You wouldn’t know it by the headlines, or lack of, but today is actually National Signing Day, which means that teams like BYU are getting pretty close to finalizing their roster, at least from high school players.
Naki Tuakoi and Sefo Akuila, teammates who come from Fremon Senior High School in Oakland, California, have signed with the Cougars. Both of these players were considered flipped commitments after Tuakoi switched from Stanford and Akiula de-committed from Arizona.
Tuakkoi is listed as an edge defender but could end up playing linebacker. Sefo Akuila is listed as an ATH or athlete without a specific position, and it is anyone’s guess where he may eventually end up. In high school, he played quarterback and outside linebacker. It is worth mentioning that Justin Ena, BYU’s linebackers coach, seems to be the one mostly involved in his recruitment, suggesting Akuila will likely end up on the defensive side of the ball.
Additionally, the Cougars announced the PWO signing of Dylan Dunn out of Nebraska. Dunn will join a very crowded but wide-open QB room.
— Locked On (BYU) Cougars Podcast (@LockedOnCougars) February 7, 2024
BYU Going Heavy on the Defense
BYU has 26 official commits, and 19 of them are on the defensive side of the ball. This offseason is the first time that defensive coordinator Jay Hill is getting to recruit the guys that he wants for his style of defense. Last year, Hill was forced to rely heavily on Weber State transfers and players who played under Illasi Tuiaki’s system, which was much less aggressive or disruptive.
Additionally, of the Cougars’ 10 highest recruits, nine of them are on defense, including three, possibly four linebackers. Last year, the linebackers struggled to stay healthy, perhaps sending a message to Jay Hill that the linebacker room may need to have more depth than any other position on the team, especially in the way that Hill likes to use them on blitzes and shallow cover defenders.
Very Quiet Transfer Portal…So Far
The average team in college football has 17 players who have entered the transfer portal, and nine players who have already signed. To this point, BYU has been much, much lower than those averages. So far, BYU has only had eight players enter the portal, and four sign.
The highest-rated player to leave the Cougars was John Henry Daley, who rated at 86.50, or just slightly above the average signing grade thus far for BYU (85.71). The highest-rated player has been Jack Kelly at 88.33, which would rank third in this year’s high school signing class.
The lack of highly rated players leaving the program suggests that BYU doesn’t have a ton of elite talent that is chasing NIL money. It also shows that despite a rough season, most of the players are still bought into the vision and goal of the team.
Additionally, only bringing in four players from the portal shows a few possible scenarios:
- BYU can’t compete well in the NIL world. Although this seems unlikely, as they would have probably had more players leave.
- The Cougars are going with their guys. Sure, if the right fit is out there, BYU will bring them in, but there haven’t been a lot of headlines or ‘missed’ guys out of the portal, at least publicly.
- The honor code may be a factor. Some guys don’t want to leave BYU and the standard that they have. Additionally, some players may not be willing to transfer to BYU for the same reason.
BYU Had a Great Recruiting Cycle
The Cougars finished ranked 44th in the 247 recruiting rankings, which is significantly higher than they’ve finished in the past few years. Typically, BYU has been a mid-60s, low-70s kind of team, and this boost shows that the Big 12 message is working. It also shows the belief that players have in Jay Hill. BYU has quite a few players on the defensive side of the ball who would have likely gone to Utah in the past.
The most ambitious fans and media projections had BYU finishing in the high 50’s, but with the flip of players like Akiula and Tuakoi, the actual rating has continued to rise to the point where it is now the highest rating that BYU football has ever had.
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