Provo • College football recruiting is mostly about selling the school’s finer points to prospective players, but this month BYU’s coaches have also found themselves selling the chance to play right away.
That’s what a 4-9 season will do to a team.
“One silver lining of a poor season is that some recruits feel like that is their opportunity to play earlier, and so we use that,” BYU assistant head coach Ed Lamb said. “We were able to sell the idea that we felt like there was an opportunity for young guys to come in and play maybe earlier than if our program was on top at this point.”
BYU signed 14 recruits from the class of 2018 during the first-ever early signing period for college football last December. The traditional signing period begins Wednesday, and Lamb said BYU hopes to sign “between four and six” more high school stars.
BYU coaches received some good news Monday when Gunner Romney, a 6-foot-2, 180-pound receiver from Chandler, Ariz., confirmed that he will sign with BYU on Wednesday. Romney had committed to the Cougars last July, but did not sign in December and began considering Arizona State, which made a late push for the three-star receiver when Herm Edwards was hired as its coach.
Romney, an Austin Collie-type receiver, visited ASU the weekend of Dec. 15-16 and BYU last weekend, where he was hosted by freshman All-American tight end Matt Bushman. He had been leaning heavily to BYU, but solidified his decision during the visit and told coaches he will become a Cougar. Romney will enroll in May and plans to play for the Cougars in 2018. After the season, he will decide whether or not he will go on an LDS church mission.
Romney’s older brother, Baylor Romney, recently enrolled at BYU after a church mission and will compete for a spot on the roster. Their younger brother, Tate Romney, is a 2020 linebacker prospect who has already received offers from BYU and Memphis.
“Could have all 3 boys playing up there!” tweeted their mother, Jeni Romney, on Jan. 22, giving hope to BYU coaches who had worried for months about losing Gunner Romney.
“Every year we can only use the story that we have,” Lamb said. “Some years that is a bowl game, and having a great season. Other years, we had some new coaches that we could sell.”
Chief among those is new offensive coordinator Jeff Grimes, who recently got an in-home visit, along with new quarterbacks coach Aaron Roderick, with LDS QB Tanner McKee of Corona, Calif. A four-star prospect who will go on a mission before enrolling at any school, McKee did not use one of his five official visits on BYU, causing considerable consternation among the fan base.
Most recruiting experts believe that McKee was leaning toward BYU before the Cougars’ dismal season and release of Detmer. They now believe he will sign with Stanford on Wednesday.
Three players have committed to BYU since the early signing period ended: Lehi receiver Kade Moore, East linebacker Viliami Tausinga and Alexander Miskela, a linebacker from Los Alamitos, Calif.
BYU is still pursuing at least two players who committed prior to the early signing period, but didn’t sign in December for one reason or another. They are Lehi tight end Dallin Holker and Las Vegas Arbor View defensive back Isaiah Herron.
“Those that were truly committed got a chance to put their names on the line and finished the recruiting process [in December],” Lamb said. “For those that [didn’t sign], it doesn’t necessarily put them in a bad light, but it lets us know where we are at with those guys. It tells us we have to keep working, or perhaps move on with those guys and look at other guys who want to be with us a little more.”
As of Monday, BYU was 85th in Rivals.com’s national team recruiting rankings and 78th in the 247sports.com rankings.
The early signing period “really helped us organize down the stretch, and in the last couple of weeks we have worked hard to get the last four or five guys who we are still trying to clean up,” Lamb said.