Before spring practice ended, Coach Mendenhall and his staff already had a verbal commitment from Braden Hansen. Soon thereafter they received a commitment from Ryan Freeman, setting up a very promising offensive line class that would eventually sign with BYU on letter of intent day earlier this month.
Why did Freeman make such an early move?
"I don't like the hype and all the attention some guys do when they're getting recruited," said Freeman. "It's a personal decision and I knew what I wanted going in, so I just didn't feel the need to make much hype about it. I know BYU is the place where I wanted to play and I knew that early on, so I decided to commit early and I haven't regretted it one bit.
Hansen felt the much the same way.
"I bleed blue and I always have," said Hansen. "Sure, I had a lot of schools looking at me and they'll probably still be looking at me when I get off my mission, but BYU is the place I wanted to be. I listened to other offers after I committed to BYU, but I never considered myself not committed to BYU and that is what I told every school. There was little doubt in my mind that BYU was where I'd sign."
It is easy to assume that most local high school kids who commit early to a local school do so in part due to lack of offers from bigger, more prestigious schools elsewhere. This was not the case with Hansen or Freeman, however.
"My plan has always been to leave immediately for my mission out of high school, so that kept a lot of schools from offering me right out of high school, but I sure had a lot of coaches calling me to tell me that they'd hold a scholarship for me after my mission," said Hansen. "USC, UCLA, Stanford and Florida all told me that if I was interested in them after my mission to call them up and they'd likely have a scholarship for me."
Hansen does not see himself resigning with another school after his mission.
"BYU is the place I want to be and that is why I signed with them," said Hansen. "It's nice to know that I'll have other options after my mission, but I'm not looking to take any of them. I signed with BYU, and BYU is the school I plan on attending and playing football."
Freeman held numerous early offers from some big name programs as he finished up his junior year at Orem.
Freeman is well aware that more offers were likely to come, but as stated earlier, he was intent on making his decision early while not drawing a lot of attention to himself.
"BYU is the place for me, so why mess around with other offers," he concluded.
Both Freeman and Hansen currently have older brothers on BYU's roster in Erik Freeman and Brock Hansen. Both mentioned the opportunity to play with their brother as a big reason why they choose BYU.
"I don't know how much I'll be able to play with Brock as I'm leaving for a mission right away, but he was a big reason as to why I signed with BYU," said Hansen. "I've learned a lot about what goes on down there from him and I like the idea of playing for the same school my brother does."
Freeman on the other hand will definitely have the opportunity to play with and even compete against his brother right away as he will play at least one year before leaving on his mission.
"I already sort of feel like one of the guys already," said Freeman. "I know so much about all of them [offensive linemen] that I feel that I really know what to expect and I'm thankful for that. I think it will really help me."
One of, if not, the key component to the return of offensive dominance last season was the collective play of the offensive line led by Coach Jeff Grimes in his second year in Provo as the offensive line coach. The dominant play of the Cougar offensive line did not escape the notice of either Hansen or Freeman as they watched intently almost every move of their soon-to-be teammates.
"The guy who I just loved to see play was Jake Kuresa," said Hansen. "He was so dominant and aggressive in his blocking; that's how I want to be. He plays tackle which is where I'll likely play. Eddie Keele was great too and has great technique, but Kuresa is a guy that I really want to play like. Hopefully I can be that good."
Freeman turned to the interior line as he looks to emulate the offensive guards and center of BYU.
"I'm going to most likely play offensive guard or center, so that's what I watched most this year and they were awesome," said Freeman. "I like watching all of them like Lunch [Brian Sanders], Lance [Reynolds Jr.] and Dallas [Reynolds], but the guy I was really impressed with was Terrance Brown. I loved how he played and I feel that he's the guy I'm most like in my blocking style. All the guys were great, but I really enjoyed watching Terrance Brown."
"I love Coach Grimes," added Hansen. "I love how he coaches and I know that he'll make me the best player I can be."
"I feel that I know a little more about the line and how Coach Grimes coaches since I hear so much from my brother," said Freeman. "I don't think I could ask for a better coach to learn from in college. I'm just really excited to get going."
As mentioned, Hansen will leave for his mission right out of high school to serve a mission. He is now concentrating on finishing strong for his basketball team, which is top five in the state. Hansen is a solid contributor averaging 16.5 points per game playing the center and forward positions.
Freeman is absorbed in wrestling where he won his semi-final match in the state championships last night.
"I just want to finish up with wrestling and start preparing for football right away," said Freeman. "I'm going to start lifting a ton, and as soon as I graduate, I plan on working out with the team every single day to get myself prepared for the upcoming season."
After seeing Dallas Reynolds come home off his mission and start his first season without spring practice, all incoming players at BYU should realize that it is possible to start as a true freshman on BYU's offensive line. "What Dallas accomplished was amazing," noted Freeman. "I don't know if I'll start, but I definitely know going in that I'll have the opportunity to play right away if it works out and I like that. All I can do is make sure I practice and workout as hard as possible and we'll see what happens."
Freeman has definite mission plans, but mentioned that he may play two years like Terrance Brown before leaving on his mission.
"I've talked to coaches about it and we'll just have to see what happens," said Freeman. "But yeah, I'm definitely planning on serving a mission."
Confidence in and Praise for the Program
"I love Coach Mendenhall," said Hansen. "I just think he's such a great coach and a better person. I love how he's upfront about the spiritual aspects of BYU and how the spirit is a big part of what he does. I just love the guy."
"I already feel very close to Coach Mendenhall and all of the other coaches such as Coach Grimes, Coach Lamb who recruited me, Coach Doman and all of them," added Hansen. "I feel very close to the team already and I feel that is going to help me a lot going in. I know what to expect and what I need to do. Coach Mendenhall is very clear on that and that's the kind of coach you want. I'm just real excited to get going