COUGAR TRACKS

Five Takeaways From BYU’s First Early Signing Day As Big 12 Member

Dec 21, 2022, 5:20 PM | Updated: 11:35 pm
BYU Football, Early Signing Day, Siale Esera...
BYU football signed Timpview EDGE Siale Esera during the Early Signing Day on December 21, 2022. (Jaren Wilkey/BYU Photo)
(Jaren Wilkey/BYU Photo)

PROVO, Utah – The early signing period for BYU football ushered in the Big 12 era. All players signing with the Cougars will play in a Power Five conference for the first time in BYU’s history.

It’s a historic moment for a program trying to knock down the door into the big boy’s club for years. Their time has arrived.

But the work is only beginning, and it starts with this 2023 recruiting class that will look to make BYU competitive in the early years of the league.

Here are five takeaways from BYU’s early signing period activity on Wednesday.

#1 New world for BYU Football

BYU saw a bump in its quality of recruits by receiving an invitation to the Big 12 Conference. Especially at the top end of the class. But the realities of what’s stacked in front of them by going into the Big 12 is evident on Signing Day.

Out of the 12 programs that will make up the “new Big 12,” BYU’s 2023 class ranks 10th, according to the industry-standard 247Sports Composite Team Rankings. BYU’s 2023 class ranks at No. 71. The only two classes behind them are Kansas (74) and Cincinnati (80).

BYU has never been in a conference with a recruiting class that rates in the bottom three. When the Cougars were the juggernaut in the WAC and the top brand in the Mountain West, they were the big fish in a small pond. Now they are just another fish in an enormous Power Five pond.

#2 Jackson Bowers has the talent to make an impact in 2023

Four-star tight end Jackson Bowers from Mountain View High School in Mesa, Arizona, is a big talent. Name a school in the Power Five ranks; Bowers probably had an offer from that program.

He’s expected to join the BYU program next summer, and when he arrives, don’t be surprised if he makes an immediate impact. There’s an opportunity for a tight end No. 2 to emerge alongside Isaac Rex.

The Cougars will return Ethan Erickson next season and get Bentley Redden enrolled in the program after a greyshirt season. But as BYU offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick said during his press conference, he referred to Bowers as a “Power Five player.” In the Big 12, those are the type of talents that make an immediate impact right away.

#3 Holding off UCLA for Siale Esera was a critical get

Timpview EDGE rusher/linebacker Siale Esera had a late official visit to UCLA. When he visited, BYU had yet to hire Jay Hill. However, Hill solidified Esera’s commitment to BYU once he entered the picture.

BYU has lacked star pass rushers for a while now. Esera is another player that represents the hope of that changing soon. Especially now that BYU has Sione Po’uha on the defensive staff. He’s expected to play next season.

The defensive line position is always tough to make an immediate impact right away as a freshman. But I wouldn’t count out Esera from being in the two-deep.

#4 BYU is building a pipeline of standout running backs

Think about this, Jamaal Williams, Ty’Son Williams, and Tyler Allgeier. All three players were coached at one point by Kalani Sitake and have earned paychecks from NFL franchises over the last seven years.

BYU is suddenly building a pipeline at the running back position. Chris Brooks, who navigated hamstring issues in 2022, but still averaged six yards per carry, could get a crack at the NFL next year too.

The next piece to BYU’s running back pipeline is UNLV transfer Aidan Robbins. Robbins will be an instant contender to Hinckley Ropati and Miles Davis to start at running back in week one against Sam Houston State.

Aaron Roderick acknowledged that the recent success of ball carriers at BYU, plus a preexisting relationship with Robbins from his time as a high school recruit, made his transfer recruitment smooth.

#5 Ryder Burton has the potential to be a QB1 at some point

Springville High quarterback Ryder Burton is a talented football player. The old-school I-Formation offense at Springville wasn’t the best scheme to showcase his talents. But the ability to throw the rock impressed Roderick and the BYU staff.

Burton enrolls at BYU next month and will go through spring practices. I wouldn’t bank on him being the starting quarterback next year if Jaren Hall moves on. But he will line up as the starting quarterback at some point in his BYU career.

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 Mitch’s coverage of BYU moving to the Big 12 Conference on Twitter: @Mitch_Harper.

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Five Takeaways From BYU’s First Early Signing Day As Big 12 Member