PROVO — With the commitment of Davis High's Troy Hinds, the 2012 BYU signing class looks to rival the signing class of 2010. That year, BYU added the nation’s top-ranked quarterback recruit in Jake Heaps among other blue-chippers on their way to a 22-ranking nationally by scout.com.
Hinds' commit vaulted BYU up to a 30th-ranking nationally, according to scout.com, which it bases on a class‘s collective star rankings. Hinds, being rated as a four-star prospect, obviously made for BYU’s leap of seven spots just by his commit.
It’s unclear if BYU will be able to improve much on that ranking as the scholarship spots are close to being full for the 2012 year, with 16 commits. Regardless of what else BYU is able to bring in, 2012 is shaping up to be a very strong class.
One of the bigger recruits still on BYU’s board is Pleasant Grove’s Brandon Fanaika. Recently, Fanaika spent most of a weekend with the first commit of 2013, Brayden Kearsley, who is doing his best to help secure his commitment to BYU.
Kearsley, who is from Portland, Ore., first became acquainted with Fanaika during BYU’s junior day, which was the day they both received their offers from the BYU staff. Since that time, they’ve kept in close contact and have become good friends.
“I text him, call him or whatever at least once a week,” said Kearsley. “We get along real well, and we’re just good friends. I obviously would like him to come play with me at BYU, and I’m working on convincing him, but more than anything, we’re just good friends."
Kearsley, like Fanaika, is an offensive line recruit, but unlike Fanaika, he chose to short-circuit the recruiting process by committing to BYU the second he was offered. In doing so, he made himself the first commit of 2013, which is something he’s very excited about.
“Being the first commit, it allows me a chance to get started early in helping get the best players I can to BYU,” he said. “It’s important to me and any player to play with the best, and that’s what I’m trying to do.”
Recently, Kearsley and his family made the trip to Provo to visit his sister, who had just had a baby. Before his trip, he mentioned to Fanaika that he’d be in town and that they should get together and hang out.
“We only planned on meeting up for one day, but we ended up hanging out together for practically the entire time I was in Provo,” said the 6-foot-5, 277-pound Kearsley. “When I mentioned to him that I was going to BYU’s first practice on Saturday, he agreed to come and really liked it.”
Fanaika has always had a genuine interest in BYU, and according to Kearsley, that interest grew over this past weekend.
“He told me that it’s probably now down to Stanford and BYU, but we’ll see,” he said. “I really want him here, because he’s obviously a great player that can help us, but even more so, we’re good friends, and we get along great. It’s important to get along.”
Kearsley hasn’t just set his sights on Fanaika though. He’s been out recruiting as much as possible since the day he committed to BYU coaches back in early June.
In doing as much, he’s taking a page from Jake Heaps, who took that initiative for the 2010 class, right after he committed in June 2009. Heaps was sort of the pioneer at BYU in taking upon himself the mantel of heading the recruitment efforts among those yet to sign with the program.
In doing so, Heaps was able to help out big-time in getting together one of the top classes ever signed by BYU.
“Taking the initiative of helping recruit players is something I did because it mattered to me who I was going to play with at the next level,” said Heaps. “I would think that anyone who wants to play with the best possible talent, and I don’t know many players that don’t want that, would take that initiative. It thrills me to death knowing that others are taking that same initiative I did, or at least trying to do so.”
Kearsley is indeed doing his best to mirror Heaps, along with other Cougar commits, most notably Butch Pau’u and Dylan Collie. All three of them established at least some contact with Hinds and aim to get in contact with many more before they sign with BYU.
“It’s not an easy thing, it really isn’t,” said Heaps. “You have to put yourself out there, contact players that you’ve never met before, but to me, it’s so important to do. It’s not just important because you want good players, but it was probably even more important to me to build good, strong relationships with guys before we even showed up at BYU.”
So what is the best way to go about it? The top recruits receive calls from all sorts of coaches, and most of them generally get sick of a lot of it.
“You definitely don’t want to come across as another coach,” said Heaps. “That’s the last thing you want to do, because they’ll just tune that out. What I tried to do was to just talk to them about what they were going through. I wouldn’t push BYU to them, and give speeches about how it was the greatest program ever. To be honest, I wouldn’t even tell them to come to BYU. I just wanted them to know that I’d have their back and I would be their friend and support them no matter where they went. I’d obviously speak as highly as I could about BYU when they asked, but it was very important to me, and I think a smart thing, to not push BYU on them.”
Through his efforts, Heaps was able to build strong relationships with most of the incoming recruits of 2010, most notably Ross Apo, Zac Stout and Kyle Van Noy. Now that they’re into their second year, he believes that they’re benefiting from those early established relationships.
“It’s so important to be close as a team, to trust each other and to believe in each other,” he said. “We all came to BYU with a common goal, and having established that long before we even got to BYU, that was huge. I feel that we’re that much farther along now that we had established those relationships beforehand.”
It’s yet to be seen how successful Kearsley and others will be in helping attract the type of talent to the program that Heaps did, but for Kearsley, he likes his odds.
“I have a very good head start in doing it, having committed early,” he said. “Being the first commit of 2013, I think that’s sort of my responsibility, and I’m working very hard in doing it. Every recruit, every teammate I talk to, I make sure that I tell them that I’m going to BYU and let them know about BYU.”
For Heaps, he strongly supports Kearsley in his efforts, and anyone else who is willing to take the same initiative that he is.
“I love BYU,” said Heaps. “I love the teammates we were able to get here, and it excites me to hear about others helping to bring in other top athletes that I may get a chance to play with. Even if a lot of those guys serve missions, and I don’t get that chance, I still want to see it because I want to see BYU succeed, even when I’m gone.”