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SALT LAKE CITY — BYU's wide-open style it displayed last season on offense has contributed to the Cougars adding significant talent via the transfer portal.
Samson Nacua and his younger brother, Puka, announced Monday they plan to join Kalani Sitake's program after transferring from Utah and Washington, respectively. A major reason: BYU wants to throw the football down field to its wideouts.
Despite having good intentions, the hard truth shows the two Pac-12 programs don't go vertical nearly as much to the liking of the Nacua brothers. With time running out on their college careers, they want a chance to better highlight their skills.
Reputations indicate that BYU is more likely than Washington or Utah to have a 1,000-yard receiver. Look no further than a former walk-on from last season.
For comparison's sake, Dax Milne had more receiving yards last season than the Nacua brothers have had their entire college careers. Milne entered next month's NFL draft as a junior after recording 70 receptions for 1,188 yards and eight touchdowns last season.
With the Pac-12 not starting its season until November, Puka watched BYU play the first two months from his residence in Seattle. The Cougars, led by future NFL quarterback Zach Wilson, went 11-1 in Sitake's fifth season.
"The future is bright for the Cougs," Puka said during an interview on The Zone Sports Network. "They're getting ready to throw the ball."
But numbers and touchdown receptions aren't the only reasons for the dual transfers. By all accounts, there's another selling point for BYU.
Both players cite proximity to family as a significant factor in choosing BYU. The brothers played high school football in Utah County, home to their mother and grandmother.
Samson's Instagram post said: "Talked with Dad. Told me mom needs home #GoCougs." Above a picture of both players in BYU uniforms, Puka wrote on Twitter: "For us momma."
Their mother, Penina, was left to raise five sons and a daughter as a single parent after her husband, Lionel, died suddenly on May 14, 2012, after a long battle with diabetes. One of those sons, Kai, starred as a safety at BYU and played for the San Francisco 49ers last season.
"Being home, there's nothing like it," Puka said.
The desire to be closer to family makes sense for Puka, who starred at Orem High and then played two seasons for Washington. He likely will seek to be eligible this season, avoiding having to redshirt as a transfer.
His brother, who played at Timpview, will travel less than one hour to play at BYU as a graduate transfer with one season of eligibility. Familiarity also factored in for Samson, who played for current BYU offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick at Utah.
In four seasons at Utah, Samson caught 82 passes for 1,015 yards and 11 touchdowns. He led the team in touchdown receptions with five in 2018 and four in 2019.
Puka, a four-star recruit coming out of high school, led Washington wideouts with nine receptions, 151 receiving yards and one touchdown last season despite missing one game after testing positive for COVID-19. The Huskies lost two games to the virus, including the Pac-12 championship after going 3-1 to win the North Division.
Nacuas coming home
Over an extended period, Washington and Utah have built reputations based on a strong defense and great running backs. Both programs have funneled numerous players from both areas into the NFL.
Interestingly, both programs also have lost multiple receivers as transfers in the last two months. Ty Jones, who played at Provo High, left Washington for Fresno State, while Jordan Chin is going to Sacramento State to play for former Utah offensive coordinator Troy Taylor.
Bryan Thompson, who led the Utes with an average of 20.8 yards per reception last season, left the program after four years. He transferred to Arizona State, which also relies on a running game and strong defense.