him from that side of the country to come out here is a tribute what BYU represents and what we can offer,โ€ said Hill. 

Jonathan Kabeya

The other cornerback signee from this year’s class is Jonathan Kabeya.

The three-star prospect from Richland Hills, Texas intercepted 10 passes and recorded 55 solo tackles. BYU beat out fellow Big 12 schools Texas Tech and Arizona State for Kabeyaโ€™s services.

During the 2023 football season for the Cougars, no position group was hit harder than the safety room. The Cougars lost Micah Harper for the season in fall camp and Talan Allfrey suffered an injury in fall camp that kept him out for the majority of the season. Adding depth at the safety position was important for the Cougars this offseason and the Cougars signed two talented prospects at the position. 

Matthias Leach

BYU signed Matthias Leach, a 6โ€™3, 175 pound three star prospect from Fort Worth, Texas. Leach will be BYUโ€™s tallest safety on the roster and seems to fit the profile Jay Hill is looking for at the safety position. As a senior he recorded 17 tackles and 6.0 tackles-for-loss as a senior.

Tommy Prassas

The Cougars also signed Tommy Prassas, another 6โ€™2 safety from Basha High school. The Chandler, Arizona prospect posted 197 tackles, 6 interceptions, and 13 pass breakups during his high school career.

Prassass is another athletic, rangy safety fitting the Jay Hill prototype. With Arizona and Arizona State entering the Big 12 in 2024, the Cougars ability to recruit the state of Arizona and athletes like Prassas should only grow. 

Carson Su’esu’e

Another player that fits this long, rangy and athletic mold for BYU is Carson Su’esu’e. The three star athlete out of Granger High School, played quarterback in high school but comes to BYU as an athlete. He can play anywhere on the field.

“He’s a an athlete and there’s probably of a lot of things this kid could play,” said Hill.

Jack Kelly

Moving onto the linebacker positon, BYU signed Jack Kelly from Weber State. He will be reuniting with Jay Hill and will be an immediate impact player the Cougars. With Max Tooley and AJ Vongphachanh gone Kelly projects to be an immediate impact player on Hill’s defense.

“Kelly is a player that I know very well, I coached him when I was at Weber State,” said Hill. “[He’s] one of the dynamic FCS players in the country, we’re lucky to get him.”

Kelly is a four-star transfer who did everything as a Wildcat. Over his career he has forced five fumbles, broken up seven passes, intercepted a pass, recorded 20 tackles for loss, and has sacked the quarterback 16.5 times. Last season Kelly the Big Sky with 10.5 sacks.

Blake Lowe

The other linebacker in the 2023-24 Class is Blake Lowe. The 6’3, 205 pound linebacker was a tackling machine and special teams menace at Chaparral High School in Temecula, California. Over his career he amassed 219 tackles and 10 interceptions. On special teams he blocked six punts and two field goals. Lowe has a already received his mission call and is heading to Mozambique for his two year mission trip.

Ephraim Asiata

Recruiting in-state and winning recruiting battles against Utah is a must for BYUโ€™s long term success in the Big 12. Although Utah signed five of the top seven recruits from Utah this year. Losing Ephraim Asiata, son of Utah football legend Matt Asiata, to BYU has to sting a little for Utah fans.

Asiata, was a huge get for BYU. He was the eighth best prospect coming out of the state of Utah according 247 Sports this season and was top in-state recruit in this years class. The 6โ€™3, 210 pound defensive end from Herriman High School had 21.0 tackles for loss including 9.0 sacks during his senior year. 

Kini Fonohema

Another big time get for BYU this evening was Kinilau Fonohema. Fonohema is a 6’5, 225 pound edge out of Springville, Utah. As a senior he totaled 20 tackles for loss and 12 sacks for the Red Devils. Fonohema projects to be the disruptive edge rusher that BYU needs to get after opposing quarterbacks next season.

Siosefa Brown

The Cougars also signed Siosefa โ€œSefaโ€ Brown from Highland High School. The 6โ€™4, 210 pound three star prospect was the 2023 All-Region Defensive MVP. To play defensive end in college he will have to add some weight to frame but the athleticism from Brown gives him the opportunity to be a versatile weapon for the Cougars in the future.

Viliami Po’uha

BYU added another defensive end in Viliami Poโ€™uha, who signed with Utes in 2021 but flipped to the Cougars while serving his mission. Before his mission, he starred at Bingham high school and is the son of current BYU defensive line coach Sione Poโ€™uha. 

Devoux Ma’a Tuataga

The Cougars added another local talent, Devoux Tuataga, a 6โ€™6, 245 pound defensive end from Cedar Valley High School. Tuataga is a  four star recruit according to Rivalโ€™s.com and during his junior season recorded 15 tackles for loss and 11 sacks.

Out of all the BYU signees today, I am most looking forward to hearing Mark Jones exclaim โ€œDevoux Tuataga! With the sack!”

In case you couldn’t already tell, adding to the defensive line was a BIG priority this season. And we are no where close to it being done.

Adney Reid

Adney Reid, a three star recruit played football for Spanish Fork High School his freshman season. Reidโ€™s family then moved to Australia as his father is serving as a mission president there. The 6โ€™5, 225 pound defensive end has been playing rugby and basketball in Australia while he has been out of the states.

You might think signing one football player from Australia is crazy, but guess what? BYU signed another defensive end from Sydney Australia. Hopefully Randy Bennett gave Kalani Sitake and his staff some good food recommendations for their travels in Australia.

Sani Tuala

Sani Tuala is a junior college transfer from Citrus College. In nine games for Citrus he had three sacks and four tackles for loss.

Now we’ll move inside to the defensive tackles.

Dallin Johnson

Dallin Johnson leads the way for this group of defensive tackles. At 6โ€™3, 290 pounds the three star recruit has been committed to BYU for years. During his career at Springville, Johnson totaled 35 sacks and 53.5 tackles for loss. 

“He’s been committed to us for awhile,” said Hill. “I’ve got to give him a lot of credit. He’s stayed true to that commitment.”

Danny Saili

The next defensive tackle is a Danny Saili from Hutchinson Community College. The junior college transfer recorded 7.5 tackles for loss and four sacks. He is from Topeka, Kansas and was named Jayhawk Conference first team for his play. 

Luke To’omalatai

The Cougars added another defensive tackle, this time out of Las Vegas, Nevada. Luke Toโ€™Omalatai is a 6โ€™3, 305 pound tackle out of Long Beach City College.

As a sophomore he played in nine games and was dominant. He had 12.5 tackles for loss and 8.5 sacks as a tackle. The three star prospect will be someone Jay Hill and will look to for an immediate impact. 

Special teams

Sam Vander Haar

With Ryan Rehkow leaving the program after a historic career, BYU went out and added Sam Vander Haar the transfer portal. Vander Haar grew up in Melbourne, Australia and was a three-star prospect out of ProKick Australia. He was the primary punter for Pittsburgh in 2022.

Cannon Skidmore

The Cougars also needed to replace long snapper Dalton Riggs and signed the No. 2 ranked long snapper nationally in Canon Skidmore. The five-star prospect was selected to the Under Armour All-America game.

Brody Laga

To cap things off for this class, BYU signed five-star kicker Brody Laga. Laga has a career long 59 yard field goal and connected on eight field goals of 50 yards or more while at Mountain Ridge High School.

Recap

Last season BYU had 11 sacks during the entire season.

The ENTIRE SEASON.

That ranked 129th in FBS during 2023. Out of 130 teams.

Exactly half of those sacks came from Tyler Batty. To say BYU needed help at that position might be an understatement. BYU brought in 10 defensive lineman knowing that they need to create more disruption in the backfield. The offense certainly stole the headlines this year with its poor performance during the 2023 season. However, the BYU defense’s inability to create negative plays has to change moving forward if it wants to compete at a high level.

Outside of quarterback, the defensive line is the most important position group in football.

If BYU is going to compete for Big 12 titles in the next five years, these 10 defensive linemen along with many of the 2024 recruiting class, are going to be the reason why.

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