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Editor's note: This if the first of a three-part series examining the recruiting efforts of the state's three Division I football programs leading up to Wednesday's 2012 National Letter of Intent Day. Read part 2 here. Read part 3 here
PROVO — BYU's first year of independence coincided with Joe DuPaix's first year as recruiting coordinator.
The fruits of the Cougars' recruiting efforts will be realized on Wednesday — national letter of intent day.
"It's been a great year. Yeah, I'll be kind of excited when it's done," said DuPaix, who is also BYU's running backs coach. "I look at Wednesday as a celebration. I'm pretty excited to see Wednesday come and celebrate those guys that sign their name on the dotted line and become Brigham Young Cougars."
Last fall, BYU received unprecedented exposure thanks to its broadcast deal with ESPN. The Cougars appeared on the ESPN family of networks 11 times, which has made a big impact on recruiting.
DuPaix has found that after BYU plays on ESPN, the staff receives unsolicited highlight films of potential recruits from around the country.
"Young men are e-mailing and calling in very regularly," DuPaix said. "I think it's just the tip of the iceberg. I think it continues to build. As we play more and more on national TV, it's just going to continue to hopefully better our recruiting effort."
Added DuPaix, "the increased exposure has definitely attracted more recruits and more coaches and it has educated the coaches and recruits throughout the country on what BYU is and what BYU stands for and the success of our program. To finish in the top 25, obviously, is very beneficial as well … It's a big deal."
Increased exposure also "kind of increases the pool (of prospects) we can look at," DuPaix said. "They want to learn more what BYU is and what we represent. They want to come play here."
Recruits like knowing that at BYU, they will have the opportunity to play on the ESPN networks on a regular basis.
"The fact that we have an eight-year contract with ESPN and that we're independent, meaning we can play anywhere in the country, are great assets to our recruiting efforts," DuPaix said. "When you go into a home and a young man knows that he's going to be able to have his family watch him play no matter where he's playing, it makes a big difference. So that partnership with ESPN is a very powerful tool and it's exciting … It's been beneficial, needless to say."
BYU is expecting to sign "in the neighborhood" of 25 players on Wednesday, DuPaix said. The class is headlined by Elite 11 MVP quarterback Tanner Mangum and Davis High defensive lineman Troy Hinds, who is widely regarded as the state's top prospect.
As per NCAA rules, coaches cannot comment on specific players until signing day.
"We're feeling really, really good about our class," DuPaix said. "We're very confident with the players that have committed to us. Our coaches continue to work extremely hard and efficiently to tie up all the loose ends."
The Cougars are still targeting a couple of more players, a pair of defensive linemen — Snow College's Tenny Palepoi and Theodore King, a California high school prospect.
"We'll have to wait and see on Wednesday," DuPaix said of possible late signee surprises.
While Wednesday wraps up DuPaix's first full year as recruiting coordinator, he's learned that the recruiting process is a roller-coast ride that never really ends.
"It's been really fun, really exciting," DuPaix said of his job. "I've learned a tremendous amount. I think we have a football staff, under the leadership of coach (Bronco) Mendenhall that has the same goal in mind — that's to win football games at a very high level and bring in the best players that we can bring in. We have a bunch of guys with a common goal. It's fun to be part of that deal."