2006 BYU Recruiting Review: Defense

The G-Man shares his analysis of the defensive members of BYU's new recruiting class. Cougar coaches had to address immediate need on defense, and, at least on paper, it appears that the BYU staff got the job done.

Defensive Line:

This was the position that BYU needed quality bodies to fill-in and contribute immediately. The most glaring omission from the list is a top-shelf junior college defensive tackle who were at a premium for a lot of programs this year.

Matangi Tonga 6-2, 270 DE: Each recruiting class holds a recruit that makes or breaks the class in regards to perception on how that given team did recruiting overall. This year, Tonga was very much that commit.

Tonga is arguably BYU's top signee at any position and arguably the best defensive line recruit out of California this year or at least in the top 5. He is someone who will not just be likely to contribute right away as a true freshman, but expected to contribute to a line with a lot of need of able bodies.

Romney Fuga 6-2, 280 DT: Held numerous offers from MWC and PAC-10 schools and was the best lineman in all of Southern California according to the LA Times. Fuga is easily one of the top 5 defensive linemen coming out of California this year. He fell in love with BYU early and really never considered going elsewhere.

Mosese Foketi 6-1, 255 DE: In watching film of Foketi at today's luncheon he really jumped out at me as a legitimate division one quality player who will be able to contribute immediately to BYU's thin DL ranks.

Foketi played DT during most of his footage, but showed a very good ability to shed the blocks of junior college linemen quite easily and with good technique. He's the one recruit that has perhaps flown under the radar due to lack of coverage, but he's someone who thrived against junior college competition and should be able to contribute right away.

Ian Dulan 6-1, 245 DE: Looked very quick and agile on film. His technique is a bit raw, but he has great upside. Doubtful that he'll contribute right away, but he's definitely someone who can contribute in the future as is the case with Jordan Richardson 6'4, 250 who will be looked at to bulk up a lot before he's able to contribute. Both athletes have good upside, but most likely won't contribute immediately which is fine since they both have mission plans.

All the talk locally is about how great Utah's defensive line recruiting panned out. Personally, I'd be hard-pressed to trade Tonga or Fuga for any of the DL recruits Utah signed. The volume coupled with the caliber of play of Utah's DL recruits is impressive, but BYU signed a more impressive top two and their junior college DL recruit (Foketi) will contribute far more than Utah's lone JC DL Aaron Tonga. While this is the position Utah is lynching their success on, BYU's has better top quality and all players signed by BYU will actually end up playing for BYU.

Linebacker

This is the strongest position currently on the BYU roster and Mendenhall recruited linebackers this year with that in mind as he only signed two. One of which is Brandon Ogletree 6-0, 215 from McKinney, Texas. Ogletree will leave immediately for his mission, but on tape shows to be very fundamentally sound and a good hitter. He won't wow you with workout stats, but he finished high school as one of the top players in one of the top high school divisions in the country.

Along with Ogletree comes Nate Moncur 6-0, 190: who is hard to evaluate at a high school level due to a bevy of injuries he's encountered. I was able to observe him firsthand at one day of BYU's camp and came away very impressed. Moncur showed a great nose for the ball and was everywhere on defense knocking down passes and picking off balls.

If Moncur can stay healthy, then I consider him a real sleeper in this class. During camps there are usually 4-5 players who just jump out at you as a clear notch higher than those they're playing against. Moncur was easily one of these type of players.

Defensive Backs

Mendenhall made no secret that one of the top priorities of this year's recruiting class would be to bring in immediate help in the secondary. This is code for looking at junior college players and hopefully players that are able to transfer midyear and participate in spring ball.

Tico Pringle 5-10, 183: Pringle fits the bill as someone from the junior college ranks who is already enrolled at BYU and will participate while trying to earn a spot in the spring. Pringle's strength may lie in his open-field tackling as there is thought to move him to BYU's equally ailing safety ranks.

Andre Saulsberry 5-11, 175: A late bloomer, Saulsberry had a much better junior college career than high school career as he quickly became and spent his two seasons at Riverside Junior College as their shutdown corner earning him all-region honors.

BYU has been hit or miss with JC CB talent and the jury will very much be out on these two as they collectively try and become the next version of Omarr Morgan and Tim McTyre rather than Danny Phillips and Derrus Wilson. I like Saulsberry as he looks to have decent size and speed with two years as a shutdown corner at the junior college level.

The other talent comes from the high school ranks with one very intriguing prospect transferring over from Louisville following his LDS mission to Brazil in Brandon Bradley 6-2, 180 who is someone who not even BYU coaches have seen perform. Considering the usual state of BYU's defensive back ranks, taking a risk with defensive backs is usually warranted.

What we do know about Bradley is that he had a great change of heart in committing to BYU, has size and sub 4.5 speed which is more than half the battle for any defensive back recruit. We'll be anxious to see him come fall practices.

Robbie Buckner 5-10, 165: What jumps out to you when observing Buckner is his lateral movement. He has the effortless motion laterally found in too few athletes that play in the defensive backfield for BYU.

I had the opportunity to watch Buckner play up close for a full week at BYU's camp and while he was good at the individual drills the players went through, he was outstanding when taking the field during 7-7 drills where he dominated the field of play defensively and offensively. Buckner is a player who will be a big boost to BYU's secondary if not immediately when he gets home from his LDS mission.

Michael Moore 6-2, 205: Moore had a rough high school career going through 4 different coaches the four years he spent at high school. He was played out of position at linebacker and even defensive end for the most part and was unable to demonstrate his skills at positions where he could excel in.

Moore has size and speed and he is no string-bean. When Moore showed up at BYU's one-day camp in May he looked at least two years older than all of the other to-be-seniors in attendance. Moore also recorded a sub forty time at a NIKE camp. It will take some time for Moore to find his niche and most likely won't contribute right away. But BYU simply doesn't get guys with Moore's stats being over six feet with sub 4.4 speed. That is a great foundation to build upon, don't you think?

Said Mendenhall about the defensive back recruits, "Every defensive back coming in with the exception of Michael Moore was recruited to play corner. We'll battle those players head to head and if any of them prove to be able to start at corner, then they'll have that opportunity."

So will all three automatically end up at corner? Responded Mendenhall revealing what may be a unique recruiting strategy, "To recruit corners was more effective and more appropriate since they require a different degree of coverage skills, so we'll go from there. If any of the corners coming in prove better at safety, then we can always move them over."

Conclusion:

A solid class that isn't saturated with players who likely will never contribute which was the biggest obstacle Mendenhall had to overcome with this class. Mendenhall and his staff put a premium on signing players that will have a chance to contribute, but of equal importance stay with the program and play out their eligibility.

As referred to earlier, more able bodies at defensive line would have been desirable as BYU graduates their entire starting defensive front from last year and then some, but the level of quality they're bringing in is solid. This is not a spectacular defensive class save for Fuga and Tonga, but it is solid.


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