PROVO — Just as he usually does on National Signing Day, BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall said he doesn't care how scouting services, or other schools, or fans, rate his recruits.
Asked if it's the best recruiting class during his five years as head coach, Mendenhall said, "It's hard to say before they play. But based on athleticism, size and speed and academics and character — when you put all of our criteria together, I think it is. I hope it's verified by how we play."
Mendenhall was eager to point out that of the 26 players (27 counting linebacker Kyle Van Noy, who signed last year but did not enroll) that BYU signed, 11 hail from Utah. In fact, the Cougars signed 10 of the top 16 players from the state, according to recruiting services, including the state's top-rated prospect, defensive lineman Bronson Kaufusi from Timpview High, the 2009 Deseret News Mr. Football, Bingham offensive lineman Tuni Kanuch.
Meanwhile, BYU's signees included players from places that aren't typical recruiting grounds for BYU, like Alabama (running back Drew Phillips), Massachussetts (defensive back Jordan Johnson), Kansas (defensive lineman Travis Tuiloma), and Georgia (defensive back Kori Gaines).
"To say we don't look elsewhere, I assure you that we do," said Mendenhall. "We have really good players here in-state. Really good players. That is where the majority of our class will come from."
Many of the players who signed Wednesday had been committed to BYU for months or even years. One of those, Kahuku High (Hawaii) defensive lineman Kona Schwenke, verbally committed to the Cougars last summer. But when Mendenhall found out Schwenke was taking a recruiting trip to Notre Dame last weekend, the scholarship offer was rescinded. Schwenke signed with the Fighting Irish on Wednesday.
Without addressing the Schwenke situation specifically, Mendenhall said he has a longstanding policy that when players commit to BYU, they should not visit other schools, adding that he takes verbal commitments seriously.
"I've only had three young men that told me they were coming to BYU and change their minds (over the last five years)," said Mendenhall. "One of those changed his mind and is at BYU (linebacker Uona Kaveinga, who recently transferred from USC). I make it very clear, please do not accept this offer unless you don't want to be recruited anymore."
Twenty of the 26 players on BYU's signees list plan on serving missions, Mendenhall said. Five will serve missions before enrolling, though the coach did not specify the names of those recruits.
While noting BYU's 2010 season-opener against Washington, whose head coach is former BYU quarterback Steve Sarkisian, Mendenhall said wryly: "(Sarkisian) tried to steal a couple of our recruits. He was not successful."
One of those recruits was quarterback Jake Heaps, the top-rated QB by Scout.com, who's from Skyline High in Washington. He, along with wide receiver Ross Apo, and running back Joshua Quezada, are already attending classes at BYU.
Mendenhall said he is excited about a number of players who were recruited years ago and are now returning from missions — offensive lineman Famika Anae, linebacker Tyler Beck, tight end Austin Holt, linebacker Austen Jorgensen, offensive lineman Walter Kahaialii, quarterback James Lark, tight end/defensive end Devin Mahina, defensive lineman Eathyn Manumaleuna, wide receiver Marcus Mathews, quarterback Jason Munns, wide receiver Jordan Smith and offensive lineman Manaaki Vaitai.