I have a ton of former players, JT Thomas, the Fort Bend County area, who played for me at UTEP. I have a couple of former Alabama State players coaching in the Houston area and a linebacker, Eric Birdsong, who played for us at Southern Mississippi who is coaching in Texas, and I’ll be reaching out to those guys. I’m looking forward to it. —Guy Holliday, BYU receivers coach
This is the first in a series of columns centering on new coaches recruiting football talent for BYU.
Guy Holliday is doing something he’s never done in 20 years of college coaching.
You’d think recruiting is recruiting, right?
Not if you pitch BYU. It’s unconventional. It’s selling June and Ward Cleaver culture to Generation Z, or kids born of the iPad.
Hired as the receivers coach in offensive coordinator Robert Anae’s offense this winter, Holliday took off for Houston this week to recruit talent and work his connections. The new Cougar coach donned BYU gear, hit the airport, rental car and hotels.
But those items are old hat for the veteran coach.
It’s the presentation he’ll be reciting that will be so different. Before being hired by BYU, he was an outsider. And that’s probably a plus for Bronco Mendenhall, also an outsider when he arrived in 2001, to have an alternate view with different experiences and contacts.
Holliday is trying to find high school football players who will fit a certain profile. He’s going to tell recruits their academics will need to be more stringent than the NCAA’s minimum standard. Closest he ever got to that pitch was as a coach at Ivy League Cornell.
He’s going to tell prospects their ACT scores and GPA will have to be several ticks above what their teammates are being told that they need to get into an FBS program.
Then he must extract a pledge that the prospect will not drink or have premarital relations — a mainstay on most college campuses. He must ask the recruit to find a preacher or LDS bishop to fill out and sign an ecclesiastical endorsement, certifying the student is living a conservative lifestyle and will do so in college.
No other recruiter in the Big 12 — Holliday’s recruiting area of the Dallas Metroplex and Houston — is addressing that angle.
“It’s a matter of finding the right guys,” said Holliday. And he doesn’t see it as a problem. He welcomes the challenge. “I’m going to find guys who want to be at BYU.”
Holliday said it is a matter of him “doing homework” and finding recruits “ready to accept our values.”
Texas, said Holliday “is still a relatively conservative state and it’s a matter of finding and targeting the right guys and getting them to come here.”
By recruiting in Texas, Holliday will be returning to familiar ground. He believes he brings BYU his relationships with high school coaches he has built up for most of the past decade while coaching at UTEP and Southern Mississippi.
These high school coaches are folks he’s dealt with before as a recruiter. Many of them are also former players he coached in college.
I interviewed Holliday after BYU’s Blue-White Game in LaVell Edwards Stadium and asked what he feels he brings to BYU recruiting. He said it is relationships and contacts. His Rolodex.
It was a few days before I took off to visit my daughter in Humble, north of Houston. Her husband, Aaron Bales, coaches football in nearby Crosby. I asked Holliday if he was familiar with Crosby High School, an area that produced current Utah co-offensive coordinator Brian Johnson. It is located northeast of Houston, across Lake Houston outside of Humble in a rural area.
“Yes, I know Crosby,” said Holliday. “The offensive coordinator at Crosby was a longtime coach in Dallas, DJ Mann. He has coached in West Texas. I know him very well.
“I have a ton of former players, JT Thomas, the Fort Bend County area, who played for me at UTEP. I have a couple of former Alabama State players coaching in the Houston area and a linebacker, Eric Birdsong, who played for us at Southern Mississippi who is coaching in Texas, and I’ll be reaching out to those guys. I’m looking forward to it.”
Holliday said his experience at BYU the past three and a half months has been brief, but he believes he knows the nuts and bolts. He has had many people tell him what they thought it was all about; but now hip-deep in it with a spring practice behind him, he understands much more.
“I’ve really enjoyed football here and it’s been good for me. It’s all its been cracked up to be for me. People say it’s this, its that, but for me, it’s just been good. I can’t complain.”
Next: In hiring Garrett Tujauge, former head coach at College of the Canyons, a few more doors may have opened for BYU football.
Dick Harmon, Deseret News sports columnist, can be found on Twitter as Harmonwrites and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.