We're getting more specific with higher standards than what we've chosen to embrace during the past seven years. So you'll probably see it slow (down) to some extent. How much I can't say, but if you do see a change, then it will be to slow the process down from what you've seen. —Coach Bronco Mendenhall
PROVO — With the 2012 signing class in the books, BYU is off to its typically early start on the 2013 recruiting class. With five commits already pledged to sign letters of intent with the Cougars in 2013, BYU is noticeably ahead of the past year's pace.
The first commit came from Brayden Kearsley, a Portland, Ore., native who committed last June as an offensive line prospect. The 2012 signing class was light on offensive linemen, but Kearsley, who had mounting Pac-12 interest, got BYU off to a good start on the OL front.
BYU's latest commit — Keegan Hicks from Bingham High — also plays along the offensive line. The Cougars now have two top offensive front commits very early in the process. BYU rarely struggles in bringing in top offensive line talent, and 2013 already looks good in that department.
Sandwiched in between the Kearsley and Hicks commits were Kearsley's good friend and safety/running back Dallin Leavitt, who is also from Portland; Las Vegas' Trajan Pili, who will play linebacker; and Mountain Crest's Moroni Laulu-Pututau, who will most likely play at tight end. Last year at this time, BYU had three commits before landing 11 more before the start of the 2011 season.
So can we expect the same rapid rate of commits on the horizon for 2013? History says yes but, according to coaches, the commit rate may be decelerated a bit — or at least the rate in which they offer prospects.
"We'll probably move a bit slower than we have in past years," said BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall. "We're getting more specific with higher standards than what we've chosen to embrace during the past seven years. So you'll probably see it slow (down) to some extent. How much I can't say, but if you do see a change, then it will be to slow the process down from what you've seen."
According to Mendenhall, the staff has the next three years planned with what BYU needs position by position. Given the influx of returned missionaries every year and the increased standards Mendenhall assigns prospective players, BYU is becoming more selective in the offering process with each year.
So how does a unique and refined selection process relate to fast-forming recruiting classes? It's a bit ironic in the face of BYU claiming a slowdown in the process that they're currently ahead of any pace Mendenhall has set forth in his seven years as BYU's head coach.
"The reason why we're able to (commit) so many players prior to the season is because the criteria that we're looking for is so specific," said Mendenhall. "You take the general rule of college athletics and many are looking for the same type of player. With academics and a conduct and moral code, our pool goes from very large to very small."
That small pool from which coaches select from are often prospects that have been educated on BYU very early and subsequently know quite early whether they want BYU or if they don't. Mendenhall presents BYU to recruits without much gray area, so players generally know fairly quickly if they want the BYU experience or if they don't. Subsequently, late-deciders with a bevy of other offers don't typically go BYU's way.
This year it might be a bit different, however, as BYU aims to hold a lot of the offers they'd normally extend over the summer into the closing months of the year.
"There's a lot of players still available in December who, after their junior year (of high school) — when we send out all the offers — they weren't a great player then," said recruiting coordinator Joe DuPaix. "They then go out and turn into great players and dominant players and yet you don't have an offer (available). We want to make sure that we're wise in that area so that we can hold a couple and save them for players who become dominant their senior years."
While BYU has their recruiting loosely mapped out for the next three years, what is likely mapped out for 2013?
With two offensive linemen, a running back/safety, a likely tight end and a linebacker committed, coaches are yet to address their most pressing need, which looks to be immediate help along the defensive front and in the defensive backfield. With four graduating seniors at defensive line and three more in the defensive backfield, look for coaches to hit the junior college market hard for these positions in the coming year.
Regardless of any unique needs and a tweak in the offering process, fans can expect the same type of high-quality players they've come to expect, according to the Cougars' coaches.
"We'll continue to bring in high-quality athletes who are not just great players, but great people — people who can represent BYU in the best way," said DuPaix. "We've done well with that, but we're continually striving to get better and every year we'll re-address what we do in striving toward our goal, which is to bring in the very best players and representatives of the university possible."