How did BYU miss out on Star Lotulelei?


Utah defensive tackle Star Lotulelei has received a lot of mention on the radio airwaves and the message boards since the NFL draft concluded. Most analysts project him as a first-round pick and as the top defensive tackle prospect for the 2013 draft.

Obviously such projections are fluid at this early stage, but regardless, it’s safe to say that Lotulelei is someone any coach would love to have anchoring their defensive front — including BYU.

Those who follow BYU recruiting closely remember that BYU not only committed the former Bingham Miner, but signed him back in 2007.

So what happened?

Consider the following list of players signed by Bronco Mendenhall: Scotty Ebert, Seta Pohahau, Atem Bol, Jordan Afo, and Star Lotulelei.

All five of them failed to qualify academically after signing with BYU out of high school and went the junior college route. BYU didn’t re-offer any of the five prospects although they may yet offer Afo, who entered Snow’s football program in 2010.

All of those listed didn’t resurface on the recruiting scene out of junior college, save Lotulelei, who surfaced in a big way. Many programs showed interest in Lotulelei out JC, but BYU chose to stay on the sidelines — showing almost no interest while not re-extending an offer.

So why not?

BYU didn’t have a pressing need for immediate defensive line help back in 2010, when Lotulelei signed with the Utes, but that was only part of the reason for not pursuing the mammoth DT prospect. The bigger reason likely was its recent experience with its own JC transfer linemen — Bernard Afutiti and Jesse Taufi.

Most BYU fans aren’t familiar with those two names, but they should have been. Afutiti and Taufi both signed with BYU in 2008 and went on to prove to be two of the better line performers I’ve seen since first covering BYU practices back in 2003.

Both of them flamed out in the classroom and never played a down for the team while taking up valuable scholarship spots. BYU coaches were likely heartbroken to see two extremely talented players not see the field due to not hacking it academically and were subsequently hesitant to pursue Lotulelei, as a result.

I was told by a BYU assistant that they did not pursue Lotulelei due to existing academic concerns.

It’s impossible to say definitively if BYU would have been able to sign Lotulelei even if they had pursued him. Ardent Cougar fans will argue that BYU could have had him if they wanted him while Ute fans will argue that BYU didn’t have a chance regardless.

After he committed to Utah Lotulelei stated that he didn’t care that BYU didn’t offer since he liked Utah better anyway, but those feelings often come about after a recruit feels spurned by a particular program. What we do know is that Lotulelei once had BYU as his top school, signing with it out of High School, and perhaps would have had it on top again had BYU coaches pursued him out of junior college.

Since signing with Utah Lotulelei has not only seen tremendous success on the field, but in the classroom as reported by Dirk Facer here.

So could BYU have used Lotulelei this coming season? Who couldn’t use the top-rated defensive tackle in the country is the short answer. Specifically to BYU, it looks to be in good shape with returning three-year starters Ian Dulan, Eathyn Manumaleuna, Romney Fuga and Russell Tialavea, but as good as each of them are, Lotulelei is in a class by himself.

No school has a perfect recruiting record and it’s likely if BYU had the opportunity to recruit Lotulelei again that it would do so. As evidenced by it offering Tenny Palepoi, who was a non-qualifier out of high school, this past year, BYU may be more willing to take some academic risks moving forward.



  1. Ryan in Miami

    Lets just be honest, most football players have no business going to college. Many college football players are just barely literate (especially SEC athletes). I have a personal acquaintance, who was a TA at a very prominent university, and his professor instructed him to do the football players’ assignments and take their exams. He said that he enthusiastically did as he was asked because he wanted to see the football team succeed, but also went off on how stupid the athletes were.

    • LouisianaCougar

      This comment is profoundly untrue. . . in my experience as a university professor for many years (including at the University of Georgia).

      Athletes may be catered to at some schools and some athletes make litte effort. Your “painting with a broad brush” is offensive, however.

  2. Chad

    Silly conjecture! As a BYU fan I’m glad to see Star was able to play with the Utes and make a name for himself. Had his academics been in order when he was signed to play for BYU he would have done well for the Cougars too. But it isn’t BYU’s fault he didn’t play on scholarship in the year’s agreed upon. Individuals need to take responsibility for their own academics. If you can’t make the grade and honor your end of the agreement in a given year, then obviously you’re a wild card and concern for the program you defaulted on.

  3. Coogman in SD

    Star got what he needed, a division 1 football team with a community college academic culture. No one is apologizing for BYU’s high academic standards.

  4. JC92

    Wow…I’ll keep this short and sweet. I graduated from an SEC school….no one did my work….I graduated on my own. I am now a VP with one of the largest corporations in the US. You are much more ignorant than the people you just tried to stereotype.

  5. RGP

    Whats the deal with Bronco Mendenhall wearing the yard-work style of gray tee shirt on the sidelines? A class program like BYU needs to be class in all respects. A nice polo and kacki’s would lend a touch of professionalism. Bronco is too good at everything to let himself not be taken more seriously in this area. Not trying to be a jerk, just a guy old enough to recognize we are presenting ourselves as an example of BYU standards and polish.

  6. Bob Henstra

    We get who we get and we shed no tears! BYU players can be seen live on world wide Tv replays at will!

  7. Craig Sessions

    All this academic talk aside, Star was fortunate he ended up with Utah where they know what to do with talent and how to develop it. Chances are very good he could have gone to BYU and ended up as just another big guy standing on the line of scrimmage.

  8. Rogwr Maggio

    I had a chance to meet Star and his family in January in Seattle. He was recepient of the Morris award which is awarded to the top defensive and offensive players in the PAC 12. He is a first class guy and is supported by a great family. He has made a great addition to the Utes and will make a great addition to the NFL.

  9. BlueNtheFac

    That “Band of Brothers” saying doesn’t belong on a polo shirt. It’s a blue-collar thing.

  10. Henilieta

    Thank You Rogwr Maggio for your comment,
    This is who Star is, a “FIRST CLASS GUY” my nephew does not dwell in the past, he is always looking forward to what is going on now, and the future. He doesn’t blame anyone else but himself, for the choices he has made in his life. He respect The UTE,BYU and any other school that has worked with him to get to where he is now. He made a decision in 2012 to stay and finished his senior year with a Bachelor Degree, and I will always respect him for that. For those ignorant comment, STAR DID HIS OWN WORK IN SCHOOL and worked hard to get it.

Leave a comment encourages a civil dialogue among its readers. We welcome your thoughtful comments.