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Dick Harmon: BYU's football team could use a little Texas recruiting

Published: Friday, Dec. 28 2012 5:30 p.m. MST

Wide receiver Ross Apo is one of only a few native Texans on BYU's current roster.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

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It wouldn’t hurt for Bronco Mendenhall to get BYU back to recruiting Texas a little harder. Like the old days.

Let’s face it: California is close. Oregon and Washington are productive. Arizona can deliver a few good bodies. And the Beehive State is always at the forefront of BYU's recruiting and has become a very productive place to find Division I talent for instate schools and programs like UCLA, USC and Oregon. But aside from Florida, the most productive reservoir of football talent in this country is the state of Texas.

Recruiting, experts will tell you, solves a myriad issues. It masks a lot of warts when it comes to coaching, philosophy, style, league affiliation, exposure, rankings, bowl games and win-loss records. If you have the horses, you are in the race. If you don’t, everyone scratches their heads.

BYU might consider getting back into Texas like it did in the '80s and '90s.

Rival Utah hits Texas hard, real hard. It is a smart move. But today BYU has more resources in that state than ever before. Cultivating those resources could prove very beneficial.

Of course, this has to mesh with BYU’s unique recruiting pool, one that Mendenhall has reduced from hundreds of prospects a year to a more manageable, quantifiable and screened 40-50. It’s a group that meets academic and unique behavioral admission standards.

Back in the late '80s, when BYU beat Texas back-to-back and split with Miami, there were 18 Texans on BYU’s roster. In 2013, there will be about six, including receiver Ross Apo; two walk-on twins from the Houston area who have been on missions, Garrett and Mitchell Juergens; and linemen Teu Kautai, Manaaki Vaitai and Michael Yeck.

Back in 1986 there was one LDS Temple in Texas (Dallas). Now there are four (additional temples are in Houston, Lubbock and San Antonio). One report indicated that during a five-year period this past decade, more than 5,000 members of the LDS faith moved into the San Antonio-Austin area. With many Mormons migrating from California because of the economy, the LDS Church now has 58 stakes in Texas.

Two former Cougars, Gifford Nielsen (Houston) and Ty Detmer (Austin), have been enshrined into the College Football Hall of Fame and have always been resources.

Why Texas?

A few names here and there may do. Detmer, Nielsen, Brian Mitchell, David Nixon, David Henderson, Steve Clements, Earl Kauffman, Derwin Gray, Lee Johnson, Jim Freeland, David Futrell, Nathan Hall, Scott Sralla and Dustin Gabriel.

Texas?

Look no further than this past year’s BYU squad. The leading tackler on one of the school’s best defenses in a long time was former 4A all-state linebacker Brandon Ogletree, a prototype, smart Texas football player.

The thing about players from Texas is their training. From an early age, they are immersed in a myriad experiences through junior and senior high schools that give them key fundamentals and competition. Nobody has spring football like high schools in Texas.

When the Allen Eagles and Houston Lamar Redskins played for the 2012 Texas 5A championship at Cowboys Stadium, attendance was 48,379. That outdrew the Gildan New Mexico Bowl (24,610), Famous Idaho Potato Bowl (29.243), Poinsettia Bowl (35,442), Beef O’Brady’s Bowl (21,759), Las Vegas Bowl (33,217), Hawaii Bowl (30,024), Little Caesar’s Bowl (23,310), Military Bowl (17,835), and Belk Bowl (48,128) — to mention a few.

Alabama, which faces Notre Dame in the BCS championship game next week, has its pick of the best recruits in Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, Florida and Louisiana. But even the Tide found roster room for four Texans.

Notre Dame, which recruits every state in the union, from its native familiarity in the Midwest to the shores of Hawaii, has five Texans on its team.

That’s nine Texas high school players in the national championship game.

The Cougars could use a bigger presence than they have had of late in Texas.

Once they get that down, someone can talk about sending recruiters to Ziggyland, Ghana.

Dick Harmon, Deseret News sports columnist, can be found on Twitter as Harmonwrites and can be contacted at dharmon@desnews.com.

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