BYU’s win over Baylor included 2 additional wins: on the recruiting trail


Brigham Young Cougars head coach Kalani Sitake waves to the crowd in the final moments of the game as BYU and Baylor play in overtime at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo, Saturday, Sept. 10, 2022. BYU won 26-20. (Scott G Winterton, Deseret News)

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PROVO — BYU’s first win of the weekend came a few hours before kickoff of the Cougars’ home opener against then-No. 9 Baylor.

That’s when the Cougars got the lift from Timpview edge rusher Siale Esera, a highly touted pass rusher and the No. 4 overall recruit in Utah’s Class of 2023 by 247Sports.

Four days later, BYU got another commitment from hulking offensive tackle Ethan Thomason, a self-described “gentle giant” from Fort Collins, Colo., who chose the Cougars over nearly two dozen offers.

In between, of course, was the 26-20 double-overtime win over the Bears, BYU’s first win over a top-10 opponent in Provo since 1990. And of course, they’ll look to continue the momentum Saturday against No. 25 Oregon (1:30 p.m. MDT, FOX ).

But neither of the two victories away from the field should be ruled out.

Esera is a high-profile in-state recruit, a 6-foot-3, 250-pound three-star prospect from 247Sports and a four-star composite prospect who made 23 tackles with eight sacks as a junior last year and nearly topped it. perceived by the fifth game of his senior campaign.

In the Thunderbirds’ heartbreaking 20-13 loss to top-ranked Skyridge — a loss that Timpview led by as much as 13-0 in the first half — Esera was often the best player on the court, sweeping sideline to sideline to provide the most opposition, the Falcons’ 47.8 points per battle offense had seen all year.

So why did he commit to the Cougars while visiting campus before the game against Baylor?

“The game was kind of like a cherry on top of the whole scenario. The 10th (of September) was my dad’s birthday and I wanted to make that birthday special for him,” Esera told ESPN radio in Utah County about his father Peter. “I had decided to do this earlier and when I started getting a lot of offers, I always told my dad that I would commit on his birthday.

“He always thought I was joking. But I wanted to use it as a present for my father.”

A Polynesian Bowl All-American selection, Esera had offers from Arizona, Cal, Colorado, Hawaii, Michigan State, Stanford, USC and Utah, among others. But it was the university, located just 1.7 miles from his high school campus, that caught his attention.

“First and foremost, one of the biggest things I look for in a college is the level of education,” said Esera, who plans to graduate in December and enroll early at BYU. “Honestly, BYU is top notch, second to none. The education they provide will help set you up for life along with the connections you are able to make over there.

“Secondly, football is on the rise. Coach Kalani is doing a great job with the football team and they are getting better every day as they enter the Big 12 this coming season. Honestly, I would be a part of that … Honestly, they check all the boxes.”

Recruits are not bound by verbal commitments, but Esera can sign a national letter of intent beginning with the early signing period on Dec. 21. He became the 14th member of BYU’s 2023 recruiting class, one that includes four-star tight end Jackson Bowers of Mesa, Ariz.; Springville quarterback Ryder Burton; and Skyline do-it-all back Miles Hall; among other.

Early Wednesday morning, the Cougars added a 15th member of the class in Ethan Thomason, a 6-foot-8, 325-pound offensive tackle from Fort Collins, Colorado. The giant offensive lineman, who “can dunk a basketball with ease,” according to the Fort Collins Coloradoan , committed early Wednesday morning live on Denver’s NBC affiliate, surrounded by friends and family on the football field at Rocky Mountain School.

The No. 5-rated prospect in Colorado and No. 61 offensive tackle in the country by 247Sports, Thomason received 19 Division I offers but narrowed them down to Nebraska, Oklahoma State, Stanford, Utah and BYU prior to his commitment. He said he made a “secret visit” to BYU after taking an official visit last summer to tell the coaches about his pledge prior to Saturday’s win over Baylor.

“I’ve met some great coaches and current players, and also recruits, on the track,” Thomason told NBC 9 News in Denver. “I am so blessed to be able to meet so many great people.”

Thomason — whose father Scott played football at Dixie State and mother Beverly played basketball at Dixie State (where she met her husband) and Southern Utah — plans to serve a two-year mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He ultimately plans to graduate a semester early from Rocky Mountain to begin serving in January or February and return in time to join BYU for spring training camp in 2025.

“It’s my personal way of putting God and my values ​​first,” Thomason said. “It’s a great end to this recruiting process. I know it’s just the beginning of my college career and my football career; I’m really looking forward to it.”

Like Esera, academics played a key role in Thomason’s decision. So did having family in Utah via his mother, who hails from Orderville, Kane County, as well as a football staff adept at helping returned missionaries get back into playing shape.

“They know what they’re doing; they do it all the time, about half of their roster,” Thomason told the Coloradoan. It will be a fantastic football team at the same time. I’m really excited. I’ll have a great social experience, it’s a top academic school, and that’s really important to me.”

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A proud graduate of Syracuse University, Sean Walker has covered BYU for since 2015, while also dabbling in prep sports, education and whatever else his editors throw at him.

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