PROVO — From the day that he helped orchestrate a press conference at a Salt Lake City sports bar last June to announce his verbal commitment to BYU, it became clear that Jake Heaps was not only an outstanding recruit, but also an outstanding recruiter.

Heaps, rated the top prep quarterback in the nation by Scout.com, invited two other highly sought-after high school stars — wide receiver Ross Apo from Texas and linebacker Zac Stout from California — to join him in publicly pledging to BYU. Over subsequent days, weeks and months, Heaps has used his charisma and talent to play a significant role in shaping the Cougars' 2010 recruiting class, which could turn out to be one of the best crops of recruits in school history. National letter-of-intent day is Wednesday.

"When you look at the recruiting class that we're going to end up signing this year, a lot of it is because of (Heaps) and him going to work to surround himself with the best players and best kids possible," said coach Bronco Mendenhall.

BYU recruiting coordinator Paul Tidwell also credited Heaps' recruiting efforts. And Heaps, who is already attending classes at BYU and preparing for spring practice, isn't done yet.

"Jake right now is still in the process of talking and calling kids, even in the 2011 class that he knows we're interested in," said Tidwell. "He's a special kid and he wants to surround himself with the best recruits he can. His role will continue to be huge here for the next four or five years, however long he's here. I think he'll be a great recruiter for us. It matters to him. He takes time to get to know recruits that we're interested in and young men that are interested in BYU. He creates a relationship with him. That's a special young man who takes the time to do that."

That hard work apparently has paid off. According to Scout.com, BYU's 2010 recruiting class ranks No. 20 nationally.

"BYU is the clear-cut winner among non-BCS programs," The Sporting News declared recently. "The Cougars wrestled Sporting News Top 100 QB Jake Heaps away from Tennessee, Notre Dame and in-state Washington, and that kicked off what looks like a potential top 25 overall class ... This is truly one of the school's top classes ever."

Last month, Mendenhall said BYU's 2010 recruits are "the best potential class, based on talent, that we've ever had at this point."

This class loses a little bit of luster without Hawaiian defensive end Kona Schwenke, who committed to BYU last summer but reportedly had his scholarship offer rescinded by Mendenhall when Schwenke decided to take a recruiting trip to Notre Dame this past weekend.

Even without Schwenke, the 2010 class is deep, and brimming with potential.

Cougar running back Harvey Unga, who recently announced he is returning for his senior year, is impressed with the list of players who are expected to sign with BYU.

"Those are tremendous guys who the coaches have brought in. I'm excited to see all who's coming in," he said. "I feel like I know a good amount of them. Personally, not really. Film-wise, yeah. I've watched film on a good amount of them. This is definitely one of the best recruiting classes we've had here in a long time, in my opinion."

Headlining the group is Heaps, who led Skyline High in Washington to three state championships and posted a 40-2 record as a three-year starter.

What was it that attracted Heaps to BYU?

"I really love what coach Mendenhall has done," he told the Sporting News. "They're one of the winningest programs in the country ... I just love the environment there, the offense is great, and obviously it is a school of my faith (Mormon), so that is a positive."

Not only has Heaps encouraged offensive players, like Apo, to choose BYU, but he's also targeted defensive players, like Stout, as well.

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"Jake is just as eager to talk to a defensive end or a defensive back as he is an offensive lineman," said Tidwell. "He's a smart kid. He knows you have to have strength on both sides of the ball. That's just his philosophy. He's doing all he can to help us. We're not asking him to do it. He's doing it on his own."

As for Tidwell's assessment of this recruiting class?

"It's a special group. These young men made connections early through the recruiting process," he said. "They became friends through camps and through visits, through junior day. They've stayed in touch, they've recruited each other behind the scenes. The majority of them were friends before they got here for their official visit. I think it's a special class. Time will only tell how productive and how good they'll actually be. But our view as coaches is that it's a fantastic class. We're very optimistic about it. We think the future is very bright for the class of 2010."

e-mail: jeffc@desnews.com

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