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BYU Football’s Success Highlights Quality Of Recruits In State Of Utah

Dec 15, 2020, 11:19 PM | Updated: 11:21 pm
Zach Wilson - North Alabama - BYU...
BYU football quarterback Zach Wilson (Courtesy of BYU Photo)
(Courtesy of BYU Photo)

PROVO, Utah – The state of Utah was once a flyover state on the recruiting trail for college football coaches. Back then, coaches would make their western trek to California or Arizona, but Utah was out of sight and out of mind.

That’s never been the case at BYU. Now it’s paying off for the Cougars as the Beehive State’s talent pool is as deep as ever, and those in-state prospects are the core of the talent that has led BYU to its first 10-win season in nine years.

In-state recruiting has always been a top priority for the Cougars, but it’s had to take on a greater role during Kalani Sitake’s tenure due to the competition that now comes into the state. Sitake assembled a recruiting staff that features deep ties here locally to fend off the Power 5 powers.

Look throughout BYU’s 123-man roster, and you will find a total of 55 players from Utah in 2020. Then you look at the incoming 2021 class of recruits, half of the 16-man class currently constructed called Utah home.

College football is ultimately about winning and having your program in the national conversation. This season’s on-field success has shown that BYU’s recruiting of making in-state prospects a top priority can lead to big success. Now the challenge of maintaining it year-after-year goes more into focus. But it can be done.

BYU’s in-state rival Utah is a prime example and in recent years up in the Cache Valley at Utah State. There’s enough talent in this state now that in-state recruiting is the foundation of these programs. It’s easier said than done as the competition from Power 5 programs continues to get larger with each passing recruiting cycle.

BYU football in 2020 has shown that homegrown talent can win

Zach Wilson is a prime example of the growth of exposure athletes in this state have seen in recent years.

Coming out of Corner Canyon High School, Wilson was an overlooked three-star prospect who gained a lot of recruiting attention late in the recruiting cycle after de-committing from Boise State. Wilson turned down Iowa, Cal, Oregon State, and Boise to play for BYU. Put Wilson’s big numbers from his junior and senior seasons in California, and he likely ends up one of the nation’s top QB prospects.

Instead of going to some of those Power 5 programs, Wilson opted to be close to home where his family could always see him play and he could have Sunday family dinners. It’s worked out nicely for the former three-star prospect who’s now one of the hottest prospects in the 2021 NFL Draft.

Wilson’s top receiver this season has been Bingham High product Dax Milne, who’s gone from walk-on to one of the nation’s top receivers and a semifinalist for the Biletnikoff Award.

Prospects like Milne highlight the talent that is coming from this state. Preferred walk-ons have been highly-productive in recent recruiting cycles. Milne, linebacker Payton Wilgar, defensive lineman Gabe Summers, and tight end Masen Wake have all been contributors this year during BYU’s breakthrough season under Sitake.

Recruiting local while also maintaining a national reach with its affiliation to The Chruch of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints gives BYU football a unique recruiting pipeline that very few, if any, can replicate in all of college football.

On the defensive side, the in-state impact is even stronger. Khyiris Tonga, formerly of Granger High, was only a two-star recruit when he originally signed with Utah. He served a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and has now blossomed into a potential NFL Draft pick. Linebacker and captain Isaiah Kaufusi, a former Brighton Bengal, leads the team in tackles and is one of the program’s vocal leaders.

Take care of recruiting in the state of Utah, and BYU football will not only field competitive teams, something they’ve always been known to have, but teams that could compete on a national level.

The state of Utah’s talent is better than ever, and the resources, commitment, and passion for football at the high school level are only improving.

Now the challenge comes with trying to keep these talented players at home.

Mitch Harper is a BYU Insider for KSLsports.com and host of the Cougar Tracks Podcast (SUBSCRIBE) and Cougar Sports Saturday (Saturday from 12–3 p.m., KSL Newsradio). Follow him on Twitter: @Mitch_Harper and the KSL Sports app.

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