Incoming Impact: Part Three

Amidst all the rancor of Utah being on the cusp of making its way into the Pac-10 and BYU missing out on Big 12 opportunities for the time being, it's important to remember what BYU still has and still is. With its most successful recruiting campaign to date last season, BYU will be receiving a wealth of talent for this coming season.

Kori Gaines 5-9, 170 DB

Gaines will arrive at BYU after being well-heeled within one of the top prep defenses in the country while at Grayson High School in Georgia. He's used to playing and even dominating at a high level, which should serve him well out of the gate as he looks to make an immediate impact upon his arrival.

Player Profile: Gaines isn't the ideal size for a safety, measuring in at just 5 feet 9 inches and 170 pounds, which surely kept some of the big-name southern schools off of him in the recruiting process. What Gaines is, however, is an extremely bright player with great instincts.

His film shows he has a great nose for the football and is someone who mastered the safety position at the prep level. He's quick, fast and savvy, which is what is needed to play a position that is defined within BYU's current defensive scheme as being the quarterback of the defense.

Outlook: Safety is not an easy position to make an immediate impact as a true freshman. The fact is that it may be the most difficult position of any for a true freshman to come in and take a starting spot, let alone even break the two-deep.

Craig Bills did it a season ago after a massive amount of hours spent prior to the season working out with the team and studying film. Gaines won't have that advantage, but what he does have is an extremely sharp mind and great football instincts, which should put him ahead of the curve relative to what most safety prospects are able to accomplish as true freshmen.

The field is ripe for him to make an immediate impact, as there were no clear starters at one of the safety positions coming out of spring practice. It's a difficult task to be sure for him to grab a starting role, but given his headiness and prep experience, he could very well see himself on the two-deep roster or even start.

Blair Tushaus 6-2, 270

Tushaus flew under the radar a bit during the recruiting process due to his torn ACL, which scared a lot of schools away. Should he have remained healthy, he would have encountered a boatload of offers and very well could have put BYU out of the picture.

BYU stayed loyal to him despite his injury, and that fact could produce some huge dividends. Tushaus will likely compete at the center position and will be arriving on campus later this week.

Player Profile: His film shows a player with very good technique for a high school offensive lineman, which should translate into an ability to compete for a spot immediately. He's quick off the ball and very athletic for a player of his stature.

Outlook: There is a wealth of experience returning to start along the Cougar offensive front this coming year, but there isn't quite that amount of experience and talent on the backup roster. This is where Tushaus will be able to make his mark as someone who could very well grab a two-deep spot and maybe even rotate in to play consistently throughout the season.

Alani Fua 6-5, 220 athlete

Fua is simply one of the best pure athletes - if not the best - that BYU signed in 2010. His contributions to powerhouse Oaks Christian were enormous, and given his athletic makeup, he could make an immediate impact at any of three positions. He simply has to decide which one.

Player Profile: When watching his film and watching him live, he presents the "wow" factor, as it's very apparent of how big his upside is. He's simply a superior athlete who dominated as a defensive end for Oaks Christian while showing great ability and great hands as a tight end.

Once he's able to hone in on just one position, his prospects could very well be deemed as being through the roof. There is a lot of upside here that may make itself relevant and applicable to the success of the team immediately this season.

Outlook: Should he choose to compete at tight end, he should be able to make his mark immediately. While Mike Muehlmann and Devin Mahina were both solid performers coming out of spring, the position is still available to anyone who can make a huge impact during fall practice, and Fua could certainly do just that.

If he chooses to compete at defensive end, his weight could call for a redshirt year and scout-team duty throughout the year as he readies himself to make an impact there in 2011. Outside linebacker is an option as well, as the team is still very thin at most linebacker spots.

Drew Phillips 6-0, 185 RB

Phillips comes in having completed a storybook type of high school career, which saw him set records and completely dominate his competition in the Alabama prep ranks. He's somewhat of an uncommon BYU recruit given his locale and speed, and that should be exciting to a lot of fans.

Player Profile: Phillips is fast - very fast - and will bring a speed quotient to the running back position rarely (if ever) seen at BYU. His senior year, he did a lot in building up his strength in an effort to become a more complete back, which should serve him well at the collegiate level.

He's also someone who catches the ball very well out of the backfield, which is a very necessary skill to have within BYU's current offensive system.

Outlook: Phillips is surely one of the more intriguing players coming in this fall and someone who I'm very curious about in regards to what he'll bring to the table. BYU isn't lacking depth at running back, so it could be hard for him to separate himself if it were not for the one aspect he should hold over the others competing in the backfield.

That aspect would be his speed, which coaches could at least use in spots this coming year. Expect Phillips to be tried out as a kick returner, which is probably where he could make an immediate impact more so than at any other position. Given his receiving skills, he could make an impact at the HR position, where he could be a threat to take it the distance any time he touches the football.

Jordan Afo 6-4, 300 DL

Afo, like Tushaus, scared away a lot of potential recruiters due to injury. In this case, Afo had a severe back injury, but when healthy he was regarded as one of the top Utah prep defensive line recruits ever. He was able to make a miraculous recovery and play some very good football his senior year, which BYU will be the benefactor of this season going forward.

Player Profile: Afo is your prototypical nose tackle. He's very quick of the snap and he demands multiple blockers on almost every play, which is essential for any nose tackle in order to be effective.

Outlook: It's no secret that true freshmen can find starting spots for themselves playing along BYU's defensive front. It's been done many times, and Afo could certainly continue that this coming year or at least find himself within the regular rotation.

There is some good depth at nose tackle this season, however, with proven performers such as Romney Fuga and Eathyn Manumaleuna returning as the two expected rotating players at the position. Coach Kaufusi likes to rotate three bodies in the middle if possible, and Afo will be competing with fellow true freshman Travis Tuiloma for that third spot.

Joshua Quezada 5-11, 210 RB

Quezada was everything coaches hoped he would be during spring practice, when he immediately showed himself as a very able runner with a good foundation to learn how to catch the football and block so as to become an every-down type of running back this coming season. He'll enter fall practices as the best pure runner on the roster, which could lead to a significant role within the offense given Harvey Unga's departure.

Player Profile: His running skills are there, as he showed the instincts, lateral movement and straight-ahead speed that is necessary to perform at the collegiate level. He'll need to work on his consistency in catching the football and picking up blitzes should he hope to become BYU's primary back for 2010, which is surely in the realm of possibility.

Outlook: Things opened tremendously for Quezada and the others at the position when it was announced that Unga was not returning for his senior season. As mentioned, Quezada's the best runner of the lot but needs to prove to be close to as able as J.J. Di Luigi and Bryan Kariya in the other critical areas involved in being a featured back at BYU.

Should he prove reliable in catching the football and blocking, the spot as BYU's primary running back in 2010 should be his. At a minimum, Quezada looks to be a key component in what could set up as a running-back-by-committee scenario.


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