Let's strip down the glitter and gold and take a practical look at the prospects that BYU has invested in for the future.
Offensive guard Brayden Kearsley: The only four-star recruit of the class, Kearsley rightly deserves his ranking. However, he falls into a similar category as many others found in BYU's 2013 recruiting class. He was evaluated and offered early by the Cougar coaching staff, and if there is anything BYU fans should know by now, it's that when the staff offers some early, the prospect is a good one regardless of what his final star tally will be.
Defensive tackle JonRyheem Peoples: Having watched Peoples in person at the All-Poly Camp, it's hard to pinpoint a prospect that's come out of that camp with more potential and upside. BYU fans simply don't know what they've got, and his 78th overall ranking among offensive tackles doesn't help in this regard. However, Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham saw his potential after watching him perform at the All-Poly Camp. From that point on there was a scramble to entice the BYU commit to lean Utah's way. The following Monday, after the camp was finished, an unofficial visit was planned for Peoples and his family up at the University of Utah. There was a reason a quick and hard push was made, and that reason isn't reflected in his current ranking. Peoples will make a big impact on the Cougar defensive line by the time he is done.
Offensive tackle Thomas Shoaf: Shoaf fits a specific type of offensive line recruit that former offensive coordinator Brandon Doman had in mind when molding his offense. At 6 feet 6 inches and 265 pounds, Shoaf is tall and lean with the frame to add what coaches call "good weight." Currently a top-100 offensive lineman prospect, Shoaf's upside and potential down the road are where his true value lies.
Safety Dallin Leavitt: Coach Mendenhall compared Leavitt to Daniel Sorensen and Craig Bills. If that comparison is accurate, and we believe it is, then BYU's got itself a really good athlete that can both cover and lay the wood on receivers. Leavitt, like Kearsley, was an early commit, and, once again, those that receive early offers are seen by the coaches as having great potential. Leavitt's worth as a player will be fully realized once he steps in at the safety position down the road. The excitement for Leavitt would have been much greater had he played the recruiting game and not committed to BYU so early.
Linebacker Trajan Pili: Pili is another early commit that wasn't hyped up in the eyes of the public. He was first evaluated at the All-Poly Camp, where he played well above his age. BYU verbally offered Pili during his sophomore year and, like Kearsley and Leavitt, there was a reason for that. The Cougar coaches saw that his potential and upside were great, given his athleticism and his still-developing body. Pili's abilities were already above those of a typical upperclassman. His talent was visibly apparent then and is even more so now, as he is one of the top prospects coming out of Nevada despite playing out of position as an undersized defensive end.
Wide receiver Talon Shumway: It's hard to think that one of the more athletic players on the nation's top basketball team is actually rated the 138th receiver prospect in a sport he actually excels more at. Shumway was BYU's primary wide receiver recruit, and all one has to do to understand what's coming to BYU's offense is review his athleticism on the basketball court. Shumway was heavily recruited early on by both BYU and Utah, and there's a reason for that.
Defensive tackle Kalolo Manumaleuna-Utu: Manumaleuna-Utu is a classic example of why it's very difficult to gauge a player's potential and worth based on a star ranking. Currently, Manumaleuna-Utu is a three-star defensive line prospect at the junior college level. The only problem is he never played a single down of football last season. In fact, Manumaleuna-Utu hasn't played a single down of football for the past three years, having served an LDS mission. The question is how is it possible to rate what the potential of a prospect is tomorrow without knowing what his abilities are today?
Cornerback Trenton Trammell: BYU needed to go out and secure a cornerback that can contribute right away. The staff did that when they got Trammell to commit to them over Utah and Boise State. Signing the non-LDS recruit, and having him arrive on campus for the winter semester in time for spring camp, was a big-time accomplishment for the Cougar coaching staff. Trammell will compete for early playing time at the boundary cornerback position and bring immediate help, having played junior college football. Getting Trammell could end up being one of the better recruiting coups of this class.
Center Keegan Hicks: Considered a top-100 prospect at the center position, Hicks brings a nasty and mean trench reputation with him. Aside from that desired quality, he also brings a quality coaches love, and that's vocal leadership. Hick's isn't afraid to say what he thinks, and he'll let you know it, both with words and with his helmet. It's easy to see why BYU's staff went after Hicks, who grew up a Utah fan, and stayed on top of him throughout the recruiting process. Hicks is a born leader driven by an over-abundance of competitive spirit.
Tight end Moroni Laulu-Pututau: Although Laulu-Pututau is rated the 86th best tight end in the nation, it's hard to think of a more athletic prospect who comes in at 6 feet 4 inches and 200 pounds and that has more upside to his game. In all honestly, Laulu-Pututau has the size and athleticism to play three positions at the Division I level: outside linebacker, tight end and safety. He'll play the y-receiver position, the same one that Super Bowl champion Dennis Pita lined up at in BYU's offense. If there is a prospect that's heavily underrated, it's Laulu-Pututau.
Middle linebacker Chasen Andersen: Coach Mendenhall compared Andersen to former BYU middle linebacker Brandon Ogletree, who played a big part in BYU's run defense. In fact, when making a comparison between the level of production by Ogletree (two-star recruit) and Uona Kaveinga (four-star recruit who went to USC before transferring to BYU), one could argue that Ogletree had the overall better career at BYU. Andersen is a two-star prospect like Ogletree, and if he has a similar career to Ogletree – the former heart of BYU's defense – BYU fans will be very happy.
Quarterback Billy Green: Green blew up his high school league in the state of Washington, but wasn't heavily recruited by either Washington or Washington State. The question is why not? While the answer may not be fully known, it is apparent that former BYU offensive coordinator and quarterback coach Brandon Doman saw something in Green that he liked. It could be his ability to continue to make play after play when there was seemingly no play to be made, or it could be the fact that he possesses specific qualities that Doman felt were needed in BYU's offense. BYU did offer an in-state quarterback in four-star prospect Cooper Bateman, but in the end Green could turn out to have the more productive college career due to those specific intangibles that Doman saw.
Defensive tackle Merrill Taliauli: A pure two-gap player, Taliauli will be a solid contributor on BYU's defensive line for years to come. At 305 pounds he's big and has a strong lower body. In observing Taliauli at the All-Poly Camp, he showed very good leadership skills, getting his team to rally around him despite facing a much more talented offense. Here is why Taliauli will succeed, because he never gives up, never takes a play off and doesn't let other around him quit. One simply can't rank the strength of a man's heart.
Offensive tackle Addison Pulsipher: Rated the 136th best defensive end, Pulsipher's upside lies on the offensive side of the ball. Much like Thomas Shoaf, Pulsipher fits the tight end mold. He's 6 feet 6 inches and 265 pounds, and coaches can mold him, much like they did with Braden Brown, as an offensive tackle. Pulsipher was selected as one of the top offensive line prospects in the Inland Valley of Southern California this year, and was offered by BYU early in his high school career.
Outside linebacker Nathan DeBeikes: DeBeikes was a prospect that fans weren't too excited about after learning of his offer and quick commit. Most of that was due to the fact no other big-time programs had offered him, and there wasn't the "star power" attached to his name. Again, these are things that don't necessarily indicate actual potential. Coach Mendenhall mentioned that DeBeikes was one of the more athletic prospects of the class, and all one has to do is review the film of him chewing up turf against solid Southern California talent to understand why. DeBeikes falls into the underrated column like most in this class.
Safety Jordan Preator: If there is someone that typifies a "diamond in the rough" or underrated prospect, it's Jordan Preator. As a defender, Preator is a ball hawk with natural instincts that aren't taught on the football field. His athleticism has made him a steal in the state of Utah and BYU coaches can attribute an injury, which more than likely kept him from the eyes of college recruiters, for that. If there is anyone in the BYU class of 2013 that typifies being undervalued as a football player, it's Preator.
Middle linebacker Rylee Gautavai: The commitment of Gautavai caught everyone by surprise. The reason was simple: BYU didn't start recruiting him until last summer after he attended a Junior Day on BYU's campus. Apparently, Gautavai took BYU's coaching staff by surprise just as much as his commitment did to Cougar fans. Gautavai is a prospect that BYU coaches see growing into at the middle linebacker position. According to All-Poly camp founder Alema Te'o, Gautavai has "mad skills" that will be realized down the road.
Safety Kai Nacua: Preator and Nacua are two peas in a pod and are both steals for the Cougar coaching staff. BYU fans realized this later after his 2013 highlight film was made accessible on the internet. What most fans don't know is that Nacua was one of the more popular high school football players in the state of Nevada. What was the reason? He was the heart and soul of Liberty High School's football team and always found a way to win. His popularity continued to rise week in and week out with every heroic touchdown. It was Nacua who helped take Liberty High School to the state championship, which was something no one expected.
Cornerback Samuel Lee: The second cornerback taken in this class, Lee is another junior college prospect that will help shore up BYU's immediate need at the cornerback position. It will be interesting to see if Coach Howell has Lee compete with Trammell for the starting boundary position, or if he'll see time at the field side or nickel position. Lee has the size and speed to do either.
Safety Garrett England: England is another two-star prospect who has completely flown under the radar. A track athlete in the state of Utah, England is the primary reason why Skyline High School's track team will more than likely beat the 400- and 200-meter state records this year. At 6 feet 3 inches and 180 pounds, England is an athlete that has both the size and speed to play either wide receiver or safety at the next level.
Offensive guard Tim Duran: The coaching staff looked for players with upper-level experience to come in and contribute right away. At 6 feet 4 inches and 290 pounds, Duran is someone the staff feels fits that bill at either the center or right tackle position. Coach Anae will open up the offensive line to competition this spring and brought in a few junior college players to compete and shore up the trenches up front.
Offensive tackle Josh Carter: BYU signed four junior college offensive linemen in the class of 2013, and 6-foot-5-inch, 305-pound Josh Carter is one of them. Scout's Southwest Recruiting Analyst Jason Jewell called Carter "big and nasty" because of his aggression and mean streak in the trenches. BYU's coaches were looking for a more experienced player with a mean streak in him, and that's what they got in Carter.
Offensive tackle De'Ondre Wesley: Once committed to the University of Utah, Wesley has now signed with BYU. The reason he claims he lost his Utah scholarship offer is primarily a lack of communication. Whatever the reason may be, BYU saw fit to recruit him once again upon learning of his availability. At 6 feet 6 inches and 305 pounds, Wesley – like Carter, Fusi and Duran – will be in contention come fall camp for a starting spot. Watching and evaluating the offensive line talent come fall camp will be exciting, and it will be interesting to see how well these junior college prospects stack up with the current talent in the program.
Wide receiver Michael Davis: If Davis had played for a Southern California high school football program such as Servite High School, he would have had quite a few colleges knocking on his door. Instead, he came from a program not known for producing Division-I talent, and that suits BYU's coaches just fine. With Davis possessing a 10.6 100-meter time, BYU landed one of the fastest prospects in the state of California. If there ever was a definition of diamond in the rough, Davis fits it perfectly.
Although there are only 24 scholarships that can be given, BYU has wrapped up a lot of the 2015 class by committing about 31 players in the 2013 class. Those that didn't sign a letter of intent with BYU but that will have a scholarship upon their return from serving missions are:
Running back Francis Bernard
Fullback Patrick Palau
Wide receiver Inoke Lotulelei
Outside linebacker Pita Taumoepenu