Provo • Coach Bronco Mendenhall said there would be a subtle change in BYU's football recruiting philosophy shortly after the Cougars' 24-21 win over Tulsa in the Armed Forces Bowl, predicting the program would not aggressively pursue early commits as much as it had in the past.
Mendenhall said BYU would be "more selective" in the recruiting process, hold on to more of its 25 or so allotted scholarships per year a little longer.
It hasn't happened.
With most of the coaching staff on vacation this month to refresh before the opening of camp on Aug. 2, the Cougars have a whopping 20 known commitments from the 2013 class. These are the players who will sign national letters of intent the first Wednesday of February.
"Our intent was to be more selective," Mendenhall acknowledged at football media day. "What is happening is more and more really good players are coming to our camps, and then we see them and we know exactly that they are good enough [to receive a scholarship offer]."
Only Texas A&M, Arizona and Michigan had received more commitments as of July 1 than BYU. Since then, Georgia and LSU have passed the Cougars, according to Scout.com.
Monday, BYU received its 20th commitment, from Thomas Shoaf, a 6-foot-6, 265-pound offensive lineman from Columbus, Ind.
BYU fans who follow recruiting closely express consternation that the Cougars are perhaps settling for lesser-talented players this year because coaches don't want to scrap and battle for more highly rated prospects.
Those fears are unfounded, said Chris Fetters, Northwest recruiting analyst at Scout.com, a leading recruiting website.
"I am not saying 20 [commitments] at this stage is normal, by any stretch, but it isn't that uncommon," Fetters said. "A lot of staffs are trying to get guys in the boat right now, then kind of ride out the storm. It just boils down to the mentality of the staff, and how they want to approach it."
In fact, Fetters raved about two of BYU's commits he is most familiar with, Seattle-area quarterback Billy Green and Wilsonville, Ore., receiver Tanner Shipley. He said Green "has the best arm in the entire state" and Shipley "is by far the best wide receiver in the Northwest."
BYU recruiting coordinator Joe DuPaix seconded Mendenhall's notion that more, better players are showing up at BYU's camps.
"With the contract with ESPN, and going independent, it just increased our exposure so much," DuPaix said. "So you end up having more people who are interested in BYU. Then you add in Junior Days and camps and whatnot that take place in June; we ended up having a bunch of guys here who could play, and fortunately some of them committed to play at BYU."
Of the 19 players who have committed, only seven are from Utah and two are from the California junior college ranks: Kalolo Manumaleuna of El Camino College-Compton Center and Maatuau Brown of Cerritos College.
"It has been amazing as the word got out that we are going to slow down [on getting early commits]," Mendenhall said. "More kids have come to our camp that can really play, that we probably wouldn't have seen before."
Last February, BYU signed just 17 players, mostly because 12 returning missionaries are taking up scholarships that count against the yearly limit. Mendenhall said he has more scholarships available this year.
"We still have more [scholarships] left right now than we ever have, since I have been the coach, at this point in the year," he said. "I am almost shaking because I am trying not to [offer so many scholarships], and yet these kids are right here and they are very good players."
The most highly regarded player who has committed is Brayden Kearsley, an offensive lineman from Aloha High in the Portland, Ore., area who has garnered four stars from Scout.com. Kearsley, who gained some Internet fame recently when he burned a recruiting letter from the University of Utah and posted it on YouTube, has more than a dozen offers from some of the top programs in the country.
Most Class of 2013 commits in college football
The schools with the most commits in college football are:
25 • Texas A&M
22 • Arizona, Michigan, Georgia
21 • LSU
20 • BYU
18 • Alabama, Mississippi, South Carolina, Central Michigan
Source • Scout.com