Jasen Ah You looks over the crowded sidelines inside BYU’s indoor practice facility and sees 60 recruits visiting the spring practice session on Thursday.

As the recruiting coordinator for BYU football, he’s had similar unofficial recruit visits for all six spring practices — part of his strategy entering his third year on the job since head coach Kalani Sitake gave him the assignment in March 2020.

When hired, Ah You told Sitake, in his opinion, things had to change if BYU was to get better. His experiences as the father of four-star recruit Chaz Ah You gave him unique insight as to what others do.

In a brief state of recruiting interview this past week, Ah You explained what he believes has been recruiting progress for Sitake’s program.

Since 2020, Ah You has witnessed success with both his initial game plan with “events” that have elevated recruiting.  Those events include winning more games, an invitation to join the Big 12, beating rival Utah after a nine-game drought, national rankings and taking advantage of exposure on ESPN.

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His initial approach was to prioritize approaching high school athletes who were members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, make a bigger push for in-state talent and continue to target “developmental” talent with measurables.

Ah You said all those strategies have been addressed, and now BYU will expand its territory to include more non-LDS recruits and talent that are more prepared to contribute the first year.

“We have to recruit players who are ready faster because of the Big 12,” he said.

BYU ranked 90th in recruiting by 247 Sports in 2019, 76th in 2020, 79th in 2021 and 53rd in this last 2022 cycle under a tweaked formula that takes into consideration transfers.

“I think we’ve come a long way from when I first started,” said Ah You. “We’re challenging for the best in the state, we’re going after the top LDS talent and opening up our footprint. 

“We kind of have it figured out as to what makes us different than everyone else in terms of what we bring to the table. We have honed in on our message. Recruits are loving what we are sharing.”

Not being a Power Five program was the last hurdle to overcome in connecting with top recruits, said Ah You. With the invitation last fall, it has opened a lot of doors, and so has winning.

The difference in recruiting as a future Big 12 team “is night and day,” Ah You claimed.

One of BYU’s position coaches recently explained the Big 12 invite changed things, and it was noticeable immediately how recruits perceived BYU. 

He also said BYU is seeing a trend in which highly regarded Utah and LDS athletes who went to marquee schools out of high school for the glamour of being courted and hype of signing days have been calling BYU to examine a transfer.

Ah You has seen a change the past half year in reception by more so-called top talent.

“Everyone recognizes us. We are getting a lot more interest from non-LDS recruits. I got a call the other day from Texas from a player with multiple Big 12 offers and he wanted to know what was going on at BYU.

“I asked him what his tie to BYU was and he answered ‘None.’ I asked what his tie to the LDS faith was, he answered ‘None.’ He said he is coming out for a visit. I said, ‘OK.’”

The crowd of 60 high school prospects and their parents showing up to spring practices is part of an open invitation for recruits to come check out what BYU is about. 

Ah You meets with them at 4 p.m., makes a presentation and takes questions. From there, they go to the indoor practice facility and watch practice. Afterward they can meet players and coaches.  Many choose to use that for a photo op for personal social media.

Ah You said he’s having more conversations in which recruits reach out — many of which they would never have had interest from. Asked about Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby’s prediction that newcomers to the league will reap recruiting benefits in Texas, in Houston in particular, Ah You agreed.  

“There are a lot of pockets of the LDS faith in Houston, and all over Texas, including Dallas and San Antonio,” he said.

“We are more situated to go all over the country and have a recruiting impact with our message than we were before.”

Winning five Pac 12 games in 2021 also helped. 

“To go 21-4 the last two seasons has helped,” Ah You said. “It is huge. We put ourselves on the map. Last year our guys played with a chip on their shoulder, and they believe they are just as good as they were before. It opened eyes.”

Ah You said it was huge to defeat rival Utah and get that monkey off the collective backs of the players, coaches and program in general.

“They are a dang good program and they have those type of players we’ve got to get to compete at a high-level of consistency,” he said.

“We’ve done a good job and the philosophy will change. Where we’ve gone after developmental players who take a year or two, I now need to get more year one contributors. The timeline has to be faster for contributing players.”

BYU finished a revamped locker room this past summer, and that added amenity may or may not be a factor to recruits — it depends on the player, said Ah You.

“It’s all part of the puzzle. For some, it is huge. For others it is only a part of it as they go from place to place,” he said. 

“To me, the locker room is a window into the school. It shows the university’s commitment to the football program and players.”

With the university administration extending Sitake’s contract and making more money available for strength and conditioning, academics and other operational aspects including salaries, Ah You said there is talk of sprinkling some of that to the recruiting staff — but that is above his pay grade as to when and what.

“Right now it is me and Jack Damuni and three students. That is our whole recruiting staff. We hope to have more staff members to help with things like this,” he said, pointing towards the crowd of 60 recruiting milling around post-practice.