Today is the first day of the Spring evaluation period. From April 15 through May 31, coaching staffs will be permitted to visit recruits on their high school campuses. This critical time in the recruiting calendar is known as the Spring evaluation period. Over the next six weeks, BYU coaches will travel all across the country to visit recruits with BYU offers, and evaluate other recruits that are candidates to receive BYU offers.
This is the first time since 2019 that there has been an evaluation period due to COVID-19. In addition, this is the first time that BYU's staff will be hitting the road during an evaluation period as a member of the Big 12. The BYU coaching staff will rep new gear with Big 12 branding on the recruiting trail.
The outlook of BYU's 2023 class will change over the next six weeks, so before it does, let's do a 2023 recruiting hot board by position.
To keep things straightforward, we will only talk about players that have already received a BYU offer. This also excludes players that committed to other schools and players that are unlikely to end up in Provo. Without further ado, let's dive in.
Author note: A lot of words were typed in the making of this author. Please excuse any typos!
1. Ryder Burton | Springville, Utah | Three star
Quarterback is a position of need in the class of 2023. The last quarterback BYU signed from the high school ranks was Sol-Jay Maiava-Peters in the 2020 class.
BYU's staff has been very deliberate with quarterback offers over the last few years. That trend has continued in the class of 2023. BYU has offered five quarterbacks in the 2023 class: Israel Carter, Javance Tupouata-Johnson, Nico Iamaleava, Jaden Rashada, Israel Carter, and most recently Ryder Burton.
Iamaleava came off the board last a few weeks ago when he committed to Tennessee. Rashada, a five star recruit and the younger brother of former BYU commit Roman Rashada, has always been a longshot. Now that his older brother has decommitted from BYU, it's even less likely that he ends up in Provo.
BYU was the first to offer Israel Carter back in 2019. Since then, he has reeled in over 10 offers from various P5 schools. BYU has not been pushing for California native Javance Tupouata-Johnson.
That leaves Springville quarterback Ryder Burton. BYU is high on Burton's potential and arm talent. The Cougars were the first to offer Burton a scholarship last week. BYU is in the driver's seat to land Burton's services until another school throws its hat into the mix.
If Burton commits, BYU could still go after more quarterbacks depending on Burton's mission plans. look to add another quarterback. Like we said at the beginning, quarterback is a position of need and the Cougars could add multiple quarterbacks.
Speaking of positions of need, let's talk about running backs. BYU hasn't signed a true running back since it signed Bruce Garrett and Hinckley Ropati as part of the 2020 class. The Cougars also signed Nukuluve Helu in 2020 who could play various positions at the next level. Garrett transferred out after a few short weeks in the program, and Ropati's progression has been derailed by injuries. Helu is set to return from his mission later this Summer.
The Cougars have supplemented their need for running backs through the transfer portal.
In this author's opinion, supplying an entire position through the transfer portal is not sustainable in the long run for a team in a Power Five conference. Therefore, signing a running back in the class of 2023 is important for BYU.
BYU has only offered one true running back in this class: Amare Ary. Ary's recruitment never really took off like some anticipated, and it's unclear whether BYU is still pursuing him or not. BYU has a few 2023 commits that could play some running back in Pokaiaua Haunga and Hezekiah Anahu-Amrosio, but I think both of those players have higher ceilings at other positions.
With that being said, running back is a position to watch during the Spring evaluation period. BYU will have the opportunity to evaluate many running backs and extend offers if it wants to bring a running back or two on board in this class.
1. Pokaiaua Haunga | Provo, Utah | Three star
COMMIT: Pokaiaua Haunga is a player that could play various positions at the next level. However, he has stared at wide receiver for Timpview High School. For the purpose of this article, we will consider him a wide receiver.
The rest of the receivers on this list are not from the state of Utah.
2. Malachi Riley | Corona, California | Four star
As of the time of this article, I would put Malachi Riley on the top of BYU's WR board. Riley was recently on campus for an unofficial visit. BYU was the first school to offer Riley a scholarship clear back in 2019 when Riley was in 8th grad. Now he holds over 15 offers from the likes of Texas A&M, Oregon, Baylor, UCLA, USC, Ole Miss, and Arizona State among others.
"I loved it," Riley told Cougs Daily when asked about his first time in Provo. "It's been 3-4 years [of contact with BYU] and I talked to people about BYU and the area and Provo. All I got was like negative things and 'oh you won't like it, blah blah blah.' So just going out there to see it man. I love it. Like it's just crazy. It's beautiful."
Riley described his visit as "incredible and unforgettable" on Twitter.
3. Daidren Zipperer | Lakeland, Florida | Three star
Daidren Zipperer is another player that has been on BYU's campus for an unofficial visit. Zipperer traveled to Utah with Cormani McClain last season to visit BYU. After the visit, BYU offered Zipperer a scholarship.
Since then, he has reeled in offers from some smaller schools.
I'm interested to see how hard BYU pushes for Zipperer in the coming months. - it's challenging to bring a kid to Provo all the way from Florida. If BYU makes a trip out to Florida to evaluate him, then it probably indicates that he is high on BYU's wish list.
4. Josiah Phillips | Chatsworth, California | Three star
A dual-sport athlete out of California, BYU offered Josiah Phillips a scholarship just two weeks ago. He received an early offer from LSU clear back in 2019, and he has also received offers from Pitt and Boston College.
5. Taeshaun Lyons | Hayward, California | Three star
Lyons is one of my favorite wide receiver prospects in this class. He's a player that I expect to receive a lot of offers during this evaluation period. His offer sheet has already started to grow - he holds 13 offers.
Lyons isn’t a member of the church and he isn’t from Utah, so he doesn’t come from BYU’s core recruiting pipelines. However, he is religious and BYU has signed it’s fair share of kids from California. In my opinion, he represents the kind of player that BYU will need to bring in to compete in the Big 12. He is a mid three-star prospect that has the talent to outperform his star rating.
The Cougars will need to get Lyons on campus to have a real chance at landing his commitment.
6. Surahz Buncom | Chula Vista, California | Three star
Surahz Buncom is a long receiver prospect that could also play defensive back. Buncom was one of five San Diego prospects that BYU offered in January. At the time, he held offers from BYU and Pitt. Now, Buncom holds over a dozen scholarship offers.
Like Lyons, BYU needs to get Buncom on campus to have a chance at landing his commitment.
This tight end class is loaded. BYU is in contention for some of the best tight ends in the entire country.
1. Walker Lyons | Folsom, California | Four star
Walker Lyons holds over 30 offers. He trimmed his list to six and BYU made the cut: BYU, Utah, USC, Stanford, Alabama, Ohio State.
Lyons has been on BYU's campus multiple times including his most recent visit during Spring ball. On that visit, Lyons was with fellow four-star recruits Spencer Fano, Smith Snowden, and Hunter Clegg. I expect the Cougars to be in contention for Lyons' commitment all the way to the end.
2. Jackson Bowers | Mountain View, Arizona | Four star
Jackson Bowers was recently on campus for an unofficial visit.
This wasn't the first time Bowers has been on BYU's campus - he was in attendance for BYU's 27-17 victory over Arizona State last season.
Bowers recently received an offer from Alabama. He will release a list of his top seven schools next week - I expect BYU to make the cut.
3. C.J. Jacobsen | Meridian, Idaho | Three star
C.J. Jacobsen is one of the top prospects out of Idaho in the 2023 class. BYU offered him a scholarship in February, and he is weighing competing offers from ten other schools.
In a recent conversation with Cougs Daily, he said he is hearings from BYU, NC State, and Louisville the most.
Jacobsen will be on campus for an unofficial visit later this month.
BYU offensive line coach Darrell Funk is casting a wide net on the recruiting trail in this class. I could list a lot of names here, but I had to cut the list off somewhere. These are players that I believe 1) BYU wants the most and 2) have reciprocated the most interest in BYU. This list could change by the end of the evaluation period.
1. Spencer Fano | Provo, Utah | Four star
The younger brother of BYU defensive end Logan Fano, Spencer Fano is one of the top offensive tackle prospects in the country. Fano has been one of a few names on the top of BYU's wish list for a long, long time.
Fano has been on campus for multiple visits. Most recently he attended a BYU practice during Spring camp.
2. Ethan Thomason | Fort Collins, Colorado | Four star
Colorado native Ethan Thomason holds over 15 FBS from the likes of Tennessee, Michigan State, Utah, Oklahoma State, Kansas State, Iowa State, and Colorado among others.
Thomason was recently upgraded to four-star status by On3 Sports, and other outlets could upgrade Thomason to four-star status by signing day.
Thomason hasn't locked down a decision timeline, but he will sign with his school of choice during the early signing period. He will announce a list of finalists before the football season starts.
3. Taliafi Taala | Sandy, Utah | Four star
A four-star prospect that preps at Alta High School, Taliafi Taala holds various P5 offers and was recently upgraded to four-star status.
4. Luka Baklenko | West Lake Village, California | Three star
Luke Baklenko received an offer from BYU a few months ago and made his way to Provo for a visit.
"My family and I were excited to hear from BYU and loved being offered," Baklenko said in an earlier interview with Cougs Daily. "We have some friends that are close to the program and we have been hearing really great things." Baklenko had the opportunity to watch BYU play last season, and he was impressed by BYU's offensive line. "We did get to watch the win over Utah last season on TV and loved how that offensive line group handled their business."
BYU will join the Big 12 conference beginning in 2023. For Baklenko, that is an important part of the equation as he evaluates BYU as a program. "BYU getting into the Big12 is a huge plus for the program and definitely helps in my interest," Baklenko said.
5. Soane Faasolo | Menio Park, California | Three star
Soane Faasolo is a massive offensive tackle prospect listed at 6'9, 260 pounds. Faasolo made his way to BYU's campus for an unofficial visit on the final day of Spring camp. He holds offers from BYU, Oregon State, and San Jose State.
6. Caleb Lomu | Gilbert, Arizona | Three star
Caleb Lomu is one of the fastest-rising prospects out West. He has racked up over a dozen scholarship offers.
7. Isaiah Kema | Wolfforth, Texas | Three star
Isaiah Kema is a four-star offensive lineman out of Texas. He has a few connections to the program.
The defensive line class is one of the deepest in recent memory. Even if BYU lands two or three of their top six remaining targets, it would be a tremendous defensive line class.
1. Emmanuel Waller | Chelsea, Alabama | Four star
COMMIT: Emmanuel Waller committed to BYU last month on the same day that he received an offer from BYU. Waller had been on BYU's campus for an unofficial visit during the 2021 season.
2. Stanley Raass | Lehi, Utah | Three star
COMMIT: Stanley Raass is the son of John Raass who played for BYU in the 90's. Stanley committed to BYU over competing offers from Oregon State, Washington State, Weber State, Morgan State, and Dixie State.
3. Hunter Clegg | American Fork, Utah | Four star
Hunter Clegg went from a relatively unknown prospect last year to a consensus four-star prospect. Clegg has racked up 18 scholarship offers and was on campus last Spring.
4. Tausili Akana | Lehi, Utah | Four star
Tausili Akana holds offers from all the premier schools in college football. Akana is a local product out of Skyridge and he was recently on BYU's campus. Given the amount of competition to land Akana's services, BYU's chances feel slim here. However, the Cougars aren't out of it until Akana stops taking visits to campus.
5. Kelze Howard | Las Vegas, Nevada | Four star
Kelze Howard is a four-star defensive lineman out of Las Vegas with no connections to BYU. On the surface, Howard to BYU feels like a longshot. However, Howard visited BYU's campus during the Spring and loved his experience. As things stand today, I would expect BYU to get an official visit.
6. Talitui Pututau | Salt Lake City, Utah | Three star
Talitui Pututau is a defensive line prospect out of West High School. BYU was the first to offer Pututau back in July of 2020. Since then, he has received offers from Colorado, Utah State, and Weber State.
1. Siale Esera | Provo, Utah | Four star
Siale Esera is one of BYU's top targets in this recruiting class. Esera preps just down the road from BYU's campus at Timpview High School. Like others on this list, he was on campus during Spring camp. Esera could end up playing defensive line at the next level, but for now we'll count him as a linebacker.
2. Liona Lefau | Kahuku, Hawaii | Four star
Liona Lefau is one of the most entertaining linebackers to watch out West. He has racked up two dozen offers and he recently trimmed his list to eight: BYU, Utah, Texas, Michigan, Oklahoma, USC, Oregon, and Washington.
3. Leonard Ah You | Kahuku, Hawaii | Three star
Leonard Ah You has a few different connections to the program, and he holds offers from various P5 schools.
For this group, I'll separate prospects into cornerbacks and safeties. First, let's talk cornerbacks.
1. Smith Snowden | Lehi, Utah | Four star
Smith Snowden is one of the best cornerback prospects to come out of the state of Utah. Smith has been on campus various times and he is the son of former BYU running back Will Snowden.
2. Cormani McClain | Lakeland, Florida | Five star
Cormani McClain is a consensus five-star recruit and one of the top five prospects in the entire country. He is not a member of the church, but he has made the trip from Florida to Utah for two unofficial visits. This one feels like a longshot, but BYU hasn't been eliminated from the McClain sweepstakes.
Next, let's talk safeties. BYU has offered multiple safeties in this class, but it's hard to know which players are at the top of the Cougars' priority list.
1. Hezekiah Anahu-Ambrosio | Provo, Utah | Three star
COMMIT: Anahu-Ambrosio has been committed to BYU for some time now. He could play various positions at the next level, but I'll put him at safety for now. He has the build of a linebacker, but he is listed at 5'11.
He recently received competing offers from Utah State and Nevada.
2. Brock Fonoimoana | Kahuku, Hawaii | Three star
Brock Fonoimoana is a ball-hawking safety out of Hawaii with various connections to the program. In a recent interview with Cougs Daily, he did not list BYU as one of the schools contacting him the most.
3. Marcus Ratcliffe | San Diego, California | Three star
Marcus Ratcliffe is a long safety prospect with a very high ceiling. BYU will need to get him on campus before it has a real chance of landing his commitment. Ratcliffe was one of five San Diego prospects that BYU offered in January.
4. Chris Snyder Jr. | San Diego, California | Three star
Chris Snyder could play multiple positions at the next level. Like Ratcliffe, he was one of five prospects out of San Diego that BYU offered in January.
5. Cruz Estrada | San Diego, California | Three star
Cruz Estrada could play either wide receiver or safety at the next level. BYU is the only school to offer Estrada a scholarship thus far.