BYU football adds more talent on National Signing Day

BYU football head coach Kalani Sitake and his staff announced on Wednesday the signings of three recruits adding to one of its deepest defensive recruiting classes ever.

Naki Tuakoi – Linebacker/Edge

The Cougars secured commitments from a pair of linebackers out of Oakland, California: Naki Tuakoi and Sefo Akuila who were teammates together at Fremont High School. Tuakoi is a four-star linebacker/edge, according to ESPN and Rivals.com, who flipped his commitment from Stanford to BYU. Tuakoi is a big, physical, athletic linebacker who will join BYU in the fall. Landing Tuakoi was more evidence of the recruiting bump BYU has gained since joining the Big 12. They beat out Utah, USC, Notre Dame, Tennessee, and a plethora of power four conference offers for Tuakoi’s services. Tuakoi could have played anywhere he wanted in the country but he chose to play for Kalani Sitake and Jay Hill.

Sefo Akuila – Linebacker

The other Fremont High School product, Akuila, primarily played quarterback in high school. He comes in as a defensive end or linebacker. Akuila was a three-star recruit according to 247 Sports who decommited from Arizona after Jedd Fisch departed for Washington. Both Akuila and Tuakoi are athletic and rangy linebackers who will bolster BYU’s depth at key positions on the defensive side of the ball and project to be key contributors for BYU right away.

“Those guys are versatile, big-time players, they can get after the quarterback,” said Sitake. “They’re already big enough right now and talented right now that they can play for us right away.”

Faletau Satuala – Free Safety

Although it happened a month ago, I would be remiss to at least mention that BYU landed one of the top in-state prospects Faletau Satuala as well. Satuala made his commitment during the All-American Bowl in January and is excited for an opportunity to play early at the free safety position. A big-time win for BYU beating out its rival and a bevy of other power conference offers.

“We were in an ugly recruiting battle all the way to the very end,” said Hill.

For BYU, Hill has been a home run hire so far. After a short 14 months on the job, Hill has added more talent to BYU’s defense and been far more aggressive in recruiting top-tier talent than the previous regime. The Cougars have the fifth-ranked recruiting class in the Big 12 and boast the 44th-best recruiting class in the country according to 247 Sports. This past season, BYU’s defense was depleted by injuries on the defensive side of the ball and the inadequate depth reared its ugly head in blowout losses to Iowa State and West Virginia near the end of the season.

The Cougars added 20 new defensive players to a group that needed it. While both the offense and defense struggled last season, the defense needed a more immediate influx of talent than the offense and the Cougars got what they needed.

Gerry Bohanon Jr. – Transfer Quarterback

The other notable signee from Wednesday was the official announcement of sixth-year quarterback Gerry Bohanon. The former Baylor and USF transfer is someone BYU fans should be familiar with. Bohanon has matched up against the Cougars twice in his career, once when he was at Baylor in 2021, and in 2022 in BYU’s season opener against USF. Bohanon was out with a shoulder injury last season but is expected to be healthy for spring practice. Once healthy, he will compete against Jake Retzlaff for the starting position. Bohanon was not heavily recruited this offseason. While at USF Bohanon struggled during his 2022 season. He threw for 1074 yards, six touchdowns, and six interceptions in seven games as the starter before his season ended because of a shoulder injury. In 2022, Bohanon was one of the better quarterbacks in the country. He led Baylor to a 12-2 record, including a win over BYU. He threw for 2,200 yards with an 18:7 touchdown to interception ratio that season.

Bohanon fills a need for the Cougars. BYU needed to add another quarterback this offseason to make Retzlaff earn the starting position ahead of the 2024 campaign. In 2023, Retzlaff started the last four games for the Cougars and was key in revitalizing a dormant BYU run game but he also made costly mistakes that killed the Cougars at the end of the season. BYU finished the 2023 season 0-4 in games Retzlaff started. Despite the low fanfare, Bohanon temporarily solves a need at quarterback for BYU. And it provides BYU fans with some offseason fireworks this year.

A quarterback competition.

“Nothing is just going to be handed to him. This is going to be a battle. You gotta win the spot… I don’t know who’s going to be the starting quarterback, I have no idea who that is right now,” said Sitake. “All he cared about was an opportunity to compete. He’s healthy, you see the way he’s built, he’s strong… and he’s doing really well with the other quarterbacks right now.”

Adding Bohanon, a one-and-done guy, may remind folks of what BYU tried last season with Kedon Slovis. However, Bohanon is different than Slovis in two distinct areas: he is a dual-threat quarterback and he already knows the playbook. At Baylor, Bohanon was not only a competent passer but in 2022 he ran for 363 yards and nine touchdowns.

During his 2022 campaign, he played for Jeff Grimes, former BYU offensive coordinator, and the current Kansas offensive coordinator. Because of his time with Grimes, Bohanon is already familiar with the playbook and terminology of the Cougars offense. His transition should be much smoother than Slovis’ last season as well as his fit in the offense Aaron Roderick wants to run.

There are concerns for Bohanon as well, mainly his durability. He has yet to play a complete season at quarterback and did not play last season due to a shoulder injury. In an era where quality transfer portal quarterbacks command over a million dollars in NIL money, beggars cannot be choosers and Bohanon is well worth the risk.

Returning Missionaries

As for the rest of the offensive side of the ball, fans may be in a bit of a panic that BYU only signed eight offensive recruits during the 2024 cycle. Except things are different at BYU with many recruits serving two-year missions before playing at BYU. The Cougars have six returning missionaries on the offensive side of the ball who will look to make an impact on that side of the ball when they get back to Provo in 2024.

For complete signing day coverage from December read more here:

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