Jaren Wilkey/BYU, Jaren Wilkey/BYU
PROVO — During last week's Signing Day festivities, BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall talked extensively about the state of the program and the players that will help shape the future.
In 2011, the Cougars competed as an independent for the first time. Of their 13 games, 11 of those were broadcast on the ESPN family of networks. BYU is ranked No. 6 in the country in 2011 for the most broadcasts available to a national television audience, defined as the potential of at least 100 million viewers.
"The number of people that have seen us play has been absolutely remarkable," Mendenhall said. "Before, when I would go to the national coaches' convention, they would talk about our bowl game because it was the only game they saw. It was on ESPN and more people saw that game. This year, I had coaches talking to me about … our whole season because they had seen almost the whole season. … Is that worth the scheduling that we are battling and continuing to build? No question."
Added Mendenhall: "The exposure that we've gained has been a phenomenal experience for our program, for our fans, for the (LDS Church) and the families of our young people."
The coach also pointed out that BYU is one of the most consistent programs in the country. The Cougars have been ranked in the final top 25 rankings five times in the past six years and BYU is one of only seven teams to win five bowl games in the last six seasons.
"It's hard to remain consistent," he said.
What makes that consistency remarkable, Mendenhall explained, is that "at BYU, sometimes up to 40 percent (of the roster) per year turns over. Meaning, that through graduation and missionaries, we have more players come and go through our program than any other program in the country. … How do you reconcile that? How can it be one of the most consistent programs in the world, and have the most turnover? It simply means that the same type of people and the way they're prepared, are leaving and they're also coming back. Even though you have to manage it all, it just seems to keep going this way because of the type of people. … The good news about all that leave is we get a lot that come back."
While BYU officially signed 17 players last week, Mendenhall said he considers the 12 returning missionaries as part of the 2012 signing class.
THOSE PLAYERS ARE: Offensive lineman Terry Alletto, defensive back Trevor Bateman, defensive back Craig Bills, offensive lineman Tui Crichton, defensive back Jacob Hannemann, defensive lineman Bronson Kaufusi, wide receiver Mitch Mathews, defensive lineman Remington Peck, wide receiver Brett Thompson, defensive lineman Russell Tialavea, offensive lineman Fono Vakalahi, and offensive lineman Brad Wilcox.
Tialavea, Bills, Thompson and Vakalahi are all returning lettermen. Tialavea started for three seasons for the Cougars.
Fifty-two players are currently serving missions, Mendenhall said.
GOING TO INDY: Offensive lineman Matt Reynolds and defensive lineman Hebron "Loni" Fangupo have been invited to the National Football League's Scouting Combine in Indianapolis Feb. 22-28. They are among more than 300 college players who will participate in the annual pre-draft evaluation.
Reynolds, a four-year starter, started 52 consecutive games for the Cougars. He was named to the Phil Steele All-Independent First Team, Yahoo! Sports All-Independent Team, and the FBS All-Independent Team. He participated in the East-West Shrine Game.
Fangupo played just one season at BYU after transferring from USC. He played in all 13 games and started 10. Fangupo recorded 26 tackles, including six for a loss, three quarterback hurries and two pass breakups.
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