Recruiting players to BYU is a “first second-time” experience for veteran SEC coach Jeff Grimes, who was used to intense battles while wearing the coaching hat at Auburn and LSU.
It was no adjustment at all for him to pick up where he left off after previously coaching BYU offensive linemen early in the Bronco Mendenhall era.
A mainstay for the Cougars is the LDS Church kid, and BYU's most recruiting success has come from getting athletes who’ve always wanted to play in a blue and white uniform. Utah’s Kyle Whittingham told ESPN 960 this spring that BYU has a lock on some of those kids and they want to go there no matter what.
“It’s a very similar approach,” Grimes said of his first experience at BYU. “Again, the key is finding the right guys who are going to be in alignment with what we ask them to do. Guys who are going to be a good fit academically, those who character-wise will fit with the honor code and help us win games on the field.
“I think if we go out and recruit to other minimum standards, guys who might fit the honor code, who might be able to compete academically here but know it’s a stretch, we’ll be asking for headaches down the road.”
This past month, like all football programs, BYU’s camps yielded a myriad of prospects and some were offered scholarships. “We brought in a lot of tight ends to camp and ended up offering two guys,” said tight end coach Steve Clark.
Within days of those offers, class of 2018 prospects Ethan Erickson (6-foot-5, 225) from Kahuku High in Laie, Hawaii, and Carter Wheat (6-4, 225) from Red Mountain High School in Mesa, Arizona, announced on social media they had committed to BYU.
True to a formula, these prospects filled a profile popular in BYU’s protocol. The NCAA prohibits college recruiters from publicly commenting and identifying recruits they are pursuing.
In a general sense, both Grimes and Clark discussed BYU’s philosophy.
“So, for the most part, we’re doing everything we can to find guys who are the right fit, knowing there are some who will grow through the process and learn along the way,” said Grimes.
“The key is finding the right guys. You have to take your time and work through your list. That only comes through getting to know guys over time. So it is really important for us to go through these camps, have kids on campus and get to know them. We’ve had a bunch of guys here. Some are guys we already knew, others we’ve made offers to and it’s been a productive summer so far.”
Clark said BYU had a “whole bunch” of tight ends come to camp, some for just a day and then went to other camps. “We ended up offering (scholarships) to two,” he said.
BYU can still sell the tight end position after so many success stories from Dennis Pitta to Chad Lewis and Itula Mili, and from Andrew George to the days of Gordon Hudson and many others.
Clark has a prime example on the roster in Matt Bushman, the team’s leading returning receiver from last year. “It’s that, and the school. There are still a lot of kids who want to come to BYU. I don’t think that will ever end. Many of them say they grew up watching BYU football and that’s where they always wanted to go. That’s a huge advantage for us.”
Current tight end star Matt Bushman, who just married Chad Lewis’ daughter a week ago, fits the mold of that portion of recruits BYU finds annually.
“He’s worked hard, especially in the run game and he’s due to have a great year for us,” said Clark. “We are asking him to do a lot more, especially with the run game.”26 comments on this story
The challenge is for BYU to chase, tackle and retain legacy recruits, get their share of the top LDS talent that Washington, Oregon, USC, UCLA and even the SEC is increasingly competing with Utah and BYU for, and pull in specialists who can accept BYU’s strict academic standards and live the honor code.
History tells us, at times, even recently, players who’ve served LDS Church missions, sometimes struggle to stay in school academically or with the code of conduct.
Some of it's easily accomplished.
Some of it's hard work.
Other aspects are becoming more difficult.