PROVO, Utah -Returned Missionaries are critical to the creation of the BYU football rosters. Student-athletes serving biennial missions for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have always been at the heart of how BYU operates.
Although many programs across the country claim what BYU is doing with missions is an “advantage,” they don’t seem to be following the model.
It’s a component of BYU’s roster management that makes the faith-based institution unique in the college football world.
When players return home from a two-year mission, the results can be mixed. But it’s hard to make an immediate impact after two full years of not training.
The group of returning missionaries of 2022 has had a harder time than most, with many serving in multiple locations due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Typically, fall is an ideal time frame for an athlete to make a difference in their freshman year. Former BYU tight end Matt Bushman was a prime example of this timeline.
A fall arrival will then allow a greyshirt to train and prepare both physically and mentally for the challenges of D1 football before enrolling in the fall semester.
BYU football RMs struggle to make an immediate impact
For student-athletes returning home from a mission in the spring or summer, it’s a quick turnaround to anticipate impact. So they’re following the same schedule for RMs returning in the fall.
“Based on our research and the experiences we’ve had, the numbers show that when missionaries come home in the summer, they all get injured in the fall,” BYU head coach Kalani Sitake told KSL Sports. “It’s tough when a young man gets injured and then has to spend the off-season rehab rather than conditioning and getting stronger. So that puts them behind. ”
But there’s always a player or two who can find their way onto the field just a few months after proselytizing.
Returning BYU Missionaries in 2022
BYU has seen a wave of missionaries returning home from their two years of service in the past month. Due to a numbers crunch, some will take the gray shirt route and then prepare for the 2023 season. Others may have the opportunity to contribute in 2022.
In March, Kalani Sitake and his associates got a glimpse of eight returning missionaries during spring drills. Those five players were edge rusher Logan Fano, defensive backs Isaiah Glasker and Carter Krupp, defensive linemen Brooks Maile, Bruce Mitchell and Isaiah Perez, offensive lineman Sonny Makasini, and long snapper Dalton Riggs.
Fano, a former four-star recruit, shone in spring training before suffering an ACL injury.
Here is a list of the remaining BYU football players who have either returned or will return home from their Latter-day Saint missions in 2022.
Bodie Schoonover | RAND/LB
A talented linebacker/edge rusher from American Fork High School. Schoonover selected BYU over bids from UCLA and Nebraska at a hat ceremony on Signing Day in 2020. At 6-foot-4, Schoonover has the measurable stats to be a player who could become a talented edge-rusher at BYU.
Tate Romney | LB
Tate, the youngest of the Romney brothers, has the potential to be the best of the bunch. Romney, a 6-foot-2 linebacker, could be the face of BYU’s linebacking unit in 2023 when the Cougars begin the Big 12 era.
Logan Pili | LB
BYU linebacker Keenan Pili’s younger brother, Logan Pili, is following in his older brother’s footsteps as he transitions from safety to a career as a linebacker at BYU. Logan was able to watch some spring exercises in March after returning home from his mission.
Preston-Rex | DB
Preston Rex is the younger brother of BYU football tight end Isaac Rex. Rex returned home from his Latter-day Saint mission during spring practice. He plans to be a security guard at BYU but is an athlete who has held various positions at San Clemente High in California.
Nukuluve Helu | RB
Helu has completed his mission as a Latter-day Saint and is attending summer training sessions on the BYU campus. He was a prolific running back from Tooele High, who was far more prolific than his offer sheet suggests.
Drason Havea | DL/LB
Havea played running back and linebacker at Provo High. During his senior year, he struggled with injuries that slowed his recruiting.
Ace Kaufusi | LB
A Kahuku High School linebacker will be the newest member of the Kaufusi family to wear the blue and white.
Jake Griffin | OIL
Former BYU offensive coordinator Jeff Grimes thought highly of Jake Griffin’s potential. At 6-foot-6, 265-pounds, Griffin received offers from Indiana, Washington State, Arizona and Oregon State, coming from Red Mountain High School in Mesa, Arizona.
Koa Eldredge | WR
Eldredge will pitch for BYU football and the BYU baseball program.
Devin Downing | WR
Downing was in the same wide receiver room as BYU Football wide receiver Chase Roberts in American Fork. The 6-foot-1, 175-pound pass catcher has rushed for 1,298 yards during his junior season with Roberts. He then pulled down 100 catches for 1,755 yards as a WR1 for the cavemen.
Ty Burke | DB
Burke, a jack-of-all-trades athlete at Syracuse High School, suffered a frightening injury during his mission that required numerous visits to the dentist, and he fell unconscious against a wall.
Lingi Havea | DL
Sitalingi Havea could play an offensive line or a defensive line when he arrives at BYU.
Mac Aloisio | DL
Aloisio was a giant of a man during his prep days at Timpview High School. Aloisio checks in at 6-foot-6, 335-pounds and plans to play along the defensive line.
Isaiah Tupou | OIL
Tupou, a former three-star nominee from Sacramento, California, turned down offers from Utah and Arizona to sign with BYU.
Chase Hopkins | RB/LB
Hopkins, a dual-sport athlete in both football and lacrosse, had an impressive senior year, pounding 1,716 yards for the Titans.
Kael Mikkelsen | ATH
Pleasant Grove native Kael Mikkelsen got his start in football during his senior season and showed enough to earn a PWO opportunity from BYU staff. During his high school career, he primarily played basketball.
Kyle Vassau | LB
Vassau amassed 101 tackles during his senior season as a linebacker for Carlsbad High School in California.
Mitch Harper is a BYU insider for KSLsports.com and host of the Cougar Tracks Podcast (SUBSCRIBE TO) and Cougar Sports Saturday (Saturday 12pm-3pm) on KSL Newsradio. Follow him on Twitter: @Mitch_Harper.