The relative value of recruiting rankings and star labels in college football can cause heated debate.
On the one hand, big-time programs often sign large numbers of highly-touted players. On the other, part of the reason that players get ranked higher is because they are being targeted by big-time programs.
Jasen Ah You, BYU football’s new executive coordinator of recruiting and player personnel, is a believer in the concept that bringing recruits who are respected makes a big difference for a college football program.
“I always believe that there are diamonds in the rough,” Ah You said in a conference call on Monday. “When I was at another institution, they did a big research report on whether star rankings matter — and the bottom line is that the guys do an incredible job of ranking and evaluating talent. I know our fan base is involved in star rankings and those matter. They matter to me. We’re going to go after the star guys, especially they are in state and they are members of the Church.”
Ah You made it clear that his plan is to aggressively recruit all of the best athletes who are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
“I don’t care how many offers a kid has, even if he has offers from every Power-5 school,” Ah You said. “It doesn’t matter to me because if they are a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and that is somewhere in that criteria, we’re going to go after them. Those schools cannot replicate what we have at BYU.”
He said emphasizing the unique aspects of the Cougar program is vital.
“There is a difference,” Ah You said. “There is a different feel in our locker room, on our campus, from our administration and from our professors. You can’t get that anywhere else. I’m so passionate about it.”
The bottom line for a football program is success on the field and only through success in recruiting can that happen.
“We can and will win football games but we need the athletes,” Ah You said. “We need those guys to come here, to come home, to come to BYU.”
He knows that there is a perception that BYU’s recruiting profile has fallen in recent years.
“There is a perception that the top athletes don’t want to come to BYU, for whatever reason,” Ah You said. “Maybe they are afraid of the honor code. Maybe they are afraid of the high academic standards and the academic challenges they are going to face. I want our coaches to find out what is important to the recruits, then it’s my job to showcase those things for them. Academics are a challenge but we have a strong academic support staff.”
He said he views BYU’s honor code as a strength, not something that should be intimidating.
“I love the honor code,” Ah You said. “That is something we need to put our stamp of approval on. That’s what makes us different. No one else has it likes us. We can’t be afraid of it. All of our players are striving to be honorable young men on and off the field and I think that resonates with families.”
One of the areas that he has focused on in the first couple months in this particular role is ramping up the Cougar social media presence.
“I think we were a little deficient,” Ah You said. “I’m not a big Twitter guy or social media guy but I understand that our athletes are. That’s something that is going to continue to ramp up. I would love to get as many as we can. We are working to make sure we pump out the quality and quantity of information we need. I don’t want to be left behind because other schools are able to put more stuff out than we are.”
He credited the BYU team for its hard work as they have done more social media posts.
“I have an incredible staff that I work with at BYU,” Ah You said. “We tried to constantly have 10-to-11 social media impressions. That’s the way we’ve had to adapt, maybe more so than we have in the past. We wanted to make sure we were reaching out and showing we were relevant. That was one of the biggest things we have done differently.”
He also is working to help the Cougar program develop the right relationships.
“When I stepped into this role, I did a lot of research on recruits, trying to find what they are looking for in a program,” Ah You said. “I wanted to identify what are the things that are most important to them. One of the things that came up was who was influencers on a young man. The first was the relationship with the position coach. No. 2 was the head coach. No. 3 is the mom and No. 4 is the dad. I’ve stressed to our coaches — and I think they do a fabulous job — but you have to be able to build relationships with these young men. We are going to make these players feel the love we have for them.”
Ah You also has insight into what it takes for college athletes to make the jump to the NFL, which is a huge goal for many of them.
“I’ve talked hours and hours with every scout from every team about BYU and BYU athletes,” Ah You said. “They all come in every year and love what we bring to the table. The NFL is sprinkled with BYU athletes all over the place. We may not have recruited in the past the type of athletes they are looking for but make no mistake about it: we are going after those athletes.”
But he added the BYU isn’t ever going to just be a pro feeder school with that being the only objective.
“We’re so much more than that,” Ah You said. “We offer so much more life-changing than just the NFL. If that your goal, we can get you there — but that is just one part of being at BYU.”