First signees of the 2019 BYU football recruiting class are in as the Cougars ink 14
American Fork star wide receiver Chase Roberts verbally committed to joining the BYU football program some time ago, but recent recruiting visits had some Cougar fans nervous that he might change his mind.
When early signing day came on Wednesday, however, Roberts made it official that he is planning to play football in Provo.
Roberts and Lone Peak star defensive linemen Michael Daley were two of 14 high school football players to submit their letters of intent to BYU on the first signing day Wednesday as the Cougars started building for the future.
“I think we have a lot of guys we are excited about signing,” Cougar head coach Kalani Sitake said during an interview in Boise Wednesday afternoon as BYU prepared for Friday’s Famous Idaho Potato Bowl game against Western Michigan (2 p.m. MT, ESPN). “With us and recruiting, we target guys early and then we see if their academics can get them into school. When we compete for recruits, it’s usually with guys who have gone on visits. Right now I feel good with our retention rate with guys who have gone on visits who signed with us.”
Sitake said he was pretty confident that Roberts would elect to confirm his commitment.
“I felt good about it from the beginning,” Sitake said. “They know us really well and we know them. The guys who signed today are BYU guys. I’m just really happy to have them. It’s nice to get them locked in. I think for them it is a huge sense of relief while for me I’m just excited that they are part of our program.”
The highest-profile signee is quarterback Jacob Conover from Chandler, Arizona, who had a lot of other teams interested in luring him away from BYU.
“He was a national recruit who had tons of attention and picked up a bunch of offers,” Sitake said. “We’ve been battling trying to hold on to him but for the most part he’s been solid. I think we were always concerned about the big schools who offered him but he’s been probably one of our best recruiters. He’s a great leader who has won multiple state championships. He can sling it, he’s a team guy and I’m really happy to have him.”
Conover already has his mission call to Paraguay for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and will leave in February, so he won’t be in Provo for awhile.
Sitake explained that the on-going fluctuation of players who elect to serve missions makes identifying the remaining available scholarships an unknown quantity as BYU looks to round out the recruiting class in February.
“We’ll have enough,” Sitake said. “We can add a few more. With missions and things like that, we are still working through some things. Some guys have already sent in their mission papers and gotten their mission calls. Other guys are still deciding whether or not they want to play first. That can mean there are more spots available. We’re going to try to recruit the best available guys in the next six weeks or so.”
Roberts, for example, is a player who hasn’t decided yet what path he will take.
“It’s more up to him and his family what they are going to do,” Sitake said. “We’re there to oblige them with whatever he wants or help out.”
In addition to the players who signed Wednesday, BYU also has 19 scholarship players returning from missions.
According to the release from the Cougars, four of them are expected to join the team in January: Solofa Funa (linebacker from Spanish Fork), Caden Haws (offensive lineman from Little Rock, Arkansas), Freddy Livai (defensive end from Fontana, California) and Keenan Pili (linebacker from Provo).
Sitake said that the plan for BYU moving forward to the final signing day in February is to bring in talented, versatile athletes.
“Having guys who can move to different positions and aren’t limited to one helps out,” Sitake said. “That’s going to be the guy for us. There are guys who are playing positions now that in a year or two they may have outgrown it. I think it is important that we have versatility in our recruiting and the ability to foresee where they are going to be later on in life. We have a lot of great athletes who can play a lot of positions.”