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Dick Harmon: New mission policy impacts BYU football recruiting in a big way

Published: Saturday, Oct. 6 2012 6:53 p.m. MDT

"It's a good thing. It will definitely give players and their parents something to think about," said Marty Haws, father of Lone Peak star TJ Haws, who has planned to play one year (2013) with his older brother Tyler Haws at BYU before missionary service.

"It's too early to know about many of those decisions, but definitely it could change plans for some," Marty Haws said. "Thing is, Rose has been recruiting with players telling him their plans for missions and he's deciding on scholarships, it's tough for him to make changes. If his recruits change dates, it will have ramifications for sure."

Generally speaking, for Utah, Utah State, BYU, SUU, UVU, Weber State and the state's other colleges, the new announcement means more flexibility in plans of their recruits. And they could all have to scramble if recruits leave earlier than expected.

Specifically, from a development standpoint, an LDS recruit may benefit from the earlier departure choice because he can accept a mission call right out of high school, serve two years and return and prepare for four straight years of athletic competition with a redshirt choice intact. This provides a big training advantage, but also allows them a chance to change their minds and transfer to another school upon finishing their church work.

This may benefit BYU, a school that has received LDS missionaries who originally signed with other schools. It even prompted NCAA legislation to penalize such decisions, if a player enrolls at that school before a mission. Recent such player movements include current quarterback Riley Nelson (Utah State) and safety Michael Wadsworth (Hawaii). The freshman quarterback who led BYU to a win over USU on Friday night, Taysom Hill, signed with Stanford out of high school, but never attended there before his mission.

It definitely means coaches will have to stagger their scholarships with coming and goings of missionaries under the new guidelines.

"For me, it won't change my plans," Leavitt said. "I now have a choice of going earlier than I planned, but I'm not prepared as I should be to living outside my home, and going away to college before a mission will help me learn things I need to know. It isn't a spiritual issue. I'll play a semester and hope to have an immediate impact in football before I choose to go."

When the minimum age for missionaries was 19, it placed many young men in limbo for a year. It placed them in a position where they could be distracted from serving missions with athletics, dating relationships, school and professions.

When NFL quarterback John Beck, a late-bloomer, played high school football at Mountain View High in Arizona, he didn't leave for a mission to Portugal until November after high school graduation when he turned 19. In essence, Beck then missed three full football seasons and, since he returned in November, it was almost four years until he got in a game atmosphere.

That delay may not have been the best for his football career, but it helped immensely in getting recruited because he grew four inches from his junior year of high school upon his return from a mission as a 21-year-old to BYU.

In BYU circles, there is talk that the new church announcement could mean there will be few male freshmen under age 20 on campus.

There is talk the average age of BYU athletes, a common criticism of the school's opponents, will be reduced.

Regardless, Saturday's policy change means things will not be the same in the athletic world where missionaries are involved.

Email: dharmon@desnews.com

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