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BYU football: Cougars ink juco OL John Vaka, now have 18 signees/commits for 2017

Published December 25, 2016 1:11 pm
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2016, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Late Thursday night, BYU's football program announced that it has signed a mid-year transfer, Diablo Valley College offensive lineman John Taipe Vaka.

He will enroll in school in January and participate in BYU's spring ball camp.

Vaka, a 6-foot-5, 275-pound juco star, originally committed to Oregon. He is the No. 94 juco prospect in the country according to Scout.com.

He helped Diablo Valley averaged 465 yards of offense in 2015 and was named to the All-National Bay 6 Conference First Team.

Vaka is from Oakland, Calif. and prepped at Skyline High School in the Bay Area. He served a two-year LDS Church mission to Saint Louis, Mo., and was also recruited by Colorado, Arizona, Washington State and San Diego State, among others.

Offensive lineman Tuni Kanuch told The Tribune last week that Vaka was heading BYU's way.

"We lose [Parker] Dawe and Andrew Eide, so they are going to do good things where they go. But we have a lot of returners, a lot of experience, a lot of depth. And we have new people coming in like John Vaka, so I think next year looks really good. I'm really hopeful." Kanuch said.

Vaka is the first mid-year transfer to sign with BYU for 2017. The Cougars have 17 commitments from high school seniors who are expected to sign in February. See The Tribune's complete list below this article.

As for BYU's 2017 football recruiting efforts, head coach Kalani Sitake briefly spoke about them prior to the Cougars' 24-21 win over Wyoming in the Poinsettia Bowl.

College coaches are currently in a recruiting dead period, which means they cannot initiate contact with prospects, but before the dead period started almost every coach was out on the road. Sitake declined to divulge specific areas of need for the program.

"Anyone that can play football, we want them. We want the best players, and not focusing on one position. We want the best players available, and obviously working the missionary program in there balances that out, and so I can't pinpoint it all," he said. "If they can run, catch, all that stuff, we want them."

Assistant coach Ed Lamb, who recruited in Hawaii earlier this month and also in San Diego and Riverside, Calif., said interest in BYU has grown now that the new staff is more settled in.

"When we first took the job almost a year ago there were some guys that weren't as interested as they are now," Lamb said. "I think that the way our players are playing, the way that they are representing themselves, the way that coach Sitake is kind of winning the hearts and minds of the players, I think it is starting to pay some dividends out there with the high school kids."

Lamb said one specific recruiting strategy coaches are implementing is to recruit more cornerbacks and then turning them into safeties, much like they did with starting safety Micah Hannemann.

Here is the list of BYU's 17 commitments and one mid-year transfer (Vaka):

Jackson McChesney, 6-0, 170 RB from Highland, Utah (Lone Peak High School)

Isaac Rex, 6-4, 225 TE from San Clemente, Calif. (San Clemente High School)

Tanner Baker, 6-5, 225 DE from Acworth, Georgia (Allatoona High School)

Preston Lewis, 6-2, 225 DE from Highland, Utah (Lone Peak High School)

Ammon Hannemann, 6-2, 190 safety from Highland, Utah (Lone Peak High School)

Donovan Hanna, 6-5, 230 TE from Queen Creek, Ariz. (American Leadership Academy)

Ben Bywater, 6-3, 205 OLB from Salt Lake City, Utah (Olympus High School)

Tariq Buchanan, 6-2, 175 DB from Elgin, Texas (Elgin High School)

Seth Willis, 6-6, 315 OL from Newtown, Connecticut (Newtown High School)

Bentley Hanshaw, 6-6, 225 TE from Moorpark, Calif. (Moorpark High School)

Tongi Langi, 6-1, 180 DB from South Jordan, Utah (Bingham High School)

Ryan Rehkow, 6-4, 190 K from Versdale, Wash. (Central Valley High School)

Keenan Ellis, 6-1, 170 WR/DB from Chula Vista, Calif. (Bonita Vista High School)

Tyler Batty, 6-5, 220 DE from Payson, Utah (Payson High School)

Paula Fina, 64, 330 OL from Wailuki, Hawaii (Baldwin High School)

Seleti Fevaleaki, 6-2, 250 DL from Corona, Calif. (Centennial High School)

Ula Tolutau, 6-1, 230 RB from Salt Lake City, Utah (East High School)

Mid-Year Transfer

John Vaka, 6-4, 270 OL from Oakland, Calif. (Diablo Valley College)




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