Loyal Cougars

Mendenhall-era NFL Draft Analysis

Troy Adams gives an analytical breakdown on how many of Bronco Mendenhall’s recruits have gone on to the NFL during Mendenhall’s ten seasons as Head Coach at BYU. Brandon Jones also contributed to this report.

Much has been said lately about Bronco Mendenhall’s success, or lack thereof, in preparing players for the NFL during his coaching tenure at BYU. Today, we examine the numbers behind the questions: Why has BYU had so few players drafted in the past 5 years? And how much of this dearth can be blamed on Coach Mendenhall?

We looked at all the players recruited by Bronco Mendenhall since 2006. Recruits who signed in 2005 are attributed to Gary Crowton, since Mendenhall was not hired as BYU’s Head Coach until December 2004. Nonetheless, the recruiting class of 2005 has been included for comparison.

Each recruiting class from 2005 to 2014 is individually summarized, followed by an aggregate summary. Note that for the purposes of this discussion, the phrase “in the NFL” means more than just a mini-camp tryout or undrafted free agent signing. The player must have been a member of a 53-man roster, injured reserve, or practice squad during the season. Also note that for simplicity, all six undrafted free agents from 2015 (but not the four mini-camp invitees) have been shown as “in the NFL,” until such time when cuts are made and the statistics can be updated to reflect what actually happens in preparation for the upcoming NFL season. As of right now, those six players have contracts with NFL teams and are technically in the NFL.

Without further ado, let’s jump into the recruiting numbers:

2005 (Crowton recruits)

Still in program: 0/20

Completed eligibility: 15/20 (Luke Ashworth, Sete Aulai, Chris Bolden, Shawn Doman, Spencer Hafoka, Jan Jorgensen, Justin Robinson, Terrance Hooks, Derek McLaughlin, Matt Reynolds, Vic So’oto, Harvey Unga, Russell Tialavea, Manase Tonga, Kelly Poppinga)

Left Due to Injury or to Focus on Academics: 2/20 (Kyle Luekenga, Stephen Covey)

Left Program/Never Enrolled: 3/20 (Peter Vailahi, Cade Hulbert, Brandon Howard)

Ever in the NFL: 5/15 (Reynolds, So’oto, Poppinga, Tonga, Unga)

NFL draft picks: 1/15 (Unga)


Still in program: 0/25

Completed eligibility: 14/25 (Brandon Bradley, Max Hall, McKay Jacobson, Mosese Foketi, Andre Saulsberry, Robbie Buckner, Ian Dulan, Ryan Freeman, Romney Fuga, Braden Hansen, James Lark, Brandon Ogletree, Riley Stephenson, Mike Hague)

Left Due to Injury or to Focus on Academics: 5/25 (Tom Sorensen, Rick Wolfley, Rhen Brown, Jordan Richardson, Walter Kahaialii)

Left Program/Never Enrolled: 6/25 (Sam Doman, Nate Moncur, Michael Moore, Tico Pringle, Matangi Tonga, Mike Muehlmann)

Ever in the NFL: 1/14 (Hall)

NFL draft picks: 0/14


Still in program: 0/24

Completed eligibility: 13/24 (J.J. Di Luigi, Jordan Pendleton, Aveni Leung Wai, Famika Anae, Braden Brown, Austen Jorgensen, Marcus Mathews, Jason Munns, Tyler Beck, Kaneakua Friel, Devin Mahina, Eathyn Manumaleuna, Manaaki Vaitai)

Left Due to Injury or to Focus on Academics: 3/24 (Steven Thomas, Houston Reynolds, Jordan Smith)

Left Program/Never Enrolled: 8/24 (David Angilau, Brannon Brooks, Scotty Ebert, Star Lotulelei, Levi Mack, Gary Nagy, G Pittman, Ryan Kessman)

Ever in the NFL: 2/13 (Mahina, Brown)

NFL draft picks: 0/13


Still in program: 0/22

Completed eligibility: 8/22 (Michael Alisa, Daniel Sorensen, Spencer Hadley, Solomone Kafu, Austin Holt, Justin Sorensen, Michael Yeck, Andrew Rich)

Left Due to Injury or to Focus on Academics: 3/22 (Kevan Bills, Cameron Comer, Brock Stringham)

Left Program/Never Enrolled: 11/22 (Bernard Afutiti, Jake Murphy, Atem Bol, Jerry Bruner, Tolu Moala, Garett Nicholson, Seta Pohahau, Jesse Taufi, Shiloah Te’o, O’Neill Chambers, Iona Pritchard)

Ever in the NFL: 2/8 (Sorensen, Hadley)

NFL draft picks: 0/8


Still in program: 4/21 (Adam Hine, Mitch Mathews, Remington Peck, Brad Wilcox)

Completed eligibility: 5/21 (Brian Logan, Cody Hoffman, Kyle Van Noy, Richard Wilson, Craig Bills)

Left Due to Injury or to Focus on Academics: 7/21 (Jordan Atkinson, Jray Galea’i, Fono Vakalahi, Terry Alletto, Brett Thompson, Trevor Bateman, Tui Crichton)

Left Program/Never Enrolled: 5/21 (Lee Aguirre, Anthony Heimuli, Peni Maka’afi, Ryan Mulitalo, Thomas Bryson)

Ever in the NFL: 1/5 (KVN)

NFL draft picks: 1/5 (KVN)


Still in program: 11/28 (Algernon Brown, Toloa’i Ho-Ching, Tuni Kanuch, Bronson Kaufusi, AJ Moore, Manu Mulitalo, Bryan Sampson, Sae Tautu, Travis Tuiloma, Teu Kautai, Graham Rowley)

Completed eligibility: 5/28 (Zac Stout, Ross Apo, Alani Fua, Ziggy Ansah, Uona Kaveinga)

Left Due to Injury or to Focus on Academics: 3/28 (Jordan Johnson, Joey Owens, Jordan Black)

Left Program/Never Enrolled: 9/28 (Jordan Afo, Kori Gaines, Jake Heaps, Tayo Fabuluje, Drew Phillips, Collin Keoshian, Joshua Quezada, Jacob Hannemann, Blair Tushaus)

Ever in the NFL: 2/5 (Fua, Ansah)

NFL draft picks: 1/5 (Ansah)


Still in program: 11/20 (Corey Edwards, Austin Heder, Colby Jorgensen, Moses Kaumatule, Ului Lapuaho, Lene Lesatele, Ryker Mathews, Manoa Pikula, Adam Pulsipher, Brian Rawlinson, Kesni Tausinga)

Completed eligibility: 2/20 (Preston Hadley, Hebron Fangupo)

Left Due to Injury or to Focus on Academics: 2/20 (Matt Sumsion, Corbin Kaufusi)

Left Program/Never Enrolled: 5/20 (Joe Sampson, Alex Kuresa, Aulelio Olomua, Baker Pritchard, Stehly Reden)

Ever in the NFL: 1/2 (Fangupo)

NFL draft picks: 0/2


Still in program: 14/18 (Philip Amone, Matt Hadley, Micah Hannemann, Taysom Hill, Troy Hinds, Austin Hoyt, Theodore King, Jherremya Leuta-Douyere, Tanner Mangum, Butch Pau’u, Steven Richards, Rhett Sandlin, Josh Weeks, Jamaal Williams)

Completed eligibility:  2/18 (Marques Johnson, Paul Lasike)

Left Due to Injury or to Focus on Academics: 1/18 (Ammon Olsen)

Left Program/Never Enrolled: 1/18 (Dylan Collie)

Ever in the NFL: 1/2 (Lasike)

NFL draft picks: 0/2


Still in program: 15/27 (Michael Davis, Nathan DeBeikes, Garrett England, Rylee Gautavai, Keegan Hicks, Moroni Laulu-Pututau, Sam Lee, Kai Nacua, Trajan Pili, Jordan Preator, Addison Pulsipher, Thomas Shoaf, Talon Shumway, Merrill Taliauli, Johnny Tapusoa)

Completed eligibility: 4/27 (Josh Carter, Rob Daniel, Edward Fusi, De’Ondre Wesley)

Left Due to Injury or to Focus on Academics: 1/27 (Tim Duran)

Left Program/Never Enrolled: 7/27 (Chasen Anderson, Billy Green, Brayden Kearsley, Dallin Leavitt, JonRyheem Peoples, Trent Trammell, Kalolo Utu)

Ever in the NFL: 2/4 (Daniel, Wesley)

NFL draft picks: 0/4


Still in program:  19/21 (Nick Kurtz, Devon Blackmon, Trey Dye, Matt Bushman, Austin Chambers, Chandon Herring, Tejan Koroma, Fred Warner, Tyler Cook, Sione Takitaki, Isaiah Nacua, Zac Dawe, Kavika Fonua, Isaiah Kaufusi, Michael Shelton, Teancum Fuga, Earl Mariner, Uriah Leiataua, Jaterrius Gulley)

Completed eligibility: 2/21 (Harvey Jackson, Jordan Leslie)

Left Due to Injury or to Focus on Academics: 0/21

Left Program/Never Enrolled: 0/21

Ever in the NFL: 1/2 (Leslie)

NFL draft picks: 0/2


Still in program: 23/23 (Kieffer Longson, Akile Davis, Micah Simon, Beau Hoge, Kody Wilstead, Charles West, J.J. Nwigwe, David Lui, Tevita Mounga, Mika Tafua, Devin Kaufusi, Will Sedgwick, Jeremiah Ieremia, Riley Burt, Zayne Anderson, Dayan Lake, Trevor Brent, Demetrius Davis, Jacob Jimenez, Motekiai Langi, Squally Canada, Eric Takenaka, Brady Christensen)

Completed eligibility: 0/23

Left Due to Injury or to Focus on Academics: 0/23

Left Program/Never Enrolled: 0/23

Ever in the NFL: 0/0

NFL draft picks: 0/0

2006-2015 Totals

Number of players from 2006-2015 still in the program: 97 of 229 (42.4%)

Number of players who left program or never enrolled: 52 of 229 (22.7%)

Number of players who quit football because of injury or to focus on academics: 25 of 229 (10.9%)

Number of players who completed eligibility: 55 of 229 (24.0%)

Number of 2006-2015 players who were ever in the NFL: 13 of 55 (23.6%)

Number of 2006-2015 players taken in NFL draft: 2 of 55 (3.6%)


  1. Almost half of Bronco era recruits are still in the program (42%).
  2. BYU is a tough place to be a student-athlete.  About 34% left the program for one of several reasons or never enrolled. Importantly, not all of those who left were academic or honor code casualties – some simply left due to injuries or to focus on academics.
  3. The equivalent of about two full recruiting classes (55 student-athletes) have completed their eligibility and therefore been eligible for the NFL draft since 2006. Of those 55, about half have had opportunities to play in the NFL (27 were drafted, signed free agent contracts, or were invited to mini-camp tryouts) and half of those (13) have parlayed those opportunities into an in-season or practice squad roster position. What this means is that of all the players that come to BYU on scholarship and play out their eligibility in the program, half will have an NFL opportunity and half of those will make an NFL roster. These numbers don’t seem unreasonably low.
  4. The number of players taken in the NFL draft does seem to be low. Of the 55 draft-eligible player, including 27 that had NFL opportunities, only 2 entered the league via the draft. The numbers don’t tell us whether this is due to difficulties in recruiting high-end talent, deficiencies in player development, perceived biases against returned missionary athletes, or some combination of these or other factors. It will be interesting to watch in the next couple seasons to see if the Cougars can turn this trend around and secure a draft-day pay day for 2015 seniors including Taysom Hill, Bronson Kaufusi, Mitch Mathews, and Jamaal Williams or 2016 seniors such as Algie Brown, Nick Kurtz, Harvey Langi, Kai Nacua, and Travis Tuiloma.

One Comment

  1. Walter Franklin Hanssen

    May 13, 2015 at 11:47 pm

    Troy- you have done an absolutely amazing job following all the players. Thanks so much!