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Brad Rock: BYU, Utah recruiting still lacking dazzle

Published: Sunday, July 5 2015 9:41 p.m. MDT

Bingham High School's Keegan Hicks  signed a letter of intent to BYU  in South Jordan  Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2013.  (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News) Bingham High School's Keegan Hicks signed a letter of intent to BYU in South Jordan Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2013. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — Wednesday was college football letter of intent day and if you ask the head coaches of Utah's three biggest football universities, they're pleased with their success. Now that's a shocker.

That's not to say they signed everyone they dreamed of; nobody has claimed that since the invention of the Internet. It's too easy to check out their stories.

But they do say they got their share and that they're positioned for the future. That's fine with me. It's exactly what I expect to hear. I can never remember a coach saying, "Sorry. We missed out on a ton of players. We're cooked."

Excuse my skepticism, but I generally view it like an approaching big budget movie: Lots of buildup, mixed results and on rare occasion, brilliance.

Bingham High School student-athletes sign their letters of intent to various schools and levels of schools around the country on Wednesday. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News) Bingham High School student-athletes sign their letters of intent to various schools and levels of schools around the country on Wednesday. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

But most of the time it's just a movie.

This wasn't on National Letter of Intent day, but I still remember the press conference when Jake Heaps verbally committed to BYU. The downtown sports grill was overflowing with fans and media. There was Ross Apo, the receiver, Zac Stout, the coveted linebacker, and Heaps, who received an ovation.

Apo and Stout were strong additions but Heaps was a true blue chip. Now, he's on the roster at Kansas. Stout was kicked off the BYU team last fall for his involvement in a Halloween fight. Apo has done nicely, though he's no All-America yet. Still, he's the only one of the three that worked out.

Sounds about right.

Jeff Duncan of the New Orleans Times-Picayne pointed out recently that Super Bowl rosters were filled with players who weren't five- or even four-star recruits, including San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick. Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco was rated the No. 39 quarterback in his class.

That seems to back up BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall, who noted on Wednesday, "Based on the number of stars, honestly I never look at any of the (recruiting) services that have stars. I'm recruiting for stars at BYU, not the number of stars."

Maybe that explains the whole Riley Nelson deal.

At the same time, an Athlon Sports study in 2008 showed a five-star recruit is 48 times as likely to be picked in the first round of the NFL Draft as a two-star.

Alabama doesn't sign all those big shots for nothing.

This isn't great news for Utah, USU and BYU, none of whom got any five-star recruits on Wednesday.

So when I see Utah signed Connor Manning, the quarterback who broke many of Matt Barkley's prep passing records, I want to say "How nice for them." When USU coach Matt Wells announces on Twitter that he has added Rashad Hall, a kid with "home run speed," I'm going hmmmmmm. And when Mendenhall says he wants his team to be "the most complete program in the world — I didn't say the best, I said most complete," well, I know it's Bronco doing his fireside/football thing.

On recruiting day I get to hear where BYU is one of 16 programs ranked in the top 25 in five of the past seven years. And where Utah has 22 former players in the NFL. And where USU is back in the bowl business.

I wouldn't say the local coaches grossly exaggerated their positions. Mendenhall admitted he wished he had signed one more junior college transfer for his defensive line. Ute coach Kyle Whittingham said there was one player he thought was committed, but bailed out about a week ago.

Mendenhall went on to say that while BYU isn't for everyone, everyone's not for BYU. In other words, don't plan on too many superstar recruits. Whittingham noted that though the Utes are "holding our own" in Pac-12, it's still not out-recruiting Oregon and USC.

So it went on Wednesday. USU coach Matt Wells said, "We are really excited about this signing class and the group of young men who will represent Utah State University both on and off the football field."

It was pretty much ditto with the other coaches, too.

All of them talked about instate recruiting.

Whittingham said recruits "know the NFL is full of (Utah) guys not very highly recruited, not five-star kids, so it boils down to our own evaluation of skills. We're talking about projecting where this guys will be in three, four, five years."

There it was again. They're in the projection business.

Which makes me ask the same question I every year on recruiting day: Why all the buildup?

email: rock@desnews.com

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