How BYU bucked the trends in signing the 44th class of the 2024 cycle

How BYU bucked the trends in signing the 44th class of the 2024 cycle

There’s no question that Kalani Sitake just finished signing the top-rated recruiting class of his tenure.

To achieve this, by his own admission, he refocused his efforts from a “developmental” approach to going after a set of prospects “as quickly as possible.”

There’s also no doubt he got a big lift from the efforts of new defensive coordinator Jay Hill and his staff, working with a sense of urgency and this new focus. Sitake told the Cougar Club last week that he had been using more money than usual to get the job done and his personal involvement and time had increased as well.

Just a few observations:

• BYU bucked the trend when late four-star signees Naki Tuakoi and three-star Sefo Akuila, rushers and teammates at Oakland’s Fremont High in northern California, signed in February.

• While rival Utah landed more of the state’s top-10 talent, BYU made big strides by the numbers and landed what some thought was the state’s best player in Faletau Satuala.

• That signing load became a top-45 class, a big step up the Big 12 recruiting rankings as the smoke cleared.

While Hill explained that Tuakoi was one of the first prospects he focused on when he came on board at BYU just over a year ago, Tuakoi’s late signing went against tradition.

BYU generally offers recruits early, hoping they’ll make an early commitment. Players like Tuakoi and even Akuila who don’t commit in the summer or fall generally don’t end up signing with the Cougars. In fact, Tuakoi was committed to Stanford and Aquila had plans to go to Arizona.

Signing this pair late is a key watermark of this class and perhaps a sign that BYU is doing something different. It also notes Hill’s successful tact and his relentless pursuit of players — regardless of initial interest, or lack thereof. In years past, when some BYU recruits encountered too much backlash, they backed off and went for an easier harvest.

Another key is that Sitake now has Sione Po’uha on staff. When Sitake took the BYU job in 2015, he wanted to hire Po’uha, but the timing wasn’t right. Both Sitake and Po’uha were born in Tonga and as a collective, with Po’uha’s NFL experience and roots in Polynesia and Salt Lake City as a high school player, provide a unique voice in the community Polynesian.

That Tongan pride was front and center in Tuakoi’s announcement at X when he carried a flag from the Kingdom of Tonga.

Comparing BYU vs. Utah recruiting?

It’s apples and oranges.

Utah has and continues to sign top-ranked classes and has invested heavily in the effort. The Utah transfer portal effort is productive.

BYU’s success and ranking comes from the signing of a large 2024 class and an increase in high-quality recruits by 12. Going from highs in the 50s, 60s and 80s to No. 44 in the 247 composite rankings is an important achievement.

Brandon Huffman, national recruiting editor for 247Sports, puts it this way:

“BYU will happily take the higher-rated class than Utah based on quantity; BYU finishes seven points ahead of the Utes. The Utes, of course, have a higher quality class, however, averaging nearly two points better per player than the Cougars,” Huffman said.

“BYU will happily take the higher-rated class than Utah based on quantity; BYU finishes seven points ahead of the Utes. The Utes, of course, have a higher quality class, however, averaging nearly two points better per player than the Cougars. — Brandon Huffman, national recruiting editor for 247Sports

“But in an era where roster management is more important than ever, the Cougars will absolutely make the tradeoff by having more depth in this class,” Huffman continued. “The Utes landed five of the top 10 players in the state to just three for the Cougars, but BYU took the final bragging rights by beating the Utes outright for Faletau Satuala, the No. 1 player. 1 in the state in 2024, who announced for the Cougars, over the Utes, on national television during the All-American Bowl. This is the type of recruiting win the Cougars need to happen more often against the Utes.

The 247Sports Big 12 rankings of the 2024 recruiting class have Texas the no. 1. This ranking does not include Texas and Oklahoma, who will be in the SEC this summer. No. 2 is TCU followed by No. 3 UCF, No. 4 Kansas, No. 5 BYU, No. 6 West Virginia, No. 7 Arizona State, No. 8 Cincinnati, No. 9 Iowa State and No. 10 Oklahoma State.

Of course, recruiting rankings are largely opinion-based analysis whose weight can’t be effectively measured until talent is developed, coached and placed in systems where you can actually see on-field production and depth value added.

When everything happens, it becomes winning and losing.

And that’s when it really matters.

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BYU defensive coordinator Jay Hill speaks to the Cougar Club on National Signing Day in Provo on Feb. 7, 2024.

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