Facts, Foibles & Fun of Evaluating Camp Prospects

Sports writers are not always the most discerning judges of emerging high school talent and may sometimes unknowingly hype youngsters who really don't deserve the attention.

That was never more apparent than yesterday - Day 4 of the 1st week of BYU's summer camp - when a highly recruited young man TotalBlueSports.com had recently highlighted looked way less impressive when matched against his first real competition in four days of camp. Truthfully, he looked quite ordinary and very slow.

It serves no useful purpose to name the young man who may yet become the talent some believe he can be - if the letters from the biggest-name colleges are any indication.

And it probably didn't help that it was a home-grown Provo athlete, a senior this year, who is also a national recruit lauded by no less an authority than ESPN's recruiting guru Tom Lemming, who made this young man look pedestrian, at best.

It was the local boy's first appearance at the camp. He wanted to "check out this kid to see if he was the real deal."

Even more amazing is how swiftly word or "the buzz" travels among these young men - who certainly can't afford TBS subscriptions - about stories written on camp participants who suddenly become the center of attention as they huddle in groups before the day's drills begin.

On the sidelines were expectant, anxious and hopeful fathers, mothers, brothers and sisters of football campers hoping their kin impress BYU coaches conducting the skills and drills. Some did. Most didn't.

I learned that next week, or Week 2, is when most of the bigger name talent will be in Provo to strut their stuff from different parts of the country. It seems there is a NIKE camp in Oregon this week and also a tryout for the Elite 11 quarterback camp in California.

What has been particularly impressive in recent years is the national prominence and increasing numbers of highly touted and talented LDS recruits in most skill positions.

WHAT THE FUTURE HOLDS? And talking about "buzz," it is equally notable that in the aftermath of its worst season record in 29 years last year, BYU has resurrected itself as a serious contender and player for most of the top LDS talent it chooses to go after.

There are a number of contributing factors:

1. No one would ever admit it publicly, but it is a well known fact that head coach Gary Crowton and his assistants work much harder and are a lot more organized, effective and efficient in spreading the non-denominational gospel that is BYU football.

2. With a complete recruiting list of more than 2,500 high school prospects, the Cougar brain trust may offer as many as 50 scholarships and finally settle on 15 of the best recruits they can land next February.

3. Under the large and looming shadow of BYU's $50 million plus practice and new athletic facilities superior to that of most major college or NFL teams, BYU is setting itself up as a major contender to attract the best and brightest LDS and non-LDS talent in a way they have never been able to before.

4. Credit goes to Lavell Edwards and many influential athletic department officials and alumni, but Crowton et al stand to benefit immeasurably because the foresight of predecessors who recognize the LDS Church's mission and goals are not dissimilar from the residual benefit and prestige of a successful football, basketball and athletics program.

5. There is no doubt the completed athletic facilities will be an unprecedented boon to BYU recruiting for both football and basketball. The Provo school is nationally prominent in a number of sports like mens and womens volleyball and track & field, but the money sport at BYU is football and basketball is a distant second.

6. Don't be surprised if BYU is added to the NIKE football camp rotation some point in the future. Don't be surprised if these elite camp participants are blown away by the caliber and quality of the new BYU football program. Don't be surprised is some of these top-drawer prospects, who might never have previously considered BYU as one of their Top 5 favorites, sign future Letters of Intent with the Cougars. Don't be surprised if...

Meanwhile, back at the field, BYU coaches and volunteer assistants busily put their young charges through their paces - all the time watching for the standout's they did not know about, making influential mental notes for group discussion afterward.

Coach Crowton, for his part, kept himself visible driving around in his little white golf cart with two young girls, presumably his daughters.

The summer campers were thankfully shielded from the blazing sun of prior days by overcast clouds for some of the day. There was running, there was charging and blocking skills, there was run and pass routes.

More importantly, there is a never-before-seen brighter hopeful ray of sunshine that is slowly descending on a football program with its best days as the national champion team almost 20 years past.

BYU football fortunes are, indeed, on the rise and with it our hopes, dreams and prayers for an even more glorious future. Bring it on!

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