BYU football: Has Utah's Pac-12 bid hurt Cougar recruiting?
Provo • It has been more than 15 months now since the University of Utah accepted an invitation to join what is now the Pac-12 Conference, and more than a year since BYU broke away from the Mountain West Conference to become an independent in football.
The football recruits who signed with Utah and BYU which will battle on Saturday in the annual rivalry game at LaVell Edwards Stadium (7:15 p.m. MDT, ESPN2) last February had mostly committed when those events happened a summer ago. But the current crop of prospects guys who are well into their senior seasons of prep football right now had some time to digest the events of last summer before making their college decisions in the past six months or so.
The dust has settled.
But the big question around these parts stirred again because it is rivalry week has been whether or not Utah's move has impacted in-state recruiting. Are top in-state players who might have gone to BYU in the past now flocking to Utah?
Like almost everything in this rivalry, it depends on whom one asks.
Utah coaches say they have; BYU coaches say they have not.
Both have examples, although coaches cannot discuss recruits until they have signed.
"Just to be very blunt and honest, there's been [no impact] at all" on BYU's recruiting, coach Bronco Mendenhall said. "We haven't noticed a single bit of influence because of the conference affiliation. If anything, the excitement for the kids to come to BYU [is stronger than ever]. Again, it is a very specific type of young man that wants to come here. But if anything, that [number] is growing."
Both Mendenhall and Utah coach Kyle Whittingham have said the schools don't go head-to-head for recruits as often as people think.
"In state, we go head-to-head for about a half-dozen guys every year," Whittingham said. "But out of state, we each have our separate entities. We have our places we hit hard and methods of recruiting, and they have theirs. We rarely, if ever, battle out of state."
Yes, but the in-state battles can be fierce, as was the case this past summer for Davis High defensive end Troy Hinds and Lone Peak quarterback Chase Hansen, LDS prospects targeted by both schools. Hansen chose Utah; Hinds chose BYU.
Hansen, whose father played at BYU, cited Utah's Pac-12 affiliation as one of the reasons he picked the Utes over his childhood favorite, but not the only one. Hinds, one of the most heavily recruited players in state history, cited BYU's uniqueness as a school owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as a strong draw, but also went out of his way to point out that he believes the football program is first-rate, BCS conference affiliation or not.
BYU also offered Utah-commit Hunter Dimick from Syracuse High, but faced long odds in luring the defensive end to Provo because he is not LDS. Davis High lineman Zach Lindsay committed to BYU last November, but is still being recruited hard by Utah and has been reported to be heavily leaning in that direction.
Despite the commitment of Hansen to Utah last June BYU's future logjam at quarterback may also have played a factor in his decision Mendenhall has steadfastly maintained that BYU's recruiting would not be affected by Utah's move, a point he reiterated during a teleconference Tuesday.
"I made a pretty bold statement before that I didn't think that we would lose a single recruit and that is not only specific to Utah, but to anyone because of conference affiliation," he said. "And that's holding true to this point."
Last year, Utah also beat BYU for running back Harvey Langi (Bingham), and Langi unabashedly said Utah's new Pac-12 affiliation factored into his decision. However, BYU backed off Langi to some extent after a brush with the law (a citation for trespassing) was uncovered. To this day, accounts vary regarding BYU's late interest in the Ute freshman, and whether it pulled a scholarship offer.
Whatever the case, Mendenhall said Saturday's game will have an impact on in-state recruiting.
"Oh, I think it has an influence," he said. "Again, the numbers of players that we recruit against the University of Utah [for] really aren't that many. There are a handful each year, but we recruit different types of players. They fit different systems, and they fit different schools."
Mendenhall said a year ago that he had never heard a recruit bring up conference affiliation while he was making one of his recruiting pitches. Has that changed this past year?
"No. Hasn't changed at all. Haven't heard it yet," he said.
Tribune sportswriter Lya Wodraska contributed to this report.
BYU's in-state commitments, Class of 2012
Recruit Position Ht/Wt High school
Rhett Sandlin Safety 6-3/194 Alta
Steven Richards Defensive end 6-2/240 Alta
Micah Hanneman Safety 6-1/184 Lone Peak
Troy Hinds Defensive end 6-5/230 Davis
Note: Troy Hinds had an offer from Utah.
Utah's in-state commitments, Class of 2012
Recruit Position Ht/Wt High school
Chase Hansen Quarterback 6-3/198 Lone Peak
Hunter Dimick Defensive end 6-4/240 Syracuse
Moses Folauhola Defensive end 6-0/240 Hunter
Nua Poteki Offensive tackle 6-4/280 Brighton
Austin Lee Safety 6-0/185 Alta
Note: Chase Hansen and Hunter Dimick had offers from BYU.