COUGAR TRACKS

Four Takeaways From BYU’s ‘Royal Crew’ Recruiting Class For 2022

Feb 2, 2022, 7:31 PM
BYU Football - Kalani Sitake...
Kalani Sitake celebrates after BYU football defeats Arizona State. (Jaren Wilkey/BYU Photo)
(Jaren Wilkey/BYU Photo)

PROVO, Utah – Another BYU football signing day is in the books. BYU’s 2022 recruiting haul is the program’s “Royal Crew.”

Now that’s a catchy saying from BYU’s recruiting team. But one thing it can be referred to as being the first signing day class delivered with future BYU football players knowing they will be part of the Big 12 Conference.

Here are my five takeaways from this 2022 recruiting class.

No Quarterback

BYU completed an entire recruiting cycle without signing a quarterback. It’s not common that happens, but with the addition of Boise State transfer Cade Fennegan out of the Transfer Portal last summer, he can be viewed as the prospect that fills that void.

Fennegan, if you remember, stepped in against BYU back in 2020 for an injured Jack Sears. In addition, he’s the son of a former BYU quarterback. So it wouldn’t come as a complete surprise if Fennegan earns the No. 3 QB job and shows enough flashes to push Jacob Conover for No. 2.

BYU pursued Jaxson Dart, but the former Corner Canyon star went to Ole Miss instead. The Transfer Portal likely will see an uptick in entrants after spring football concludes. If Conover, Fennegan, and Sol-Jay Maiava-Peters perform well, offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick will have little to no incentive to add another arm to his QB room. But as we’ve seen in the past with this staff, if their roster can get better with a player from the portal and it’s the right fit, they will pursue.

New BYU Football DBs will have a chance to contribute right away

The top priority in the February signing period for BYU was defensive backs. They addressed those needs landing four out-of-state defensive back prospects from the high school ranks. The four secondary newcomers are Zion Allen (Stockton, California), Nathaniel Gillis (San Diego), Korbyn Green (Tulsa, Oklahoma), and Evan Johnson (Monterey, California).

Each one of these players that signed during the February Signing Day has the height that BYU cornerbacks coach Jernaro Gilford wants out of players in his secondary, 6-foot and up. That alone will give them a chance to compete right away. What also helps their cause is that BYU has a need for more contributors in the secondary.

For years, BYU has always been known as a program that is six or seven yards off the line of scrimmage defending opposing wide receivers. With Gilford and defensive coordinator Ilaisa Tuiaki, they want to have the ability to execute press coverage on a more frequent basis. But to do that, you need depth.

Allen, Gillis, Green, and Johnson provide that depth to a cornerback room that brings back D’Angelo Mandell, Jakob Robinson, and Kaleb Hayes. But after that, there are a lot of questions. Keenan Ellis is coming back after a life-threatening head injury suffered in the opener. Micah Harper also returns after a season-ending ACL, but if BYU wants to get the best 11 on the field, Harper could fill Dayan Lake’s old role as a cornerback or safety.

All four of these new additions will have the chance to see immediate playing time.

Lisala Tai signs with BYU a second time.

It feels like a lifetime ago, but during Kalani Sitake’s first offseason as head coach in 2016, he offered an under-the-radar defensive lineman from California in Lisala Tai. There wasn’t much known on Tai when he signed with BYU as part of Kalani’s first recruiting class, but he was versatile, and he had the measurables to someday turn into a contributor for the Cougars.

Six years later, Tai has the opportunity for that potential to be realized as he once again signed with BYU. Tai has had a unique road from Hawthorne, California, to BYU.

After signing with BYU in 2016, Tai served a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from 2017 to 2019. After four football seasons without playing, Tai transferred to Snow College two years ago to play for then Snow coach Andrew Mitchell.

Shortly after signing with the Badgers, a pandemic consumed the world and took away fall football in the JUCO ranks. As a result, the first action of his collegiate career was in the spring of 2021, five years after initially signing with BYU.

He became a mainstay along Snow’s offensive line the past year, helping the Badgers post a 15-2 record overall in a calendar year.

Tai received scholarship offers from Fresno State, Boise State, Maryland, UCF, UNLV, West Virginia before signing with BYU. He joins an offensive line room loaded with talent, but according to offensive line coach Darrell Funk, he will be given every opportunity to play right away.

BYU is loading up at wide receiver

BYU Passing Game Coordinator Fesi Sitake has done an excellent job accumulating wide receiver talent. The 2022 recruiting cycle once again produced a lot of intriguing prospects at wide receiver for BYU. It starts with Corner Canyon High School’s Cody Hagen.

The four-star 6-foot-1, 180-pound receiver turned down Utah, USC, Stanford, and Michigan to sign with the BYU football program. It’s still up in the air what Hagen’s plans are serving a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. However, if he enrolls this fall before serving, he would be part of a wide receiver room that would feature four former four-star recruits (Romney, Nacua, Chase Roberts).

Jarinn Kalama from Wasatch High and Parker Kingston out of Roy High are top-shelf athletes that bring a lot of speed to BYU’s receiver room when they matriculate into the program.

Then the Cougars also added an intriguing Preferred Walk-On in Dom Henry from Nease High School in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. Henry took an official visit to BYU last week and committed shortly after the visit.

Henry was number one in Florida for receiving yards by a high school football player in 2021. The 5-foot-10 1/2 Henry recorded 1,590 yards and 13 touchdowns this season.

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.) on KSL Newsradio. Follow him on Twitter: @Mitch_Harper. 

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