January 5, 2009

Recruiting: Can BYU Get the Elite LDS Athletes?

Sorry for the lack of posts since Christmas.  Just haven't had any motivation lately to discuss anything in the sports world right now.  But it's time to get back at it with the Holidays over and recruiting season heating up.

But the question the many Cougar fans are asking lately is, "Has BYU reached its peak?"

Initially I would immediately say no.  But if you sit back and think about it, what really will put this program over the top to be a Top 10 program every few years and be a contender for BCS games?  We've proven that 11-2 seasons with Top 25 finishes are achievable, but what will it take to get over the hump?

What's concerning is BYU isn't landing the Elite LDS recruits.  The LDS church is well over 6 million people now and has members all around the nation, so it's impossible to land all of them but the Manti Te'o's of the recruiting world are guys BYU needs to land, and the past 10 years in BYU recruiting has shown were not capable of that.  Haloti Ngata, Sione Fua, Christian Tupou, Stanley Havili, Uona Kaveinga, Al Afalava just to name a few are some of the huge recruiting misses we've had.  The only one I can remember getting was Ofa Mohetau, but we all saw how that turned out.

If recruits don't commit to BYU early, it seems like their heart really isn't into BYU and they usually don't last the full four or five years.  Especially now, with the stricter rules at the school, since the glory days of the 80s.  So whenever I read stories with potential recruits saying they won't make their decision till Signing Day, its pretty much clear cut to me that BYU isn't where that student-athlete is heading.

I've always wondered, why is that?  Why wouldn't a big-time recruit come to BYU?  Its a program with a rich tradition, some of the best facilities in America and a style of play that they can flourish in early.  But no, the usual destination is USC.  The glitz and glamour of Los Angeles or the chance to be on the national stage is all these guys really want.  They also feel that these "bigger" programs give them a better chance to go to the NFL.  The NFL finds players that are good, regardless of school.  I remember a few years back a guy was drafted in the 2nd Round from Tuskegee college.  Tuskegee!  A few years back, BYU had produced the most NFL Draft Picks behind only USC in the West.

Recruiting has always been a favorite of mine, but its getting old to me how these recruits act anymore.  They go to these programs based on one-year success, a good performance in one-game, or if they are in a big city or not.  Its weird to me, that none of these guys look for the place that will best suit their skill set.  That's why I loved the recruiting process of O'Neill Chambers.

Didn't know anything about BYU until his high school coach, Tyler Anderson (former Cougar) mentioned to Chambers that BYU would be a good school for him.  Chambers researched BYU thoroughly and was impressed with the way they pass the ball and felt that he could make an immediate impact in BYU's offense.   He got on BYU's campus and loved every aspect of it.  This was a Non-LDS guy, who knew nothing of BYU until a few months ago and decided to choose BYU over Purdue and Florida, just to name a few.

Justin Luettgerodt a Linebacker for BYU was another impressive recruiting story.  He sat through the 3-0 loss to Utah in 2003, but decided right there and then to commit to BYU.  Most recruits these days it seems like would shy away from a school after a season-ending performance like that but Luettgerodt, didn't look it at that way.  He was quoted saying how he loved the blitzing and the defensive performance BYU put out and he wanted to be a part of that.  Luettgerodt was a Non-LDS guy as well and had a good career as a JUCO Linebacker.

It seems to me that BYU has some success with Non-LDS recruits when they visit the campus.  When they come out to Provo and experience what the program is all about they seem to commit.  But the Elite LDS guys we struggle with.  They act like their bored with BYU because they know what its all about and they weigh their options elsewhere, and usually wait till Signing Day to commit.  It's getting to be old.

The only way BYU will start getting these guys is if BYU goes to a BCS game.  That's probably one of the ways it will happen or someone breaks the mold and commits to BYU, with many players following suit.

Hopefully Class of 2010 recruit, Jake Heaps comes to BYU.  He has been stated that he intends to commit early to a school, and help recruit the best possible class to that school so he can be a part of a special team.  Pretty impressive remarks for a High School guy.

Then there's recruits who will keep their commitment silent until Signing Day, leaving a bunch of schools hanging and hurting their chances to get other recruits who might actually want to attend.

I'm hoping to see Bronco and staff go after more Non-LDS recruits in the future, that would be good fits at BYU.  Not everyone wants to party and drink.  There are good guys out there who want a great education and play at a big-time program.  Gotta take more chances, because banking on these upper-tier LDS guys is becoming a joke if you ask me.

What do you think Cougar fans?  Post your thoughts in the comments section.


Anonymous said...

Great to have you back posting. I like to read your blogs because it is very informative on recruiting. I agree, but I think that BYU currently is making progress. keep up the posts!

The Tuck Man said...

Getting the elite (LDS or not) has concerned me. Would absolutely love to see that change. I believe in time it will. Love reading your blog! Keep up the great work. You do a great job!

Jerry said...

I feel like BYU will never again have the monopoly on the top LDS athletes as in the past, nor do I believe they should. In the past, BYU had an advantage over other schools because they allowed/encouraged the mission and it also provided a good LDS environment.

Now, most schools understand the mission aspect and "allow" the athlete to go.

Also, LDS Institute programs have grown and there are more LDS coaches out there. Ex. Norm Chow out at UCLA. So players can have a good spiritual environment at most major universities across the country.

And I don't want the top athletes to feel obligated to attend BYU; I want them to go where they feel they will be successful. Obviously, as a BYU fan, I want them all to choose BYU, don't get me wrong. But, I root for these guys wherever they go (outside of Utah, of course). We all have family/friends/classmates who go to other schools and root for them at appropriate times. Hey, Sakoda was from my hometown of San Jose, so I was happy to see players from the Bay Area succeed.

I see the recruiting choice as a career decision. As much as I love BYU, BYU sports, the campus, the school, the environment, the city of Provo, the mountains and everything else, it is not right for everyone.

For this reason, I like Bronco's style of recruiting. He basically is looking for the athlete who is passionate about coming to BYU and will work hard. He lays out the rules for BYU, gives the player an honest estimation of where they will fit in, then lets the player go from there. I also like how he holds the "redshirt" assignment until the end of the season as a reward for those players who have worked hard. Does anyone else know of a team that has this policy - to hold redshirt announcements until the end of the season?

I still don't know who redshirted on our team this year...

Bradpetehoops said...

Asi Taulava BYU-H currently playing in Philippines Basketball Association. One-time MVP in the league. Kai Villa former PBA player, too. From BYU-H, also. Have a nice day.