Provo • Fresh off a three-year stint at Navy, new BYU football recruiting coordinator and running backs coach Joe DuPaix insists he isn't the sole reason for what appears to be a subtle shift in BYU's recruiting philosophy.
It just kind of looks that way.
Having signed a nearly all-LDS class of football players in February 18 of the school's 19 signees from the class of 2011 are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints the Cougars' revamped coaching staff, by all appearances, has broadened its scope a bit when it comes to trying to attract non-LDS players to the school owned by the church.
BYU already has a commitment from linebacker Bobby Wolford, a self-described devout Catholic from Bishop Kenny High School in Jacksonville, Fla., and has made scholarship offers to several other non-LDS players, including running back Jamaal Williams of Fontana, Calif., and Jherremya Leuta-Douyere, a linebacker/defensive end from Servite High in Anaheim, Calif.
"I don't think that is just my influence," said DuPaix, who is LDS. "I think when you have a new staff that comes together, there are maybe a lot more ideas that are shared amongst the staff that kind of bring the new coaches up to speed. And then the new coaches bring some new things to the table as well. Collectively, we just really feel as a staff that we can go out and find the right kids, whether they be [LDS], or anything else."
All told, the staff has 12 commitments from members of the class of 2012 13 if you count Lone Peak defensive back Micah Hannemann, who committed last week but won't sign until 2013 due to a scholarship crunch. Eleven of the commits are LDS, but there's no question that the net has been expanded.
Former recruiting coordinator Paul Tidwell said last year that BYU coaches are targeting players from private Christian schools across the country that share many of the same standards and values as BYU espouses.
"We are looking for the best kids that will come to BYU, whether they live in a different state across the country, or whether they live right here in Provo, Utah. The point is to find the best BYU-fit football players to come to BYU. That might mean that they are LDS, that might mean that they are not LDS. Either way, that is irrelevant," DuPaix said last week.
"The key component is, do they meet the standards of what we expect at BYU, with the honor code being what it is," he continued. "Trust me, there are plenty of kids out there that are looking to play football with a group of guys that will live the honor code and that have high academic standards. We are just striving to find those kids."
Having more commitments than most programs in the country at this point in the recruiting process is nothing new for BYU under head coach Bronco Mendenhall. More than one-third of the players (51 of 146) who have signed with BYU since Mendenhall's first full recruiting year (2006) had committed by the middle of the previous summer.
A big reason is the importance the staff places on June's padded, full-contact football camps, including the one held last week and the one that begins Monday. The Cougars landed Hannemann last week, and are expecting to get a couple more commitments this week.
"Camps are very critical for us. They allow us to evaluate the young men," DuPaix said. "As you know, we are looking for the right kids who will fit at BYU the right way. We are looking for high academic kids that meet the honor code requirements and so to bring them out and physically evaluate them, and get to know them better, is definitely something that we prefer, something that we really like to have done. It helps us here at BYU."
At first blush, many recruiting analysts figured the widely publicized March incident in which BYU basketball player Brandon Davies was suspended for an honor code violation in the midst of his team's best season in decades would harm the school's recruiting efforts in all sports. But DuPaix said his experience has shown the opposite to have happened.
"The exposure definitely has been beneficial," he said, "because now when you talk to a young man, he knows exactly what BYU is. It allows us to identify the kids that are our type of kids, because they understand more what it is to be a BYU kid."
BYU's football commitments, Class of 2012
Player Position High school/state
Dylan Collie Receiver Oak Ridge/California
Taysom Hill Quarterback Highland/Idaho
Tanner Mangum Quarterback Eagle/Idaho
Josh Weeks Receiver Show Low/Arizona
Zach Lindsay Lineman Davis/Utah
Rhett Sandlin Defensive back Alta/Utah
Matt Hadley Defensive back Connell/Washington
Austin Hoyt Lineman Argonaut/California
Phillip Amone Linebacker Dr. Phillips/Florida
Bobby Wolford Linebacker Bishop Kenny/Florida
Steven Richards Defensive end Alta/Utah
Kolton Donovan Long snapper Pine View/Utah
Note: Lone Peak senior defensive back Micah Hannemann committed to BYU last week but likely will not sign until 2013.