Provo • Of the 11 known high school football players who have committed to sign with BYU next February, only one is from the state of Utah — Pleasant Grove defensive end Zac Dawe.
Are the Cougars turning their attention to out-of-state talent, after years and years of stocking their rosters with many of the best players from their home state?
Not really, says new recruiting coordinator Geoff Martzen, who calls this year’s apparent shift more coincidental than anything else.
“In-state recruiting is still very important to us,” Martzen said.
The real trend in BYU football recruiting, Martzen acknowledges, is that the school will sign fewer players the next few signing periods — beginning in February of 2014 — because an unusually large number of returning missionaries will be back in 2014 and 2015, and that limits the number of high schoolers BYU can sign.
BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall said he saw this day coming — and began planning for it — when the LDS Church lowered the minimum age for young men to go on missions to 18, provided they have graduated from high school.
“Depending on if the guys [who have committed] go on missions first or play right away, we will probably take anywhere from three to eight more players is all,” Martzen said. “...We are in a great spot right now. We know the guys we want to finish out this 2014 class [with], and we have a good strategy in place to get them.”
Having signed a large number of linemen from the high school and junior college ranks last February, BYU seemingly needs defensive backs, running backs, receivers and a quarterback, but Martzen said coaches aren’t targeting a specific position with the three to eight scholarships they have left.
“It is important that we get the best player available,” he said. “If it is an offensive skill guy, then we need to get the best skill guy on our board. ... The same goes for other position groups, With a smaller class the next two years, it is important to get young men that are going to help us regardless of position.”
The Cougars signed a quarterback in February who won’t be going on a mission — Billy Green, who is not LDS — so it is not critical to find one this year. They have a commitment from Neil Pau’u, a senior from Anaheim, Calif., who played quarterback last season, but he doesn’t project as a QB in college, according to most recruiting experts.
“This is a great year for quarterbacks,” Martzen said. “While it’s not a critical need, we have been talking to a handful and are prepared to take one if we find it necessary.”
Along with Dawe, an all-state lineman and All-American wrestler, the prize so far of BYU’s recruiting class for 2014 is Fred Warner, a 6-foot-3, 205-pound linebacker from San Marcos, Calif. (Mission Hills H.S.). Warner has offers from five Pac-12 schools, including USC, but has continued to reaffirm the commitment he made to BYU in early April.
As usual, BYU isn’t targeting a specific area of the country, such as Texas or Southern California, Martzen said.
“Our coaches are split up across the western half of the country,” he said. “However, pipelines form naturally based on the coach recruiting the area and the LDS population there, among other things.”
Mendenhall talked last signing day about widening BYU’s recruiting pool to include players from socially conservative, Christian backgrounds who may not be LDS but can handle the environment and restrictions in Provo, and Martzen said that is happening.
“We have put an emphasis on identifying socially conservative guys that can get it done in the classroom, but that is applied to all the prospects,” he said.
BYU’s known 2014 football commitments
Player Pos. Hometown High school
Trey Dye WR Cooper, Texas Cooper H.S.
Zac Dawe DE Pleasant Grove Pleasant Grove H.S.
Neil Pau’u WR Anaheim, Calif. Servite H.S.
Isaiah Nacua DE Las Vegas Bishop Gorman H.S.
Fred Warner LB San Marcos, Calif. Mission Hills H.S.
Austin Chambers OL Shawnee, Kan. Shawnee Mission West H.S
Chandon Herring OL Gilbert, Ariz. Perry H.S.
Sione Takitaki DE Menifee, Calif. Heritage H.S.
Teancum Fuga DT Huntington Beach Edison H.S.
Earl Mariner DT Topeka, Kan. Washburn Rural H.S.
Michael Shelton CB Raleigh, N.C. Wakefield H.S.