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

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Brigham Young Cougars head coach Kalani Sitake gestures to the crowd in the final moments of the game as BYU and Baylor play in overtime at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo on 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 couple of hours before kickoff of the Cougars’ home opener against then-No. 9 Baylor.

That’s when the Cougars picked up the pledge of Timpview edge rusher Siale Esera, a highly coveted pass rusher and No. 4 overall recruit in Utah’s Class of 2023 by 247Sports.

Four days later, BYU earned another commitment from mammoth offensive tackle Ethan Thomason, a self-described “gentle giant” from Fort Collins, Colorado, who picked 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 try to continue the momentum Saturday against No. 25 Oregon (1:30 p.m. MDT, FOX).

But neither of the two off-the-field wins should be discounted.

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

In the Thunderbirds’ gut-wrenching 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 field, sweeping sideline-to-sideline. to provide the most resistance the Falcons’ 47.8 points per game offense had seen all year.

So why did he commit to the Cougars while taking a visit to campus prior to 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 of his father Peter . “I had decided to do this earlier on, and when I started getting a lot of offers, I always told my dad I would commit on his birthday.

“He always thought I was joking. But I wanted to use that as a present to my dad.”

A Polynesian Bowl All-American selection, Esera held 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 captured his attention.

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

“Second, the football is trending upward. Coach Kalani is doing a great job with the football team and they are getting better by the day — especially as they are going into the Big 12 this upcoming season. Honestly, I wanted to be a part of it … 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 Dec. 21. He became the 14th member of BYU’s recruiting class of 2023, one that includes four-star tight end Jackson Bowers from Mesa, Arizona; Springville quarterback Ryder Burton; and Skyline do-it-all back Miles Hall; among others.

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 mammoth offensive lineman who “can dunk a basketball with ease,” according to the Fort Collins Coloradoan, made his commitment 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 coaches of his pledge prior to Saturday’s win over Baylor.

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

“That’s my personal way of putting God and my values ​​first,” Thomason said. “It’s a great ending 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 transition back into playing shape.

“They know what they’re doing; they do it all the time, about half their roster,” Thomason told the Coloradoan. It’ll be a great 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 KSL.com since 2015, while also mixing in prep sports, education, and anything else his editors assign him to do.

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