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Is BYU football recruiting actually getting better?

Is BYU football recruiting actually getting better?

We've heard all of the monikers and cliches. Kalani Sitake was supposed to transform BYU's recruiting efforts when he took over as head coach in 2016. From the 'winds of change' to the 'Big 12 Bump,' we have heard all kinds of taglines and narratives about BYU's recruiting efforts for the last decade. But are things actually improving? Or is BYU doing more of what they have always done on the recruiting trail?

To help get to the bottom of this question, I looked at every recruiting class that BYU has signed under Sitake. This gives us nine full recruiting classes worth of data points, plus the 11 commits so far in the 2025 class. What I did NOT look at was BYU's efforts and additions from the Transfer Portal. Those are important players for BYU's on-field success, but the portal is a new piece to the recruiting puzzle and there hasn't been enough time to see trends yet. For today's purposes, we are looking at traditional high school and JUCO recruiting only.

To get to the answers, we have to start with the questions. Let's go for a walk, folks.

Is BYU adding more 'stars' in their recruiting classes than they were 10 years ago?

In short, yes. But let's not take the short way out, let's discuss what this means. To help us do so, we will use the 247Sports rating score. (Note: We are not using the composite score because there have been new networks that have emerged midway through the data set. In the name of consistency, we will use the 247Sports score that has existed from one network throughout our sample period.)

2015: 81.0

2020: 82.1

2024: 85.8

2025 so far: 85.7

I didn't include every year here, but the years not included fall within this trend line. BYU has consistently added players who have a high 247Sports score. That's a good thing, that means that more raw talent is joining the roster.

But what about 'ratings inflation?' Isn't that a thing?

There are more three-star athletes today than there were 10 years ago. That is indisputably true. As the network has grown and more resources have been added, more players have been evaluated. More ratings naturally means more three-star guys - more middle-of-the-pack players. That's not a bad thing and it certainly isn't intentional, but it's happened and there is no sense in ignoring that. That isn't anywhere the only explanation for BYU's increase in score, but we can safely account for some inflation in some of BYU's increased success.

How can we know it's not inflation?

If I said trust me, would that be enough?

Okay fine then. Well, if could be so bold, please allow me to make up a metric to help illustrate this point - and actually, I'll make up two. Offers per Player and Power Offers per Player are the two Jeff metrics that I will use to help talk through this. Let's start in the 2016 class.

BYU signed 25 players in the 2016 class. Of those 25 players, 15 of them had competing scholarship offers from any school at any level. Another way to look at that, 10/25 players were only offered by BYU in that class. Some of those 'no-offer' players developed into important pieces for BYU, like Aleva Hifo and Clark Barrington. The majority did not and fell into a category with Solofa Funa, JT Gentry, and Isaiah Armstrong. But we're not here to talk about how they performed on the field, we're here to talk about recruiting success. If 40% of your recruiting class isn't being recruited by anyone else, that's tough.

Those 15 players combined for a total of 94 scholarship offers. 95 scholarships distributed over the 25 players that BYU signed resulting in an average of 3.76 scholarship offers per player.

What does 'scholarship per player' really mean? Nothing, but it does help us visualize how much competition BYU faced on the recruiting trail in that class. Now, let's take it one step further and look at strictly offers from schools in power conferences.

13/25 players had offers from schools in a power conference. The total number of power conference offers was 47. That's 1.88 power conference offers per player in 2016. Again, it's a meaningless number, but it does help show that BYU wasn't really competing with very many power conference teams for their 2016 recruiting class - at least not for every player. They competed mightily for Troy Warner, Handsome Tanielu, and Keanu Saleapaga (the three combined for 32/47 power conference offers) but not much aside from those three.

And 2016 was significantly better than it was in 2015.

This is kind of a stupid number, but what does it look like over time?

Offers Per Player

2016: 3.76

2017: 2.74

2018: 2.86

2019: 2.26

2020: 2.83

2021: 6.71

2022: 3.52

2023: 7.58

2024: 7.64

2025 so far: 10.46

What can we glean from this? For starters, the Big 12 bump? Seems to be a pretty obvious thing, right? Aside from 2021 (that was the COVID recruiting year where no official visits were allowed unless you were Herm Edwards at Arizona State), BYU was successful if their class had three offers per player. There just wasn't a ton of competition for the players that BYU was bringing in. They still brought in some stars along the way - Troy Warner, Gunner Romney, Chaz Ah You, Raider Damuni, etc. But for the most part, their classes were filled with developmental players. They hit on some of those players! Khyiris Tonga, Tyler Allgeier, Aleva Hifo, D'Angelo Gunter, were all players who probably fit the definition. But for the most part, the developmental players didn't hit that best-case development.

But after news of the Big 12 hit, things immediately got better. 2023-2025 have been significantly better than they were before - a rise that is consistent with the overall recruit score. What does it look like from a power offer perspective?

2016: 1.88

2017: 1.57

2018: 0.57

2019: 0.74

2020: 0.8

2021: 2.18

2022: 0.96

2023: 3.68

2024: 3.52

2025 so far: 3.59

The trend is similar.

What can we draw from this? First, it was tough sledding as an independent. The fact that BYU did as well as they did is probably an underappreciated accomplishment. Second, more players are considering BYU than ever before. That's progress!

But why can the basketball team do this seemingly overnight? What is taking the football team so long?

This is the million-dollar question that every BYU fan is asking right now, and it's a good one! Kevin Young and the basketball team have completely flipped basketball's expectations on their head. National recruits and NBA prospects are considering BYU and playing for a coach who hasn't coached even a single dribble of Big 12 basketball yet. If hoops can do it, why not football?

NIL is a big thing, let's not pretend that it's not. Right now, the excitement of a new coach has big basketball donors enthusiastic about hoops so there is a little more to play with than before. That's not nothing. Furthermore, there are a lot more collectives across the country willing to fork out big money for football instead of basketball. Don't believe me? Just look at what has driven conference realignment. Football is king.

But digging beyond that, basketball and football are different... really, really different.

Kevin Young can approach a top recruit and give an NBA pitch. In order to get to the NBA, that recruit has to come to BYU for 8-10 months. They can come to BYU during the summer before school starts, enroll in September, play that season, and then declare for the NBA Draft in April. If the player comes to Provo and achieves all of his goals, he's NBA-bound before his 12-month lease is up.

That's not the case in football. Kalani Sitake has to convince a kid to come to BYU for three years.

If you're not familiar with the Honor Code, that extra 2+ years is a really, really big deal. That pitch is very different. Even the idea of going pro is different. BYU has had an increased amount of NFL Draft success recently - considerably more than basketball has had. But, there are a lot more variables in football. Time is a variable. Injuries are more prevalent in football. Physical development plays a bigger role. It's NFL or bust, mostly, whereas a basketball player can come and not quite make the NBA but still have a very successful professional career in Europe. It's an entirely different product that is being sold.

"Lock in for eight months and I'll get you to the NBA" vs. "Lock in for three years and if you don't get hurt and you grow that extra 35 pounds, I can get you to the NFL."

It's different. The football pitch will take a little more time to resonate. But the data shows that it is starting to resonate more and more frequently. There are more players with more options who are choosing to come to BYU.

Are you just cherry-picking stats? Does one player's heavy offer list do most of the lifting here?

In some cases, absolutely yes. The 1.57 number of power offers per player in 2017? That's mostly Chaz Ah You. There were 36 total power offers that year and Ah You had exactly half of them. By using the same logic across every recruiting class, hopefully, those anomalies are at least consistent.

But it's more than that. In 2017, only 7/23 BYU signees had power offers. In 2024, 20/25 BYU signees had power offers. There is someone doing the heavy lifting in each class, but there are also a lot more players who are at least lifting something in these metrics. BYU really is doing a lot better today than they have since Sitake took over. (Or Bronco was here. Or really since people started stealing the forward pass from LaVell Edwards.)

If all of this is true, why doesn't it feel like BYU is doing better?

This answer is shockingly simple: The expectations changed. (And Utah is having success, let's not discredit how much we all hate that, but also let's ignore that after this point.)

Five years ago, the Big 12 was a pipe dream and BYU's path to the playoff was virtually nonexistent. Today, the Big 12 is BYU's home and the playoff is one conference championship away from every single conference member. BYU's peers as an independent were... UConn even though they never played? Notre Dame even though it wasn't fair? Boise State, kind of? Sort of Utah? BYU's peers in the Big 12? They are super easy to define and identify.

BYU's peers are also tough! Gone are the days when being better than Colorado State and UNLV meant you were on the fast track to a conference championship. BYU has to compete with Kansas State, with Oklahoma State, with TCU, with Utah, with a whole bunch of really good football teams now. Wyoming and New Mexico ain't walking through that door anymore.

The expectations changed the minute BYU joined the Big 12 Conference. The progress has been significant on the recruiting trail, but so has the increase of expectations and competition. BYU's conference foes have been performing at the levels BYU is for a long time, and most of them have been performing better than BYU is today. The Cougars still have a long way to go before they can command national respect and become a perennial contender in the conference. That's why it feels like progress hasn't been made. Just when BYU started to get better, things started getting a whole lot tougher.

That doesn't take away the progress though. The BYU ship is moving in the right direction. It still has to move a whole more before anyone can pat themselves on the back, but it is moving in the right direction. We can simultaneously acknowledge the success and progress while recognizing there is still work to be done.