Loyal Cougars

2017 Football Newcomer Preview

Now that National Signing Day has come and gone, it’s time to take a look at the class announced by BYU and break down which players will actually be joining the program in time for the upcoming season and which players are planning to serve missions first and return to suit up for the Cougars in 2019. As you might have noticed, BYU announced the addition of 40 scholarship players at yesterday’s festivities: 24 new signees, 6 midyear additions, and 10 returned missionaries. And while the latter 16 will all join the team for the 2017 season, the official announcements don’t detail the mission plans of the 24 new signees. Based on what we heard from the coaches yesterday, here is how those numbers break down:

Mission first (12): Tyler Batty, Ben Bywater, Mason Fakahua, Seleti Fevaleaki, Donovan Hanna, Tongi Langi, Preston Lewis, Jackson McChesney, Ryan Rehkow, Isaac Rex, Alden Tofa, Seth Willis

Play in 2017, then serve a mission (7): Chaz Ah You, Tanner Baker, Lorenzo Fauatea, Paula Finau, Ammon Hannemann, Bentley Hanshaw, Langi Tuifua

Returned missionaries (2): Joe Critchlow, Khyiris Tonga

No mission plans (3): Tariq Buchanan, Keenan Ellis, D’Angelo Gunter

So, of the 24 new signees, half will leave immediately on church missions, and the other dozen will join the 16 from above to comprise a group of 28 newcomers on the team in 2017. Two more scholarship players are also expected to be added to the roster in Keanu Saleapaga and Sione Takitaki, making an even 30. By my current count, eight preferred walk-ons will also be added to the 2017 roster: five returned missionaries (DE Bracken El-Bakri, WR Holden Fielding, QB Hayden Griffitts, WR Jared Kapisi, and K Cade Thompson) and three newcomers (QB Jeremiah Evans, S Marvin Hifo, WR Neil Pau’u). These 38 newcomers will be added to the 97 players returning from the 2016 team to make the group of 135 we have shown on the current roster. Of this 135, 23 will not be joining the team until the fall, leaving a group of 112 expected to participate in spring practices next month. During the offseason, the 135 will undoubtedly be paired down due to injuries, transfers, and other cuts to get down to the 123-man roster that will be carried during the season.

The offseason brings not only a swell to the roster as a whole, but specifically to the scholarship total. In the upcoming month, I plan to release another piece detailing the scholarship crunch heading into 2017 and how the coaches dealt with a similar crunch last season (for more information, see the two-part “Scholarship Math” series I posted last year here and here). For now, suffice it to say that BYU is currently sitting at around 10 scholarships over the 85-scholarship limit for 2017. And while that number isn’t as high as the 13 from last year’s analysis, the 2016 article was written in June, after BYU had added a few additional post-Signing Day transfers. I have a rough list of eight more players that I’ve heard rumors may yet be added on scholarship before the beginning of the season. The bottom line is that there will undoubtedly be a few scholarships not renewed due to injury, transfer, or non-performance between now and August 26. For a breakdown of the current scholarship situation, see the full list here.

An updated depth chart and printable rosters have been posted to the Depth Chart page in preparation for next month’s spring football camp. And for a full list of all program newcomers, see the 2017 Commit spreadsheet here.

One final note about the Wide Receiver position: there has been a lot of talk about BYU not getting enough WR reinforcements as part of the 2017 class. Yes, it’s true that BYU loses 57% of its receptions and 56% of its receiving yardage from an already underperforming receiving corps in 2016. But, the current roster shows a total of 24 players (14 scholarships) to man the wide receiver and tight end positions. In most formations (with a single back), BYU will have four of these players on the field at a time. Occasionally, the Cougars might go with an empty backfield (5 WRs/TEs) or a two-back set (3 WRs/TEs), but on average, there are four positions to staff. 24 players and 14 scholarships to fill four positions on the field is certainly not a personnel dearth, though it is undoubtedly a group short on experience. But, the coaches said yesterday that they are comfortable with the talent level of this bunch, and they think they can find the depth they need with the guys they have in the program now. So, while the three leading receivers are gone (Kurtz, Pearson, & M.Juergens), BYU does return 13 players with at least one reception in 2016 and adds to that group redshirts Akile Davis, Mack Richards, and Inoke Lotulelei, along with the newcomers Buchanan, Bushman, Tukuafu, Hanshaw, and Pau’u. One final darkhorse candidate for playing time may be converted senior linebacker Grant Jones, a 6′-6″ burner with excellent hands who turned heads masquerading as a tall receiver for the Scout team offense last season. Jones fills a need on this 2017 squad and frankly, I’d be surprised if he hasn’t earned a scholarship by the time the season starts.


  1. Ron Berg

    February 3, 2017 at 7:17 am

    What about Breiden Fehoko?

    • Brandon Jones

      February 3, 2017 at 8:13 am

      He’s one of the “eight more players that I’ve heard rumors may yet be added on scholarship before the beginning of the season.” As I’ve said before, if you can get someone like Fehoko to come to BYU, you’ll find a spot for him. The coaches basically have the 85 players on scholarship ranked in order of performance/value to the team. Any scholarships over the 85 just get cut off the bottom. Bronco never worked that way, but it’s the best way to build a strong team (as long as the players you’re bringing in can provide more value than those you release- a no-brainer in Fehoko’s case).

  2. Nate H.

    February 6, 2017 at 11:16 am

    On your depth chart, what is the difference between bolded and not bolded in black type?

    • Brandon Jones

      February 24, 2017 at 12:18 pm

      Bolded is generally the current “two-deep,” players who will appear on the official BYU depth chart and most likely to get playing time.