Kalani Sitake and his coaching staff had little time to get out on the recruiting trail after being hired. Despite the limited time, the new coaching staff was able to keep every committed athlete while flipping a few from other programs. Let’s take a look at Coach Sitake’s first recruiting class of 2016 for the BYU Cougars.
Mack Richards WR 6-1 190 Alta HS (Sandy, UT)
Mack Richards is a speedy receiver with decent height. He signed an NLI with the University of Hawaii prior to leaving to serve an LDS mission. Over the course of his service, the Hawaii coaching staff fell out of contact with the Richards family. When Coach Sitake was hired on at BYU, he remembered the speed and athleticism of Richards who was subsequently offered and is now signed as a Cougar.
Keanu Saleapaga DL 6-6 265 La Mirada HS (Lakewood, CA)
This big Samoan from Southern California was at one time committed to USC. After the two parties parted in separate ways, Keanu Saleapaga went on the hunt for a new home. He never in his wildest dreams would have thought that BYU would be where he would spend the next four years of his life playing football. He feels in the end it was a blessing that he no longer was committed to USC after seeing what he would have missed out on at BYU.
Hirkley Latu LB 6-3 200 Kahuku HS (Kahuku, HI)
One of the top linebacker prospects in the state of Hawaii, Hirkley Latu was at one time committed to BYU when Bronco Mendenhall was at the helm. Although committed, Latu mentioned to Coach Mendenhall that he wanted to just check out a few places. This led to a misunderstanding by Coach Mendenhall, who thought he was de-committing, which wasn’t the case. Coach Sitake pulled the talented Tongan back into the BYU ranks prior to signing day.
Alema Pilimai LB 6-4 205 Tustin HS (Tustin, CA)
Alema Pilimai was at one time a strong Utah commit. When Kalani Sitake arrived in Provo, he went after Pilimai hard despite already having a BYU offer on the table. Upon attending an official visit to BYU, Pilimai wanted to do a compare and contrast between his experiences at BYU and Utah. After his BYU trip, Pilimai attended an official visit to Utah then went silent in order to make a fair and uninfluenced personal decision based on prayer. He ended up signing with BYU on February 3rd.
J.T. Gentry OL 6-5 285 Columbine HS (Littleton, CO)
J.T. Gentry is young in terms of playing offensive line, but that just means he has a lot of upside to his game. After making the switch from D-line to O-line his junior year, Gentry went on to dominate in the trenches thanks to his coach, Chris Kuper, who played in the NFL. The following season, Gentry would put his size, speed, and footwork to work to become one of the top offensive lineman in the state of Colorado.
Freddy Livai DL 6-4 256 A.B. Miller HS (Fontana, CA)
One of the more underrated prospects in the class, Freddy Livai is a specimen on the field. He’s big, aggressive, quick, and makes plays sideline to sideline. When one combines those attributes in a 6-4, 256-pound body along with 4.57 second forty speed, the results could spell trouble for opposing teams. Livai could play weak side linebacker position, which is what he was told, or bulk up to be a speedy pass rusher on the defensive line. He was heavily recruited by PAC-12 schools Washington State, Oregon State, Arizona, and Colorado, among other schools.
Chris Wilcox DB 6-2 175 Eleanor Roosevelt HS (Fontana, CA)
From the Inland Empire, Chris Wilcox comes to BYU from the land of beloved running back Jamaal Williams. From Fontana, California, Wilcox is a player who Ed Lamb feels is also another sleeper in the class as one who wasn’t highly recruited. Despite that fact, Coach Lamb feels Wilcox has the size and speed to be a future NFL prospect at the cornerback position.
Aleva Hifo WR 5-10 180 Heritage HS (Menifee, CA)
A two-way athlete, Aleva Hifo could play multiple positions at BYU. While playing prep ball at Heritage High School, Hifo was the do-it-all player. He played cornerback, safety, receiver, running back, wide receiver, quarterback, and punt and kick returner. At BYU, Hifo will likely play slot receiver and on special teams.
Clark Barrington OL 6-6 275 University HS (Spokane Valley, WA)
Another tall offensive lineman with room to grow, Clark Barrington was a surprise offer and commit to BYU as another under the radar prospect. He was being recruited by the former BYU coaching staff but no formal offer was given. When Coach Sitake came in as the head of BYU football, he watched Barrington’s film and instantly knew he wanted him. Not long after an offer was extended, which Barrington quickly accepted.
Lisala Tai OL 6-7 310 Hawthorne HS (Hawthorne, CA)
Hawthorne High School struggled mightily this past season as a football program. Still, there was a bright spot on the team in big Tongan offensive lineman Lisala Tai. Much like J.T. Gentry, Tai has a high ceiling to grow into with his natural skill set. Big and mobile, Tai brings that nastiness offensive line coach Mike Empey is looking for. Tai went so far under the radar that he was never evaluated by Scout.com.
Darius McFarland DL 6-3 250 Box Elder HS (Brigham City, UT)
A prospect that played all over the field for Box Elder High School, Darius McFarland saw time at many positions during his prep career including defensive end, outside linebacker and tight end. He’s another versatile prospect that will play on the defensive line at BYU.
Sione Finau RB 5-11 170 Kearns HS (Kearns, UT)
A speedy utility prospect from Kearns High School, Sione Finau played running back, wide receiver, defensive back, and special teams in high school. His speed and quickness made him a threat to score every time he touched the football. Finau, who is distantly related to BYU defensive coordinator Ilaisa Tuiaki, originally committed to Oregon State when Coach Tuiaki was coaching there. When offered by Coach Sitake after he became BYU’s new head coach, Finau couldn’t resist the offer, having grown up a BYU fan.
Caden Haws OL 6-2 275 Pulaski Academy (Little Rock, AR)
Another unrated prospect, Caden Haws was named a first team all-state, POY, prospect as a center out of the state of Arkansas. It’s hard to explain why this pit bull of a prospect went so unnoticed in the recruiting world. Haws held a scholarship by the old BYU staff under Mendenhall, only to find out it had been given away. When Coach Sitake came to town, Haws hoped a scholarship would be reissued. When he came on campus for his official visit, he got his wish.
Max Tooley DB 6-2 195 Bountiful HS (Bountiful, UT)
Max Tooley is a hard-hitting safety with speed and range on the football field. A safety and running back at Bountiful High School, Tooley was a prospect Utah tried very hard to swing over to the University of Utah. In the end, BYU won out and Tooley signed as part of Kalani Sitake’s first signing class.
Keenan Pili LB 6-3 210 Timpview HS (Provo, UT)
At Timpview High School, Keenan Pili was a force on the Thunderbird defense. He’s an aggressive player who could play either outside linebacker or strong safety at the next level. He is ranked the 54th best outside linebacker in the nation. He held 12 scholarship offers, ranging from the PAC-12, MWC, SEC, among other programs such as Yale.
Jonah Trinnaman WR 6-0 190 Snow College (Ephraim, UT)
One of the fastest players (reported 4.3 forty speed) to come from Snow College to BYU, Jonah Trinnaman will help raise BYU’s level of offensive performance under Coach Ty Detmer. Trinnaman was heavily pursued by Utah while BYU’s coaching staff was in flux. Coach Ty Detmer and Kalani Sitake came in and sealed the deal for Trinnaman, who eventually would sign with BYU. Trinnaman will be moved all over the offense in order to us his speed for mismatches. If you’re a fan of offense, you’ll love Trinnaman.
Skyler Southam K 6-0 185 Wasatch HS (Heber City, UT)
An All-American prospect as a kicker, Skyler Southam comes to BYU as one who prides himself on being able to kick the ball with precision and distance. Southam is ranked the number two kicker in the country.
Jackson Kaufusi LB 6-2 210 Brighton HS (Salt Lake City, UT)
At one time Jackson Kaufusi had a scholarship from BYU under the Coach Mendenhall regime. Then news came to him and his family by uncle Steve Kaufusi that his scholarship was given away. Rather than commit to Utah, Washington State, or Cal, he simply waited. He waited to see if the new coaching staff under Coach Sitake would yield different results, which was the case. Kaufusi, who is the younger brother of Isaiah Kaufusi (who also committed to BYU prior to an LDS mission), received a scholarship from Coach Sitake and he committed to BYU after much prayer a week later.
Drew Jensen DB 6-2 195 Brighton HS (Salt Lake City, UT)
Another big instate target among the top D1 colleges, Drew Jensen is the type of player to give you his all, even if his wrist is broken. Jensen is a tough, hard-hitting safety who leaves everything out on the field of play. BYU got themselves a fearless defensive back who will come up and lay the wood on running backs while playing smart in coverage in the backfield.
Solofa Funa LB 6-2 225 Spanish Fork HS (Spanish Fork, UT)
An athletic linebacker, Solofa Funa is another prospect that went virtually unnoticed by the scouts but not by Coach Mendenhall and his staff. Funa, who grew up a BYU fan, quickly committed to BYU once he was offered and stayed committed the university despite the coaching changes. Funa is a diamond in the rough. He has great speed to cover in the flats or rush off the edge. A versatile player while at Spanish Fork High School, Funa played multiple positions such as tight end, outside linebacker, and running back, as coaches put his speed to good use. He committed to BYU during his sophomore year.
Atunaisa Mahe DL 6-1 295 West Jordan HS (West Jordan, UT)
Another underrated prospect that went un-evaluated by the scouts, Atunaisa Mahe is a stout defensive lineman with a strong lower body. He’s more of a two-gap type player so it will be interesting to see how he fits in the defensive front if Coach Tuiaki switches to a 4-3 defense. Either way, Mahe will be a stout run stopper in the trenches.
Jaren Hall QB 6-1 195 Maple Mountain HS (Spanish Fork, UT)
One of the top quarterbacks in the west and the top quarterback in the state of Utah, Jaren Hall, who had committed to BYU, was a hotly contested prospect while BYU’s coaching staff was being sorted out. He became a soft commit to BYU as Utah came in to swoop him away. In the end newly hired offensive coordinator Ty Detmer and head coach Kalani Sitake kept his vision towards BYU where he would eventually sign.
Hank Tuipulotu TE 6-3 225 Nation Ford HS (Fort Mill, SC)
A tight end prospect, Hank Tuipulotu is the son of former BYU running back Peter Tuipulotu. Now living in South Carolina, Tuipulotu held offers from ACC school North Carolina and SEC school South Carolina, among other schools. He’s a fast tight end that will be a welcomed addition to BYU’s new tight end position, which will be revamped under Coach Detmer.
Handsome Tanielu DL 6-2 285 Snow College (Ephraim, UT)
One of the top defensive linemen in the JUCO ranks, Handsome Tanielu is a beast in the trenches. One of two four-star recruits in the 2016 recruiting class, Tanielu chose to come to BYU after first committing to Utah. His heart eventually led him to Provo.
Troy Warner DB 6-2 185 Mission Hills HS (San Marcos, CA)
Troy Warner turned down USC and Oregon to come play at BYU. He joins his brother Fred Warner to the Cougar program. Warner had at one time been committed to Oregon, but over time he feel out of love with the program and committed to BYU. USC made a push for his services while BYU was sorting out its new coaching staff. With Troy Warner in the Cougar fold, BYU will have two four star defensive backs signed in back-to-back classes in Warner and Dayan Lake.
Kainoa Fuiava DL 6-5 295 Warren HS (Downey, CA)
Kainoa Fuiava is a big Samoan prospect who was a late signee after having been committed to Hawaii. He was an All-CIF Southern Section Defensive Team selection in 2015. Fuiava is a beast in the trenches and has a quick-twitch off the line along with a powerful push. He also holds a variety of moves that helped him rack up 70 tackles, seven sacks, and four forced fumbles in two seasons. He also played fullback on short yard situations and scored two touchdowns in 16 games.