BYU's Mendenhall believes Cougars added young, exceptional talent with 2015 signing class

(BYU Photo)

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PROVO — The BYU Cougars added 23 new players to their football program Wednesday during college football’s national signing day.

Of the 23 players, two of them, DB Eric Tenaka (Snow College) and RB Squally Canada (Washington State) were midyear signees.

In addition to Wednesday’s signees, BYU will also welcome back 14 scholarship players returning from LDS Church missions.

The Cougars did a nice job of balancing out their class, getting commitments from 12 players on the defensive side of the football and 11 on offense.

BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall was pleased with how the day turned out and the types of players the Cougars are getting.

“My coaches worked really hard,” Mendenhall said. “I think they did an outstanding job in finding the needs and meeting the needs that we had for this particular class and this particular team … What we were looking for is to add young, exceptional talent that belongs at BYU and is qualified at BYU.”

BYU’s recruiting class is made up of players from five states. Nine players are from the state of Utah; six recruits hail from Texas; five from California, as well as signees from Kentucky, Hawaii and the island of Tonga.

The Cougars' ability to recruit the state of Texas is a big deal for the program. Mendenhall credited second-year wide receivers coach Guy Holliday, whose recruiting area is Texas, for the success.

“That’s basically where Coach Holliday’s expertise is. We targeted that not only because that’s where he’s familiar with, but the quality of football that’s played there," Mendenhall said. "It’s just taken (some) time for the BYU brand to take hold, and beating Texas helps. The way that BYU is perceived in that state, it’s big-time football that’s capable of beating anybody.”

While BYU brought in several players from Utah, a lot of high-profile in-state talent decided to go elsewhere. For Mendenhall, recruiting Utah is important, but the players have to be a good fit for the Cougars.

“Really the only kids we wanted and didn’t get are ones that I prolonged our offering. Normally, we’re first on any kid that belongs at BYU. In the event that we held for a little bit longer, those would be the ones that we didn’t get, so I learned," he said. "I agree that the talent this year was very good. When you start looking at future classes as well the state of Utah is becoming, not only highly recruited, it is really a good area. It’s great for us.”

Ironically, the most talked about player that BYU signed most likely doesn’t even know how big of a star he already is. DL/OL Motekiai Langi, 6-foot-7, 410 pounds, is currently in the Missionary Training Center in Provo as he prepares to serve an LDS mission in Arizona.

Within moments of BYU football’s Twitter account tweeting out his official signing, he became a trending topic. From Cougar fans, to the who’s who of college football, everyone was in awe of Langi’s sheer size.

Courtesy of BYU Athletics
Courtesy of BYU Athletics

Langi’s recruitment began two years ago when defensive line coach Steve Kaufusi discovered him on a trip to Tonga. The Tonga High School product has never played football, and according to Mendenhall, he really didn’t expect anything to happen when Langi stopped by the football offices the day before entering the MTC.

“I had no intention of offering a scholarship, I was just anxious to meet him,” Mendenhall said. ”I’ve never done anything like this before. I’ve met him in person and seen him 15 minutes in my entire life. He’s leaving to go on his mission, and I just felt, why not?

"I think he can play something and so we’re going to play him at nose tackle first, maybe we’ll just have him lay sideways right off the snap and just block the whole thing out. There’s got be some way he can do something.”

One addition to this year’s BYU signing day was having former players announce the names of the signees once they became official. Players like Austin Collie, Bryan Kehl, Steve Young, Robbie Bosco and Brady Poppinga took part in the festivities. The role of alumni in the BYU program has been a topic of discussion after a former player made comments about the alumni not having a role in the current program.

Courtesy of BYU Photo
Courtesy of BYU Photo

Mendenhall very candidly addressed the topic during his press conference.

“I think I can do much better. What I’ve struggled with for a long time is being the head coach as well as the defensive coordinator, and then having three young kids at home and then trying to have enough time for everything," he said. "I’m a pretty direct and blunt person, but what I realize is that relationships aren’t an event, relationships take constant maintenance and care and reaching out. It’s not my strength, and I can do a lot better, and I would like to do a lot better.”

Eight members of the 2015 recruiting class plan to serve LDS missions prior to enrolling at BYU. Cougar fans' first chance to see most of the signees will come in March when spring practices begin.

“I don’t think that we missed on any needs," Mendenhall said. "I’m not sure I can look at any other spot on our team and say we need one more of this or one more of that. I think we’re in pretty good shape, with momentum.”

BYU Football 2015 Recruiting Class

Kieffer Longson OL 6-7 295 San Ramon, California
Akile Davis WR 6-1 186 DeSoto, Texas
Micah Simon WR 6-1 185 Dallas, Texas
Beau Hoge QB 6-1 198 Fort Thomas, Kentucky
Kody Wilstead QB 6-6 215 St. George, Utah
Charles West RB 5-10 187 Coppell, Texas
JJ Nwigwe OL 6-4 260 Rockwall, Texas
David Lui DL 6-4 255 Pittsburgh, California
Devin Kaufusi OLB 6-6 240 Provo, Utah
Will Sedgwick MLB 6-2 220 Laguna Hills, California
Jeremiah Leremiah MLB 6-0 230 Hurricane, Utah
Riley Burt DB/RB 6-1 195 Mantua, Utah
Zayne Anderson DB 6-2 190 Stansbury Park, Utah
Dayan Lake DB 5-11 190 Layton, Utah
Trevor Brent DB 5-10 165 Balch Springs, Texas
Demetrius Davis OL 6-4 265 Pleasant Grove, Utah
Jacob Jimenez OL 6-6 275 Pflugerville, Texas
Motekiai Taukolo Langi OL/DL 6-7 410 Liahona, Tonga
Eric Takenaka DB 5-10 205 Salt Lake City, Utah
Squally Canada RB 5-10 192 Milpitas, California
Brady Christensen OL 6-6 240 Bountiful, Utah
Tevita Mo'unga DL 6-3 300 Murrieta, California
Mika Tafua OLB 6-3 225 Laie, Hawaii

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