PROVO — BYU football recruiting classes are never just about the players that sign on National Letter of Intent day. Year in and year out a host of recently returned missionaries add their talents to the roster and are always mentioned by coach Bronco Mendenhall along with those who signed.
BYU returns eight returned missionaries for 2013, some of whom could make an immediate impact:
-Jordan Black, 6-6, 298 OL, Alta High School — Black red-shirted for one year before leaving for his LDS mission to Fresno, Calif. Throughout his freshman year he showed a very aggressive style that should work well in Robert Anae’s offensive system.
Look for Black to compete for the open right tackle spot, but his work will be cut out for him considering it’s his first year after two years away from football.
-Algernon Brown, 6-0, 234 RB, Skyline High School — Brown red-shirted a year before serving a mission to Sao Paulo, Brazil. Brown competed mostly at the fullback position and was noted as a valuable scout team member.
It’s not clear how much Anae will incorporate a fullback in his offense, but that’s the position Brown is best-suited for. Without an established starter at fullback Brown could compete for a regular role within the offense immediately.
-Toloa’i Ho Ching, 6-0, 225 LB, Alta High School — Ho Ching left immediately for his mission to Orlando, Fla. out of High School. He’s likely to play at inside linebacker, but will be hard pressed to see playing time there immediately given the existing depth and talent at the position.
-Tuni Kanuch, 6-1, 285 DL, Bingham High School — Kanuch left immediately for his mission service to San Diego, Calif. after graduating. He stands as the player most likely to make an immediate impact given the need and nature of the defensive tackle position.
Kanuch was a high-profile prospect when BYU signed him and was mentioned by Mendenhall as someone they’re looking at to fill the open nose tackle position.
-AJ Moore, 5-9, 200 RB, Murrieta, Calif. — Moore red-shirted a year before leaving for his mission New York. While at BYU he showed a quick and shifty running back who could serve as a third-down/change-of-pace back.
Moore will likely be ticketed for scout team work given the overall depth and talent at the running back position.
-Joey Owens, 6-2, 215 LB, Pleasant Grove High School — Owens left immediately for his mission to Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. before enrolling at BYU. He incurred multiple shoulder injuries which kept him from performing his senior season. The hope is that he’s now recovered and will likely play at strong side linebacker.
-Bryan Sampson, 6-3, 215 TE, Pleasant Grove High School — Sampson left for his mission to Santiago, Chile in grand style after being a standout in the BYU spring game. There are a lot of bodies at tight end currently, but none of them have stepped up to firmly secure the starting role which leaves an immediate opening for Sampson.
-Sae Tautu, 6-3, 224 LB/DE, Lone Peak High School — Tautu spent a year on the scout team before serving his mission to Tacoma, Wash. Mendenhall pointed out that he’s likely to play at defensive end due to some added weight put on during the two years he was away.
The two starting defensive end spots are all but set with Bronson Kaufusi and Eathyn Manumaleuna as the assumed starters, but primary backup roles are wide-open. Tautu could fill one of those roles and see valuable time this coming season.