As one of the managing editors of this site I consider it my responsibility to be tapped into the constant pulse of the fan base and to be aware of inside information regarding recruits, current players or coaches, along with anything and everything that is posted about the football program in general. On most days I find myself reading everything from Cougarboard, Cougarblue and the Deseret News to competitor sites and independent blogs. That's my job.
When reading through everything from the moment the football team walked off the field in defeat against Arizona up until the end of May, the word I'd use to best describe the fan base would be ‘flat.' Sure, there were your perennial Pollyannas mixed with Eeyores and everything in between, but as a whole the excitement surrounding the football program was flat.
When comparing the collective emotion of the fan base in May to the felt emotion a year ago, one could accurately describe it as sharply declining. Declining emotion is obviously not a good thing for a football program.
June, 4 2009, Iggy's Sports Grill
It all changed for fans around June 4, as many a recharged and stalwart Cougar fan arrived at Iggy's Sports Gill in downtown Salt Lake City anticipating some huge announcements. I was tipped off to the event that was about to take place some time before the date, and to be honest with you, I was a bit skeptical.
Jake Heaps was to commit to BYU and commit in the biggest way possible. Make no mistake about the fact that he was and still is the number one quarterback prospect in the nation, or the fact that he's a tailor-made quarterback for BYU's system in regards to his abilities and experience. Jakes Heaps is all that and is easily the biggest commit BYU has garnered since Ben Olson or Ofa Mohetau the following year.
I wondered however if Heaps was doing it right. With his commit being made into a local media feeding frenzy, in addition to making it a national story, I was a bit wary when I first heard of it up until the time I saw Heaps take the microphone to announce his commitment.
Why would a 17-year-old kid want to put this much pressure on himself? Did he really understand what expectations he'd be creating for himself along with Ross Apo and Zac Stout, who obviously made the commit along with him?
I had met Heaps in person several times before June 4, and he's the type of kid that people immediately like and gravitate to. As I saw him take the microphone it dawned on me that Heaps knew exactly what he was doing.
Heaps carried himself throughout the day's event as if he were a redshirt senior entering his final year of college football. He handled all of his questions in stride and noticeably turned the opinions of many doubting media types throughout the day.
Heaps then went on to introduce Ross Apo. Ever since I can remember, Cougar fans have been wishing for the 6-foot-4-inch type of receiver that can run a sub 4.5 forty. Ross Apo is exactly that. The prospects for this kid are through the roof. One can easily put him in the same class as players such as Austin Collie and McKay Jacobson. However, given Apo's size, speed and overall skill set, he could well be regarded as the top wide receiver prospect BYU has ever committed over the past 10 years, if not ever. Yes, he's that good.
Enter Zac Stout. Stout is simply the perfect inside linebacker type. He's quiet yet very intense and confident. Stout could have gone to just about anywhere in the Pac-10 but chose BYU, where he'll join with Heaps and Apo in making BYU a national powerhouse. I personally can't think of an inside linebacker BYU has committed and then signed that brings as much ability and potential to the position as Stout does.
The significant part about June 4 in this reporter's mind is that Heaps made very sure that the day's events weren't all about him. Most top recruits would have made it about themselves. Heaps will play quarterback at BYU, which is a position the team will rally around.
What I witnessed from fans, players, recruits and even media following the events of June 4 was a rally around Heaps, but also around Apo and Stout. Heaps spearheaded the whole thing, sure, but he fully understood that to have the maximum effect that he wished for that he'd have to include other top talent, which he did.
All these kids have yet to play a single down of college football. None of them have even completed a full practice or even a workout with the BYU football team. They've done nothing. As the bigger media outlets that predictably turn their noses up to any type of recruiting news like to tell us, recruiting is hype, and they're right.
Recruiting is hype. But can those same reporters explain to the fan base or anyone else why every coaching staff invests hours upon hours in the offseason and during the season to attract the most-hyped talent to their program? Why is there a board at the head of the long table where coaches meet that keeps track of those athletes offered and those that are committed?
Recruiting is the lifeblood of any college football program. Programs rise and fall on the strength of the talent they're able to bring in from year to year. Players just don't show up. They are identified, evaluated, approached and followed up with over and over and over again. At the end, a wealth of time and resources are poured into what the big media outlets like to define as mere "hype."
The Heaps Effect
The obvious effect of the Heaps, Apo and Stout commits was that they boosted the specter of the BYU program. Many - if not all - recruits considering BYU saw it. They saw the nation's top quarterback, along with one of the nation's best wide receiver prospects and one of the best linebacker prospects, announce to the nation that BYU was where they were playing football.
Heaps timed the event just prior to Junior Day, as BYU was set to work out most of the top prospects on their radar over the one-day event. Due to the recent NCAA restrictions on reporters attending recruiting events and camps, I was unable to attend Junior Day, but the first name I heard from all those that did attend was Tayo Fabuluje.
Fabuluje is unlike any recruit BYU has had at these events. On Junior Day he was all the rage, and with him being so close to Apo, BYU was able to secure his commit. Does this happen absent of the so-called "Heaps effect?" You tell me.
Others fell in line as the momentum continued. Such exciting prospects as Teu Kautai, Hau'oli Jamora, Bryan Sampson, Manu Mulitalo and Sae Tautu soon followed. Whether each of these committed due to the Heaps effect is anyone's guess. But guess what? It surely didn't hurt.
On Another Front
Rewind back to just before June 4, as news leaked out regarding the impending commits of Heaps, Apo and Stout. A big change took place on the message boards. Pessimism turned to excitement and all anyone wanted to talk about were those three recruits.
The effect was greatly felt among the fans, giving the fan base as a whole a sudden jolt in their otherwise flat state and a collective hope that it will continue for some time. Yes, it was all hype, but this is the type of hype that builds programs.
What is more important, however, is recognizing why recruits from Heaps on down committed to BYU. Simply stated, they believe in the program. No, the program didn't meet most expectations last season and ended on a sour note, but recruits such as Heaps, Apo, Stout and all the others understand what BYU is, and they want to be a part of it.
BYU is currently attracting some of the best national talent around the country on the strength of their football program. When this group signs during the first week of February next year, most reporters that care to follow recruiting classes will have a hard time not considering this group to be the best and most promising class ever signed at BYU.
While June was all about recruiting, our focus here on TBS will soon turn sharply toward coverage of the current team and the prospects for the 2009 football season. As we begin to turn our coverage focus, it is important for all the fans that are giddy about the prospects of the 2010 recruiting class to realize why they committed in the first place.
They committed based upon the strength and potential of the current football program, along with all the other benefits that come with being part of that program. It's the current players, coaching staff and those that have now graduated and gone through the program that made BYU football what it is, as Heaps and the rest well realize. It will now be their charge to maintain the strength of the program and hopefully take it to new heights.