A look at the best players to play at BYU over the last decade who weren’t highly recruited

National Letter of Intent signing day is squarely in the rear view mirror and the hype over the Cougars’ potentially great recruiting class has died down to some extent.  The focus for BYU has shifted from recruiting to spring practice and the opportunity to prepare for the 2014 season.

Just like the focus of Cougars have shifted to what happens on the field, it is a perfect time to look at how past recruits actually translated on the field.

BYU has had very key 4-star recruits in the past decade.  Some have had a significant impact on the field (Kyle Van Noy and Bronson Kaufusi) while others never panned out the way fans expected.

Getting high-level recruits is an important part of college football, but it is what a program does with the not so big name recruits that is a major part of a school’s success on the gridiron.

BYU has had plenty of greats rise from low ranking players coming out of high school and junior college.  Here is a look at the most impactful players from that category over the last decade.

Note: each star ranking comes from Rivals.com

Curtis Brown, 2-star recruit, 2002: Brown spent three seasons as the Cougars’ leading rusher and left BYU with the most rushing yards in school history (3,221), as well as 31 touchdowns on 641 carries.  Brown was also an effective receiver during his time at the Y.  He caught 157 passes for 1,309 yards and five more scores.  He was named First-Team All-Mountain West Conference in both his junior and senior seasons.

Jonny Harline, 2-star recruit, 2002: Harline is remembered for scoring one of the most historic touchdowns in BYU history, but his career should was much more than that.  Harline started for two seasons and registered 121 receptions for nearly 1,800 yards and 17 touchdowns while being named First-Team All-Mountain West Conference both years.  During his senior year, Harline led the MWC in receiving yards (935) and touchdowns (12).  That year he was also named First-Team All-American by numerous publications.

Bryan Kehl, 2-star recruit, 2002: Kehl starred for the Cougars’ as a linebacker with his best season coming in 2007.  That year, Kehl was First-Team All-Mountain West and named the BYU Defensive MVP after recording 91 tackles, 11.5 tackles for loss and three interceptions.  For his BYU career, Kehl totaled 205 tackles, 20.5 TFL’s and seven sacks according to BYUCougars.com.

Jan Jorgensen, 2-star recruit, 2003 (originally committed to Kentucky): Jorgensen was named First-Team All-Mountain West Conference three straight seasons.  His most impressive season statistically came in as a sophomore in 2007 when Jorgensen led the MWC in sacks (13.5) and tackles for loss (20) while also recording a career-high 77 tackles.  For his BYU career, Jorgensen registered 221 tackles, 44 TFL’s and 28.5 sacks.

Dennis Pitta, no ranking (isn’t listed in the Rivals database), 2004: Pitta was the Cougars’ starting tight end for three seasons and earned First-Team All-MWC honors each season as well as being named a consensus All-American as a senior.  His most impressive statistical season came in 2008, when as a junior, Pitta set career-highs in receptions (83) and receiving yards (1,083) to go along with six touchdowns.  For his BYU career, Pitta tallied 221 receptions for 2,901 yards and 21 touchdowns.

Harvey Unga, 2-star recruit, 2005: After redshirting his first year at BYU, Unga had three dominant seasons with the Cougars.  In 2007, Unga was named MWC Freshman of the Year  after carrying the ball 244 times for 1,227 yards and 13 touchdowns to go along with 44 receptions for 655 yards and four more scores.  As a junior Unga earned First-Team All-MWC honors after rushing for 1,087 yards and 11 touchdowns.  For his BYU career, Unga carried the ball 696 times for 3,455 yards and 36 touchdowns.  He also totaled 102 receptions for 1,085 yards and nine scores.  Unga is the Cougars’ all-time leader in both rushing attempts and rushing yards.

Max Hall, 2-star recruit, 2006 (originally committed to Arizona State as a 3-star recruit in 2004): Hall was a three-year starter under center and holds the record for most wins by a BYU quarterback (32).  Hall earned First-Team All-MWC as a sophomore and Second-Team All-MWC in both his junior and senior seasons. He led the conference in passing yards and touchdowns all three years under center while leading the MWC in passer efficiency rating and completion percentage.  For his BYU career, Hall completed 65.3 percent of his passes for 11,365 yards and 94 touchdowns.  Both marks are second All-time for BYU quarterbacks.

Brandon Ogletree, 2-star recruit, 2006: Ogletree spent four years as a linebacker for the Cougars and led the team in tackles as a junior and as a senior.  His best statistical season came in 2012, when as a senior, Ogletree set career-highs with 102 tackles and 13.5 tackles for loss.  For his BYU career, Ogletree registered 246 tackles, 22.5 TFL’s and three interceptions.

Eathyn Manumaleuna, 2-star recruit, 2007: Manumaleuna played parts of five seasons at BYU thanks to a medical redshirt year after four games in 2012.  He was a starter all five seasons at nose guard and defensive end.  Manumaleuna set the Cougars’ career mark in games played (54) according to BYUCougars.com.  For his BYU career, Manumaleuna recorded 143 tackles, 16 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks.

Cody Hoffman, 2-star, 2009: after redshirting his first year in Provo, Hoffman led BYU in receiving yards four straight seasons and left the Cougars as the all-time leader in receiving yards, receptions, receiving touchdowns and all-purpose yards.  His best statistical season came in 2012, when as a junior, Hoffman registered 100 receptions for 1,248 yards and 11 touchdowns. For his BYU career, Hoffman finished with 260 receptions for 3,612 yards and 33 touchdowns.

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