State of the BYUnion

Total Blue Sports came away from BYU's Signing Day Luncheon very pleased with the condition of the Cougar football program. Attendees at yesterday's event could not help but to be impressed by the recruits that signed letters of intent with BYU. Equally impressive was the man who will be guiding the new players though their experience in Provo.

With cameras trained on him and boosters and reporters carefully noting his every word, new BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall laid out his vision for the BYU football program. Mendenhall delivered a highly informative presentation, complete with PowerPoint slides, outlining his goals and game plan for achieving success in the unique BYU.

The youthful coach expressed the ideology that the foundation for building a successful football program is already in place at BYU. He has studied that foundation and is now rebuilding on the footings of 30 years of winning tradition. In order to construct a sound program, Mendenhall will rely on the spiritual qualities that are woven into the fabric of the university.

For Mendenhall, it's not about finding the glowing high school resumes or the recruiting websites' five-star athletes. It's about finding kids who are themselves unique in the sense that they have tremendous passion about sports, academics and spirituality, and are willing to go through the refiner's fire to become, what he termed, modern-day stripling warriors.

"You know in the end when I offer scholarships, or don't offer scholarships, and when some young men that visit this campus and leave without one and then we award one maybe ten day later and you hear their response, you can tell right away if this is the right place for them because of how they respond," said Mendenhall. "If they sit in my chair or wait till the last night at 9:00 to choose some place else, I'm relieved rather than have to live with that young man for five years."

Mendenhall explained that the football coaches' new recruiting tactic is not to persuade athletes to come to BYU, but to have the athletes recruit the coaches.

"What we put them through, and when they make that decision, there is a bondage formed because this is not normal recruiting here, and we don't intend to make it normal recruiting here. But the emotion is, I'm elated when they choose because of what we've told them what it's going to be like and what they cane expect in return," said Mendenhall. "So I'm excited and happy for those young men and I'm relieved that the others have not chosen to be here because it's all the right information, and I'm at peace with that."

While on campus during their official visit, recruits had to visit with an ecclesial leader prior to their meeting with coach Mendenhall. While on campus, BYU coaches get a chance to see if the recruit is someone they feel can thrive under the unique circumstances promoted by BYU coaches and the university.

"You're talking about a staff that represents BYU: coach Kaufusi, coach Grimes, coach Anae, coach Reynolds, coach Doman and coach Mitchell," said Mendenhall. "We are BYU and when that young man in our assessments belong here, all it took was for our coaching staff to tell him what it's really like and involved and regardless of soft commitment or not you made the right choice ultimately."

Here is a list of those who made it through the new rigorous BYU recruiting process and ultimately convinced BYU coaches they are the "right choice."

OL Sete Aulai 6'3", 290 pounds El Camino JC, California

Aulai is a JC Athletic Bureau first-team All-American and a JC Athletic Bureau Region IV first-team All-California. He was named a pre-season All-American entering his sophomore season and earned first-team All-Mission Conference honors at El Camino JC. Aulai also received the "Helmet Award" given annually to the top offensive lineman, and helped lead El Camino to a 6-2 record on the season as part of an offensive unit that ranked second in total offense in the Mission Conference. El Camino JC averaging 402.8yards per game and Aulai anchored an offensive line that helped rack up 261.9 yards passing per game and 140.9 yards rushing per game and played in all 11 games as a freshman at El Camino JC. Aulai earning all-conference honorable mention honors and was a two-year starter at Carson High School where he earned all-region, all-area and first-team all-league honors as a senior. Aulai also earned scholar-athlete honors, and was named to the National Honor Roll and recruited by USC, UCLA, Oregon, Washington State, Wisconsin, Arizona State and Colorado State and one of seven children and his parents are Letasi and Lea Leni.

WR Luke Ashworth 6'2", 190 pound Timpview HS, Utah

Ashworth was selected as a Salt Lake Tribune and Deseret News All-State wide receiver and a Deseret News first-team all-valley selection. He was also named to the Daily Herald Elite-11 team as a senior and was a three-year starter for the T-birds. Ashworth was credited with 62 receptions as a senior and raked up a total of 17 touchdowns his senior year. He posted over 1,100 yards and on the defensive side of the ball, recorded 48 tackles, including two sacks for a totaled of 20.5 sacks throughout his career at Timpview HS. Ashworth is considered on of the top-three high school prospects in the state of Utah and helped lead Timpview HS to the 2004 4-A State Championship. Ashworth is also an all-state baseball player for Timpview HS and plans to play both football and baseball at BYU. He also plans on serving al LDS Church mission following his freshman season and was a four-year honor roll student at Timpview High School. He is one of eight children that include brothers Adam and Dave played football at Dixie State College in St. George, Utah. Ashworth earned an Eagle Scout honors and his parents are Brent and Charlene Ashworth. Ashworth choose BYU over UNLV, Arizona State, Utah, Washington and Stanford.

LB Chris Bolden 6'1", 230 pounds Riverside Community College, Cal.

Bolden earned first-team All-Mission Conference (National Division) honors as a sophomore and helped lead Riverside to a 5-3 overall record in 2004. Bolden is ranked fourth in the Mission Conference with 82 tackles over eight games where he averaged 10.2 tackles. He also recorded 51 solo tackles and played his freshman season at Concord University (Division II) following his service in the United States Navy. His wife is Akioko Bolden and the couple has a three-year old son, Shamere. Bolden is a convert to the LDS faith and attended Hephzibah High School in Hephzibah, Georgia. His parents are Chris and Gloria Bolden.

DB/QB Steven Covey 5'11", 190 pounds Timpview HS, Utah

Covey earned Deseret News and Salt Lake Tribune 4-A MVP honors as a senior and was named Deseret News and Salt Lake Tribune All-State selection. He was also named as a two time Daily Herald Utah Valley Player of the Year. As a quarterback, Covey led the T-Birds to a 22-3 record over the past two seasons, including a 12-1 record as a senior. He led Timpview to the 4-A State Championship in 2004 and is a three-year letter winner. two time Timpview HS team MVP. As a quarterback he completed 143 of 231 attempts for 2,503 yards and 31 touchdowns his senior season. Covey is credited with 120 carries for 958 yards and 11 rushing touchdowns and posted a Timpview HS record 192.01 quarterback rating in 2004 where he completed 110 or 198 attempts for 1,701 yards. As a junior, Covey racked up 20 touchdown passes in 2003 and had 168 carries for 1,163 yards and 11 rushing touchdowns. He also lettered in soccer and track and is a member of the district champion 4x100-meter relay team. He is the grandson of acclaimed author Stephen R. Covey and was born in Dallas, Texas. Covey plans to serving an LDS Church mission following his freshman season. His parents are Stephen and Jeri Covey and chose BYU early over Utah State, Utah, Arizona and Colorado.

RB/LB Shawn Doman 6'2', 200 pounds Woodburn HS, Ore.

The cousin of current BYU quarterbacks coach Brandon Doman, Shawn was named Oregonian Pac-9 first-team All-Conference performer at running back position, defensive back and kick returner. He was named Oregonian third-team All-State defensive back and honorable mention running back. His senior year, Doman gained 1,490 all-purpose yards and averaged 165.5 yards per game. On defense he recorded 87 tackles during his senior season and was named as the 10th ranked high school recruit in the state of Oregon. Doman was a four-year honor roll student and National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame Scholar Athlete, and helped Canby HS to a 38-6 record over four seasons. Doman was named team MVP and credited with nearly 600 yards rushing and eight touchdowns and was credited with 61 tackles on defense his junior year. He was a first-team all-league running back as a junior and is a standout prep wrestler (189 pounds) where he lettered in both wrestling and track. Doman was recruited by Oregon State, Oregon, Arizona State, Washington, Washington State, Nebraska, Stanford, Army, Harvard, Portland State, Columbia, Colorado, Californian and is one of six children. Doman is LDS and an Eagle Scout who was born in Turlock, Calif. His parents are Stephen and Sheree Doman.

WR Spencer Hafoka 6'0", 180 pounds Kahuku HS, HI

Hafoka is a two-time Honolulu Advertiser and Star-Bulletin first-team All-State receiver. He played in the Goodwill Football All-Star Classic and averaged a whopping 24.6 yards per reception during his senior season. Hafoka is considered one of the top-10 high school prospects in the state of Hawaii and is considered the top wide receiver prospect in the state. He is credited with 29 receptions for 1,029 yards as a junior and placed in the state high school track & field championships as a junior in four events, including the high jump, long jump, triple jump and 110-meter hurdles. Hafoka plans on serving an LDS mission this summer and has a brother, Saia Hafoka, currently on the BYU football roster. Hafoka's older brother Moana, who just returned from an LDS mission to Alaska, will enroll at BYU this fall as well. His parents are Finau and Lucy Hafoka and chose BYU over Arizona State, Washington, Oregon State, Hawaii and Utah.

LB Terrance Hooks 6'1", 205 pounds Marcos De Niza HS, AZ.

Rated by the Arizona Republic as the state of Arizona's 17th ranked high school prospect and was listed as one of the state's top-25 high school prospects by a national recruiting service, Hooks was named Arizona Republic second-team All-Central Region as a running back and rushed for over 1,100 yards in 2004. He was credited with 15 touchdowns as a senior, despite missing two games due to injury, and qualified for the state track & field championships as a junior in the long jump and triple jump. Hooks is a three-year honor roll student and is listed as a top-25 high school prospect in the state of Arizona. His parents are Kerrick Hooks and Glenda Benford and chose BYU over Northern Arizona, UNLV and UTEP.

CB Brandon Howard 5'11", 165 pounds La Sierra HS, Cal.

Howard was named first-team All-Ivy League selection as a wide receiver in 2004 and was voted a Press-Enterprises second-team All-Riverside County defensive back as a senior along with first-team All-Mountain View receiver as a junior. He is credited with 43 receptions for 682 yards and 9 touchdowns as a senior and is a three-year letter winner in football. He helped lead his team to an 8-2 record and earned an award named after him, the Smith & Howard Award which is named for the best offensive player of the year as a junior. He won the Mountain View League 110-meter hurdle championship as a junior and finished fifth in the hurdles at the CIF Championships last season. Howard earned All-America honors in the 55-meter shuttle hurdles relay, placing third in the nation in the 2003 US Nike Indoor Nationals in the 2004 league champion in the 100-meter hurdles and 4x100-meter relay. He is a four-year letterman in track and is the grandson of a Baptist preacher. He chose BYU over Colorado, UTEP, Boise State, Idaho, Wyoming, Nevada, Northern Arizona, Portland State and Columbia. His parents are Renard and Earnie Howard.

RB/CB Cade Hulbert 5'10", 165 pounds Capital HS, ID.

Hulbert is an Idaho Statesman second-team All-State running back as a senior, and a first-team All-SIC receiver as a sophomore. He was named as a first-team All-SIC running back as a senior and led the 5-A Southern Idaho Conference in rushing his senior season. He is a three-year letter winner for Capital HS and helped lead his team to a 7-4 record as a senior. Hulbert finishing third in the state finals and received the World Sports Humanitarian Hall of Fame Student-Athlete Award recipient. He won the Idaho state 200- and 400-meter championships as a junior and is a four-year letter winner in track, and holds a 4.0 grade-point average at Capital High School. Howard plans to serve an LDS Church mission after his freshman season at BYU and hopes to compete in both track and football for the Cougars upon his return. His parents are Rick and Laurie Hulbert and he is an Eagle Scout. Hulbert chose BYU over Boise State, Colorado State, Notre Dame, Maryland, Miami (Florida) and Louisville.

LB Kyle Leukenga 6'4", 250 pounds Granger HS, Utah.

Leukenga is a 2004 Region 3 Defensive Player of the Year and a Salt Lake Tribune All-State linebacker. He is a high honor roll student and was named the English student of the year. He is Granger's team captain and a first-team All-Region 3 linebacker. As a junior he was named second-team all-state and ranked as a top-10 recruit in the state of Utah by a national recruiting service He led Granger High School with 90 tackles and had 20 tackles for a loss, including eight sacks. Leukenga maintains a 3.8 grade-point average at Granger HS and helped lead Granger HS to the 5-A state playoffs in 2004. His parents are Brock and Carrie Luekenga and both parents are both graduates of BYU. Leukenga chose BYU over UNLV, Utah State, Utah and Harvard.

OL/DT Matt Reynolds 6'5", 285 pounds Timpview HS, Utah

Reynolds earned High School All-America honors as a sophomore, junior and senior at Timpview HS. He is a 2005 Parade All-American, Utah Gatorade Player of the Year and is listed as the third highest profile recruit in BYU Football history. Reynolds is a three-time all-state offensive lineman and is listed as the second ranked high school offensive guard in the nation, ranked as one of the nation's top-100 high school players by every national recruiting service and is ranked as the state's top high-school prospect. Reynolds helped lead Timpview HS to the 4-A State Championship as a senior and was invited to play in the U.S. Army High School All-American Bowl in San Antonio, Texas. Reynolds plans to serve a Church mission before enrolling at BYU were his father, Lance, is the associate head coach and running backs coach at BYU. His older brother Lance, Jr., is the starting center for the Cougars, and his older brother Dallas is currently serving a Church mission and will play for the Cougars in 2005. Reynolds chose BYU over Arizona, Arizona State, UCLA, California, Nebraska, Northwestern, Utah and Oregon.

CB Justin Robinson 5'10', 165 pound Independence CC, Kan.

Robinson is a 2004 Kansas Jayhawk Community College Conference honorable mention selection at both defensive back and return specialist as a sophomore at Independence CC and led KJCCC with five interceptions during the regular season. He posted five interception returns for 133 yards and one touchdown and is credited with a 65-yard interception return in the Pirates 30-27 overtime victory over Dodge City. Robinson is credited with two interceptions in ICC's 32-21 victory over Fort Scott and ranked second (KJCCC) in kickoff returns with a 28.1 yards average through eight games on the season including a long 50 yard return, He is ranked fifth on the Independence CC roster with 40 tackles as a red shirt freshman, including 38 solos and prepped at Bishop Kelley High School in Tulsa, Okla. He is a top sprinter for Independence CC's track team, posting a 10.88 in the 100-meters and a 21.70 in the 200-meters. His parents are Larry and Fern Robinson and chose BYU over Middle Tennessee State, Murray State and Tulsa.

TE Vic So'oto 6'4", 225 pounds Carlsbad HS, Cal

So'oto is a San Diego Union Tribune first-team All-San Diego linebacker as a senior and earned first-team All-CIF honors as a tightend. He is his team's MVP and earned All-Avocado League first-team honors and is a first-team All-North County selection. So'oto is ranked as a top-15 high school tight end by one national recruiting service and recorded 80 tackles and three forced fumbles as a linebacker during his senior season. He posted 18 receptions for 400 yards and two touchdowns as a senior tight end is a three-year letter winner at Carlsbad HS. He is a scholar-athlete and also lettered in volleyball. He chose BYU over USC, UCLA, Stanford, California, Oregon, Oregon State, Arizona, Arizona State, Nevada, Washington, San Diego State, Colorado, UNLV, Wyoming, Utah, Nebraska, UTEP, Oklahoma, Michigan, Florida State and Duke. His parents are Vitale and Sili So'oto.

DT Russell Tialavea 6'3", 265 pounds Oceanside HS, Cal.

Tialavea was named the Avocado League Defensive Player of the Year as a senior, a first-team All-Avocado League defensive lineman, a second-team All-CIF selection and was ranked as a top-30 defensive line prospect by one national recruiting service. Tialavea also ranked as the 58th top high school recruit in the state of California and was credited with 10 sacks as a junior. He is a three-year letter winner in football and helped led his team to a 13-0 record as a senior. He also lettered in basketball and chose BYU over Nebraska, Kansas State, UCLA, Oregon State, Arizona State, Utah, California, San Diego State, Colorado and Colorado State.

RB Harvey Unga 6'1", 210 pounds Timpview HS, Utah.

Harvey was an all-state running back as a senior when he helped lead Timpview HS to the 2004 State Championship. Harvey rushed for over 1,300 yards as a senior that played very little in the third and rarely in fourth quarters. He is a Deseret News All-Region performer as a junior. His father, Jackson, played running back for the Cougars in the early 80's. Unga plans to serve an LDS Church mission following his freshman season.

DT Peter Vailahi 6'4", 290 pounds Waddell HS, NC.

Vailahi was named the 2004 Southwestern 4-A Defensive Player of the Year, a first-team All-Mecklenburg Conference defensive lineman as a senior and earned first-team All-Southwestern 4-A honors as a junior defensive lineman. He is a three-year letter winner for Coach Bennie McMurray at Waddell High School and led his team to an 11-3 record and a conference championship as a senior and is projected to play offensive line at BYU. His father is a pro-wrester known as "The Barbarian in the WWF and is LDS. He chose BYU over Virginia, Virginia Tech, Nebraska, South Carolina and Appalachian State.

P Derek McLaughlin 6'2", 195 pounds Univ. Washington, Wa.

McLaughlin competed for two seasons at the University of Washington before serving a LDS Church mission. He was named Sporting News preseason second-team All-Pac-10 selection, earned Sporting News second-team freshman and All-America honors as a true freshman, earned All-Pac-10 honorable mention honors as a freshman and averaged 41.2 yards per punt, the highest average by a Husky punter since Thane Cleland in 1986 (41.2). McLaughlin finished tied with Cleland for the fourth-best punting average in Washington football history and had 16 of 52 punts downed inside the 20-yard line, and just two touchbacks. He finished season with 10 punts of 50 yards or more and established a school record with a game-turning 74-yard punt out of his own end zone. He was named SuperPrep's top punter in the state of Arizona, and 27th-best recruit in the state overall .. as a freshman at Canyon Springs High School in Moreno, Calif. He is an Eagle Scout and is currently serving a Church mission in Rosario, Argentina.

With a dedicated and disciplined coaching staff in place and a class of outstanding new talent arriving soon in Provo, Total Blue Sports feels confident in declaring that the state of the BYUnion is strong.

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