Gleaning the Athletic Fields

To offer, or not to offer: that is the question. Rob James analyzes the contrasting philosophiy on early recruiting at BYU and Utah. He also looks at how the Cougars' early commits give similar explanations for their decision to come to BYU.

In a Provo Daily Herald Article last week, Jason Franchuck had a great quote from BYU head football coach Bronco Mendenhall.

Said Mendenhall: "We want to be like USC, Texas and Ohio State in a way, and get the best possible players that will view us as the first choice. Then, everyone else can choose after that."

It almost seems to be a reciprocating avowal of Kyle Whittingham's recent comments on 1280 the Zone.

Said Whittingham: "I think that maybe a school like Texas and USC and these guys that are in all the Top 100 recruiting across the country—maybe there is some grounds for it there to do the early commitment deal. But a school like ours that does not necessarily have an opportunity to secure those top 100 guys in the country, I think we have to be patient and see where the chips fall and make sure we don't get too many commitments early on and then have some guys become available later in the recruiting process and we're already filled up."

Was it a coincidence that while Whittingham declared that Texas and USC are top recruiting schools with "some grounds…to do the early commitment deal," Mendenhall declared a desire to be like "Texas and USC" as they press forward to get the best possible players that view them as the first choice?

Whittingham goes on to say, "Schools like ours…have to be patient and see where the chips fall."

Apparently, Bronco didn't get the memo. Somewhere in Coach Mendenhall's inbox is an unread email meant for the D-I whipping boys. It warns schools like BYU and Utah that they "need to be patient…and make sure they don't get too many commitments early on and then have some guys become available later in the recruiting process and [find they're] already filled up."

I don't get it. What is wrong with trying to compete with the champions? Just because they are the best, should anyone wait until they are done? Is there a NCAA ruling I have not read about? All this time, I thought you could recruit the best athlete you could get, regardless of your perceived standing in the NCAA.

If BYU is researching athletes, and getting commitments from the best of them, why back off? If Utah wants to wait for four and five-star athletes who will be overlooked or turned down at the last minute by the big boys, why stop them? It is obvious that Coach Mendenhall decided to leave the recruit gleaning to the underprivileged, the bottom feeders that flounder with the ordinary moderates.

This threatening behavior by BYU reminds me of the national sports media's attitude toward missionary service. As long as BYU is losing, athletes who serve a mission are nothing to worry about. As soon as BYU starts winning, however, missionary service becomes an unfair advantage.

Similarly, as BYU finds success in recruiting, the recruiting techniques become unreasonable for a middle of the road team.

The interesting thing about BYU's recruits is what attracts them to BYU. Look for the common threads from the athletes that have committed to BYU so far. All of the following quotes come from articles written by TotalBlueSports.com staff.

Eathyn Manumaleuna
"It just felt right. Just the feel of BYU, being there with the coaches, the players, everything just felt right. I was a bit nervous telling them, but I'm happy now. BYU is the right place for me."

Braden Brown
"BYU has a great tradition, great facilities and great coaches. It was founded on the Spirit, and I think great things are going to happen with BYU's program here in the next few years."

Kaneakua Friel
"It was the right place for me to go with its environment and because it was the school of the Church. I like the feeling of the Spirit when you're on campus."

J.J. DiLuigi
"I love it at BYU anyway, so traveling back there to tell them face-to-face just seemed like the right thing to do.

"They told me they were ecstatic. I talked a long time with them, and Coach Mendenhall let me know how pleased he was and told me again how he felt that BYU was the best place for me, and I totally agree with him on that."

Magnum Mauga
"Being from San Diego you're just one step away from the hood, know what I'm saying, but at BYU it's a very spiritual place without a lot of distractions, and I like that. It's the place I need to be and the place where I can best improve on all aspects of my life."

Levi Mack "I just felt at home there. The players, the facilities, the coaching staff, everything was what I thought it would be and it confirmed what I thought before leaving—that I'd end up committing and playing for BYU.

David Angilau
"I'm excited to play for BYU and represent my family back home in California and in Colorado. I'm really excited, and my family is excited, and I'm excited to play for BYU and represent the Church. I want to go on my mission and I know BYU will let you go. I'm really excited to represent my church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints."

Jason Munns
"Coach Mendenhall is just as straight-up as it comes. He doesn't mess around and he wastes no time getting right to the point. He was the one who really let me know about what BYU was. He told me mostly about the spiritual and educational things about attending BYU rather than football, which is something I like.

"BYU is the right place for me and the place that can help me realize my athletic goals, but more importantly my spiritual goals. BYU is the place where I can best achieve the things that will help me build and raise a family as best as I can."

Steven Thomas
"BYU is the school that will help prepare me for my mission the best. They have great academics and the type of environment that is important to me being LDS. It's a perfect fit for me and I'm just thankful that they extended me the offer. I couldn't be more pleased with my decision. BYU has it all."

Ryan Kessman
"I committed today. It just feels right, and I know it was the right thing to do. I'm going to go home knowing I made the best decision for me. I'm excited."

"I just felt welcomed at BYU and with all the players. Duane [Busby] introduced me to one of the players, and he just said that we want you here, and it just felt like family."

Manaaki Vaitai
"They just told me that I needed to do what I felt was right, so after that I had a chance to go back into [Coach Mendenhall's] office and explain to him why I've chosen BYU. Afterwards my dad was so happy, and after talking to Coach Mendenhall I felt it was the right thing to do. After I committed, it just made me feel like I did the right thing. I made my parents so happy and proud, and my dad was happy and crying. I called my mom back and told her that I had committed, and she was so happy and congratulated me."

Marcus Mathews
"[Coach Mendenhall and I] had a really good talk. We didn't talk too much about football though. We talked more about the standards that we have at BYU, and what the program stands for. We also talked about what kind of people come here. I felt really comfortable talking to him, and that's what you have to have between coach and player."

Scotty Ebert
"I've always been a huge Utah fan. They're really heavy on recruiting me this year, but BYU was too, and, I don't know, I just decided to be a BYU Cougar.

Austen Jorgensen
"I'm LDS, and I'm looking to serve an LDS mission, and BYU honors that really well. Their academics are really high and they're one of the highest in the country I think…They're really close to home."

"When I first committed to BYU, they sent a letter to me that said I would be a flag bearer for Brigham Young University. It said, ‘From here on out you will represent what BYU is all about,' and for me that's a big part of why I've committed to BYU. It means a lot to me."

Let me highlight some of the key comments from these commits.

"It just feels right."

"It's the right place."

"It was founded on the Spirit."

"It was the right place for me…"

"I like the feeling of the Spirit…on campus."

"I love it at BYU…"

"He felt that BYU was the best place…I totally agree with him."

"BYU is a very spiritual place."

"It's the place…where I can best improve on all aspects of my life."

"I just felt at home there."

"I'm excited to play for BYU and represent the Church."

"BYU is the right place for me."

"BYU is…the place that can help me realize my athletic goals, but more importantly my spiritual goals."

"BYU is the school that will help prepare me for my mission."

"BYU is…the type of environment that is important to me being LDS."

"It just feels right."

"I just felt welcomed at BYU and with all the players."

"I felt it was the right thing to do."

"We didn't talk too much about football though. We talked more about the standards that we have at BYU, and what the program stands for."

"I've always been a huge Utah fan, They're really heavy on recruiting me this year, but BYU was too and, I don't know, I just decided to be a BYU Cougar."

"I'm LDS, and I'm looking to serve an LDS mission, and BYU honors that really well."

"[BYU] sent me a letter…It said, ‘From here on out you will represent what BYU is all about,' and for me that's a big part of why I've committed to BYU."

BYU is not only recruiting athletes, it is recruiting students who want to grow spiritually, physically, and mentally. BYU is not looking for the four or five-star kids, the school is looking for young men who are willing to represent the LDS church and the BYU tradition.

If BYU is successful over the next few years on the gridiron, look for other schools to create their own mission programs, honor systems, and character screening processes.

Until then, the have-nots can start gleaning the athletic fields in late November.

-Rob James

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