Class of 2010 Comes Together

Recruiting classes take a lot of time and effort to be put together. Since the very first commit for the 2010 class almost a full two and a half years ago, the Cougar coaching staff has worked tirelessly to put together what head coach Bronco Mendenhall has defined as being the best group of players he's ever brought into the BYU program.

Over the past few years BYU coaches have poured over film, attended camps and other combines, made countless phone calls, met with high school coaches around the country and done everything else involved in putting together a recruiting class. The result of their efforts will be announced Wednesday February 3, 2010, which will be an accumulation of a lot of hard work on their part.

As has become the norm, the 2010 class got started off in earnest almost two and half years ago and has continued up until the final commit in mid-December of this past year. Other signings on Wednesday, beyond what we here at TBS have listed as the 26 commits that will make up the class of 2010, are not anticipated.

Early Returns

Almost a full two and a half years ago Bronson Kaufusi (6-6, 230) made it known that he had committed to sign a letter of intent with BYU. Having made his commitment so early, he probably didn't receive the national attention that would otherwise be warranted for a player of his caliber.

One could easily make the argument that the first commit of the 2010 class was also its most athletically talented. Kaufusi committed in large part due to the opportunity to continue the valuable education he's been receiving from his father, Cougar defensive line coach Steve Kaufusi.

"He's talked to me about him coaching me at BYU and I know he can't wait," he said about playing for his father while at BYU. "For me, I'm really excited about having my dad be my coach. I just think that's a really special thing, and I can't wait to go and prove to my dad that I can work hard and can play and be successful as a defensive end."

It wasn't until almost a full year later that BYU received its second commit for the 2010 class in the form of Algernon Brown (6-1, 205) from Skyline High School in Salt Lake City. Brown is someone who could be play fullback or be a featured running back in BYU's system.

"Yeah, I believe that when you play at BYU you play for something more than just yourself," said Brown at the time of his commitment. "Coach Mendenhall was talking to me about how he wanted his players to be. He told me that one reason why his players are so good is because they all put their faith first in their life. I guess everything else just falls into place if you do everything right. I'm for sure going to serve a mission. I might go right after high school, but I'm not sure yet. So, I just felt that BYU was the place for me."

Junior Day Returns

BYU traditionally holds its first Junior Day early in the year. In 2009 BYU held its first one just a week before signing day, which was a new thing for the coaching staff. The event yielded their third commit for the 2010 class in Joey Owens.

Owens (6-2, 215) is a linebacker prospect from Pleasant Grove High School. Since the time of his commit he's had to battle some severe shoulder problems that may inhibit him from playing at BYU. Should he get over those problems, he'll add significantly to the overall talent level at the linebacker position.

"BYU has everything I could ever want in a football program and in a school," said Owens about why he committed. "I'm LDS, so their standards match my standards. BYU has a great environment. BYU has everything I want to help me achieve my goals both academically and in playing football. The football team is great, but it's everything else too that makes BYU the perfect place for me. I'm just very thankful that they thought enough of me to offer me a scholarship."

Also stemming from Junior Day was the commitment of Jordan Black (6-7, 245 OL) from Alta High School. Although Black committed almost a full month after Owens, it was Junior Day where both he and BYU became intently familiar with one another.

"I consider it a great honor and privilege to be offered by BYU," said Black. "BYU is the best program I could ever hope to play for, so when they offered me I didn't even have to think about it. It's been my dream to play for BYU, so I'll now have that opportunity. I couldn't be more happy with my decision."

Ending Spring Strong

Almost two full months passed until BYU got its next commit in the form of Graham Rowley (6-4, 270 DL/OL.) Rowley was the first out-of-state commit for the 2010 class, hailing all the way from Waialua, Hawaii.

"It's really hard to point out just one thing that BYU has that made me want to commit to them and play for them," said Rowley. "They just have everything. I've always wanted to play for BYU and it's because they just have everything I could ever want as a person and as a football player."

A few days later BYU got its second out-of-state commit when Travis Tuiloma decided to pledge to BYU on April 20. Tuiloma (6-3, 290) is a defensive line prospect from Topeka, Kansas that didn't get the benefit to see BYU up close and in person before he committed.

"I really love the coaches at BYU," said Tuiloma after he committed. "They stress the Church and the gospel and becoming a better person. They also want to make sure I get a good education, which is very important to me and my family. It's the best place for me to grow and to play football."

BYU's first non-LDS commit for this year's class came from Collin Keoshian, who made his decision to ink with the Cougars on May 9 this past year. Keoshian (6-2, 225) is one of the more intriguing parts of the 2010 class, in that he hails from a very small football program. He'll work to earn a spot at inside linebacker while at BYU.

"[Coach Mendenhall] said that he watched my film and could immediately tell that I had NFL potential, but it was my character more than anything that led him and his staff to offer me a scholarship," said Keoshian. "Standing up for your beliefs and living the right way is the most important thing above all else. BYU is exactly the type of place where I can be around people who live the same way I do and hold the same standards as I do. I'm honored that BYU believes I'm the type of kid with the character to be part of their program. I consider it a great privilege to be part of this program and that is why I committed."

Late May Day

On May 20 BYU received two more commits, and in so doing perhaps gave indication of the furious amount of commits the Cougars would soon garner in the subsequent months. The first commit of the day came from A.J. Moore (5-10, 190 RB) from Murrieta Valley High School in Southern California.

"I love BYU," stated Moore after his commit. "I was there at their camp last summer and fell in love with the place. I love everything about it: the atmosphere, the coaches, everything. I decided after that camp that if BYU offered I'd probably commit."

Later that day Tuni Kanuch made it known that he too had committed to Cougar coaches. Kanuch (6-1, 290) is a offensive line prospect from Bingham High School and went on to be named Mr. Football for the entire state of Utah his senior year.

Regarding the five ideals of faith, family, friends, education and football that Mendenhall has emphasized within his football program, Kanuch said: "Those are the most important things in my life, especially the first two, so it's a good fit for me. I love the feeling you get at BYU. I love the coaches and it just felt really right. The more I learned about BYU, the more I knew that if they offered me that I'd commit."

June Boom

Days don't come any bigger on the recruiting front than June, 4 2009, when BYU received commits from three of the most talented athletes they've ever brought into the program. In fact, Jake Heaps (6-2, 205) from Issaquah, Washington, Ross Apo (6-4, 190) from Arlington, Texas and Zac Stout (6-2, 220) from Westlake Village, California could well be argued to be the most talented quarterback, receiver and linebacker – respectively – ever to make their way into the BYU program.

All three made their commits known during a press conference held at Iggy's Sports Grill in Salt Lake City. In doing so, they greatly enhanced the entire momentum of the 2010 class.

"BYU is on the rise," said Heaps on the day of his commit. "There is nowhere BYU is going to go but up. They've made huge strides and they'll be making more strides. They've put together great recruiting classes and they'll continue to put forth great recruiting classes. The recruits they're getting and all the guys coming off missions, we're going to take this program to new heights."

"They were the first ones to believe in me and my potential, even when it looked as if I'd have problems qualifying," said Apo about his own commit. "That was a big thing in my mind. They've always been there supporting me throughout on not just football, but everything, and that tells me that they have my well-being and my growth as a person well in mind. That's the type of place and program you want to be a part of."

"I'm not big on that sort of thing, but I did it for Jake and for Ross," said Stout about the press conference when he announced his commitment. "Those are my boys and we're in it together. That's the message we wanted to send. We wanted everyone to know how strongly we felt that BYU was the place where we could win championships and encourage the best talent to join with us in our goals. There's no way I would have done something like that for myself and neither would have Jake or Ross."

With their good friend and high school teammate Apo pledged to BYU, both Teu Kautai (6-1, 210 LB) and Tayo Fabuluje (6-6, 270 DL) followed suit with their own commits later that same month.

"I really started to like them a lot after going to camp last summer," explained Kautai of why he committed to BYU. "It's the atmosphere mostly. It's a school that has the same standards as I do, being LDS, and it's just a great fit for me."

"BYU is perfect for me," said Fabuluje, who was first introduced to BYU during the one-day camp held during the first weekend of June. "It was the clean environment, the friends I already have here, the coaches, and everything else that just felt perfect to me. It's just been a short amount of time since I've come to know about BYU, but everything felt right from the start, so why wait around? Opportunities don't come like this forever, so I felt I needed to take this one. BYU is perfect for me."

Summer Camp Returns

Those that follow BYU recruiting closely have come to know that BYU does most of its work on the recruiting front in June when it holds its camps. With the huge boom that Heaps, Apo and Stout provided, BYU was able to gather in some other very promising prospects during its camps held in the final two weeks of June.

First among the summer camp group was Pleasant Grove tight end prospect Bryan Sampson (6-4, 210).

"I believe that BYU is a different type of program," said Sampson about why he committed. "When you play for BYU you don't just represent a school or a football team. It's much bigger than that. You represent a faith. When I was talking to Coach Mendenhall he said that when you play for BYU you are representing an example to the world. When it came down to my turn to make a decision on where I would really like to play, it was really BYU. BYU is a great school for tight ends and I just began liking the program. I don't know, I guess when it comes down to it my gut feeling really was about BYU."

Next in line was Sae Tautu (6-3, 215 LB) from Lone Peak High School in Alpine, Utah.

"They've been getting some of the top kids over there," said Tautu. "That program is going to be great. I made my decision for a while that if BYU offered me, I was going to commit. It's a great school and the football program is one of the best. It's a place that's close to home and I have a lot of family in the program. I'm LDS and BYU is a Mormon school, so that played a big part of it too."

A day after Tautu's commit on June 22, Manu Mulitalo (6-3, 305 OL) made his commitment to BYU known.

"Everything," summed up Mulitalo succinctly about the reasons why BYU was the place for him. "It's just the whole thing is great for me: the players, the coaches, the environment. I really like the place a lot and everything about the place."

BYU then had to wait a couple of more weeks before it got its next commit stemming from summer camp. Jordan Johnson (5-10, 175 CB) had to travel home in North Andover, Massachusetts to mull it over a bit with his family before deciding to commit.

"BYU is a special place," said Johnson about his commitment. "As Coach Mendenhall explained to me in my meeting with him, it's not all about football, but BYU is a place that can set me up for a better life no matter what I do after college. BYU has the right mindset and focus for its players to succeed in no matter what they do in life after football. The focus is on personal growth and on the religion, and even though I'm not Mormon, the mindset that they teach is one I feel very comfortable with. BYU is my new home and I can't wait to get out there and put in the work to succeed both on and off the football field."

An Uncommon August

The month of August usually isn't a busy time for BYU recruiting, as most of the returns from summer camps are already in by the time fall practices start. This past August tried hard to do its best imitation of June, however, as BYU gained five more commits during the month.

On the very first day of August Kori Gaines (5-9, 170 DB), all the way from Loganville, Georgia, made his commitment known.

"To me today is a day to prove all my doubters wrong," expressed Gaines on the day of his commit. "It's a very humbling thing for me to be offered and now to have an opportunity to play for a program like BYU. I sometimes thought I'd never have a chance to play for such a great program, but now that it's done and that I've committed it's just a very humbling thing for me as a person. I've worked very hard and it's a great thing that such a quality program like BYU recognized my hard work and believes in me. Today is a great day and a day I'll always remember."

Blair Tushaus (6-2, 270 OL) from Scottsdale, Arizona followed suit a week later.

"There was a point before I committed to BYU that kind of opened my eyes to the bigger picture," recalled Tushaus about his commitment. "I look at BYU as being one of the bigger [football] programs, and if you take a look at their recruiting class, that will only verify what I'm talking about. When I visited BYU, I saw what a great place it was. What was interesting, and my dad mentioned this to me, was despite how great of a program they had, they didn't care how big or how much I weighed or ran the forty. They saw [me] more as a person, they saw my character, my morals and my faith. They saw how I played the game with a passion and took those aspects and recruited me."

A couple of days later on August 11 BYU received commits from two of the more intriguing prospects on their board. Both Drew Phillips (6-0, 180 RB) from Boaz, Alabama and Alani Fua (6-6, 220 DE/TE) from Oaks Christian High School in Southern California pledged to BYU coaches on that day.

"I'll stay out of trouble at BYU," said Phillips on the day of his commitment. "BYU is a great place to focus on what is important, which is getting a degree, improving as a person and playing football. I love BYU's offense, and in talking to Jake [Heaps] I feel that it's going to be perfect. He's real good at throwing the ball, but he needs someone good to hand it off to as well, and I believe I'm that guy. I can catch the ball real well too, so it's a great thing how much BYU throws it to their running backs. I'm very happy with my decision and so is my family. I can't wait to get back there and get going. I plan to go back up for the Florida State game, so I'm real excited about that."

"It's a great environment for me since it's my church's school," said Fua about why he committed. "Everything about BYU and what they have makes it the best place for me. I have so many friends and family there already. I love the coaches, the football program and the school and the great education I'll get while there. It's the best place for me and there's really no doubt in my mind about that."

August wasn't done, however, as BYU ended the month with a bang by committing Jordan Afo (6-4, 300 DL) from Cottonwood High School in Utah. After suffering a significant back injury earlier on, however, Afo's future status was somewhat in doubt.

"I've always wanted him to go to BYU," said Afo's uncle Ian Wiley on why his nephew committed to BYU. "I know his parents wanted him to go to BYU, and his parents told him that ‘everybody is holding back to see how you're going to play, but BYU is still coming at you strong no matter what.' I think what it came down to was the loyalty of BYU, who came after Jordan right from the get go. They never wavered and always supported Jordan from day one, giving him encouragement and support following his injury. So I think one of the biggest things was that Jordan recognized the loyalty of BYU. I think it was best for him to decide now rather than wait. I don't think there was any reason to wait any longer. BYU stuck by him during the hard times. The other schools were still showing interest but they wanted to see him play first. BYU cares more for the kids."

Late But Not Least

With 23 prospects already pledged to sign with BYU, many correctly assumed that recruiting was pretty much over for the Cougars. A few offers remained, however, and a trio of commits late in the process greatly added to the overall strength of the 2010 class.

Jacob Hannemann (6-1, 190 DB) from Lone Peak High School in Utah was someone that really caught BYU's eye during the season, and he was met with an offer that he quickly accepted during the last week of November.

"BYU has everything I want in a school and they've always been the school I wanted to play for," said Hannemann about his commitment. "I love the coaches. Coach Mendenhall, he's the man. I love talking to him and listening to what he has to say."

Next up was Taloa'i Ho-Ching (6-0, 225 LB) from Alta High School in Sandy, Utah, who accepted his long-standing BYU offer during the first week of December.

"The kind of feeling you get when you go to BYU is a very family-oriented environment and it's a great feeling when you're there," said Toloa'i. "I've been to many other schools and didn't get the same feeling I got when I was at BYU. I know you probably hear that a lot from other people, but it's true. There's a certain feeling you get when you step on campus at BYU and I enjoy that feeling. You don't get that anywhere else or at any other school, and so I just felt that BYU is where I needed to be at this time in my life and so that's where I'm going. I'm excited."

Finally, it was Joshua Quezada (5-11, 210 RB) from La Habra, California that topped off what was a great 2010 class with his commit in mid December.

"BYU fits me and who I am as a person," he said on the day of his commit. "I've felt comfortable with everything about them and with them from day one and that's grown stronger over the recruiting process. I'm very excited for my opportunities there and I feel that BYU will help me reach my goals that I have for myself. I can't wait to get there."

Fans have a lot to be excited about with the 2010 class, which should prove to be one of the more talented – if not the most talented – classes ever to pass through the BYU program. Every contribution from each of the 26 incoming players has yet to unfold, but the prospects for any particular class have never been higher.

It's been our privilege here at TBS to cover every detail as best we could in regards to how the 2010 class has come together. The coverage for the 2011 class has already begun in earnest and we'll be covering next year's class at least as intently as we did for 2010.

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