An invite to the Power Five party is paying dividends for BYU football recruiters.

Using membership in the Big 12 to recruit has definitely made a difference as BYU football coaches make their rounds, according to front-line coaches.

But will that make BYU’s recruiting classes jump from the mid-50s, 60s and 70s up to the 30s any time soon?

We’ll see.

But it has made a difference.

“People can’t use independence against us anymore,” offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick told reporters and a BYUtv studio audience. “We were sick of fighting that.”

Indeed, it was thrown in the face of BYU coaches through the Bronco Mendenhall and now the Kalani Sitake years.

No more.

And the change has already been measurable.

Running backs coach Harvey Unga said he noticed this spring while recruiting at high schools, coaches brought out players to him in separate groups. Mountain West-type players, Group of Five guys, FCS-type talent, and then what they considered P5 material. “They brought the Power Five prospects to meet me, so yes, there was a difference, at least with what I’ve experienced and what BYU is perceived to be.”

Roderick elaborated, saying that to an extent things aren’t much different because BYU is still going to recruit players who fit the program first. “In the past, there have been some good players that could have come and been successful, but were not interested because of the school’s non-Power Five status.

“There were a few who pretty much eliminated us from the start because they wanted to play in a P5 conference, play for a conference championship, be in the playoffs and play for a national championship.’’

Roderick said now there are a handful of high-level recruits each year BYU has a shot at. 

“It’s not like we’re casting out a national net and we aren’t recruiting like Alabama,” he said. “But now there are definitely four or five or as many as 10 recruits in that category that we are in the game with.

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“I know fans want us to get every single one of them, but if you get one of those guys this year and you get one or two the next year and one or two the year after that, the next thing you know you’ve got 10 to 11 difference-makers on your team to take you to another level.”

One impact player that fits this category is University of California running back transfer Chris Brooks. “He was their best offensive player,” said Roderick.

“People use whatever they can in negative recruiting. That’s what people do and yes, they’ve used non-P5 against us,” said tight ends coach Steve Clark. “We were invited to the Big 12 and beat Utah basically on the same day. Everything changed. The conversations changed. People started approaching us about coming that we probably never would have had a conversation with. It’s been huge that way.”

“We’ve come a long way in nine months,” said passing game coordinator Fesi Sitake. “We’d go down the road with recruits who love us and we’re doing OK with, and then we’d get the feeling that opposing recruiters have used that against us and it’s been tough. We’ve found ways to combat that, but the reality is now there is nothing they can put against us as far as the affiliation and the level of competition we play.

“It’s time to put it all together with what our strengths were before, playing at a school like BYU with its fanbase, the home crowd, the honor code, academic standards, teammates, amazing culture, playing on our home field before passionate fans, playing for a conference title and playing at the highest level. Put that in a package with the Big 12, and the Power Five label and it’s a great sell.”

Assistant head coach Ed Lamb agreed.

He used the metaphor of a salesman standing at a door and knocking, knocking, knocking.  Fans think if you just stand at the door and knock hard and long enough you can complete the sale on the highest-rated players. But if you don’t close the sale with what the customer is looking for, it is hard. High-level recruits want to play on a high level against P5 teams and BYU couldn’t add that to the pitch.

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“Well, what I’ve seen is that with some high-level players we’ve talked to in the past, that we’ve done a heck of a job recruiting with letters, contact, building relationships with, made the phone calls and coaches have built a relationship with the parents, in the end the common objection and comment has been, ‘We love the tradition of BYU, we love the coaches, players and campus, but I want to play at the highest level.’”

Lamb said that objection is now gone.

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Has he seen a difference now that they will be in the Big 12?

“Yes. We are now recruiting at the highest level because of future membership in the Big 12.”

Lamb said the current coaching staff has a real distinction now. They will be coaching a group of seniors who will never play in the Big 12. 

“We want to send those guys out right. We want to send them on the field with as much support as we can give them. That’s why, by design, we are not wearing clothing and patches that have the Big 12 logo. This season is about this year’s team. This is not the Big 12 this year but every remaining player, every recruit who signs with us in the future will play in the Big 12.”

BYU head football coach Kalani Sitake and athletic director Tom Holmoe talk during a broadcasting break during BYU football media day.
BYU head football coach Kalani Sitake and athletic director Tom Holmoe talk during a broadcasting break during BYU football media day in Provo on Wednesday, June 22, 2022. | Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
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