Provo, UT (U-WIRE) -- BYU head football coach Bronco Mendenhall announced the signing of 17 new recruits for the 2005 season Wednesday in the Cougar Room at LaVell Edwards Stadium.
This year's class, which is considered by some analysts to be the best in the Mountain West Conference, included nine defensive players, seven offensive players and one punter.
"I like who they are athletically, but more importantly I like who they are as people," Mendenhall said. "I like what they represent and I like how much they want to play here."
Mendenhall said BYU coaches looked for players of the highest character with great athleticism and desire. They also looked for players who love to play the game and are passionate about BYU.
"As these young men sat in my office, it wasn't me recruiting them," Mendenhall said. "It was just the opposite, it was them recruiting me."
Four players signed from local Timpview High School: Running back Harvey Unga, offensive lineman Matt Reynolds, wide receiver Luke Ashworth and defensive back Stephen Covey. Reynolds, along with Spencer Hafoka from Kahuku High School in Hawaii, is expected to serve a mission before suiting up for the Cougars.
After expressing confidence in the current offensive personnel and talent, Mendenhall said the first need was filling positions in the defensive secondary. Covey played quarterback at Timpview, but will play defensive back for at least his first year at BYU in order to fill that need.
Unga, who was swayed away from a verbal commitment to Utah, is considered a strong, powerful running back.
"He was the one we wanted," said recruiting coordinator Paul Tidwell.
Tidwell also said the Cougars are excited to have Russell Tialavea, who he considers to be one of the top defensive linemen in the country.
Others who are expected to make an immediate impact next season include defensive back Cade Hulbert, who Mendenhall called "the fastest kid in Idaho," and Vic So'oto, a 225-pound tight end from Carlsbad, Calif.
All of the players recruited by BYU went through a recruiting process that emphasized the Honor Code. Each recruit had to have an ecclesiastical endorsement before they were allowed to visit campus. Once the recruits came onto campus, they first met with the dean of students or an ecclesiastical leader before they met with Mendenhall.
Mendenhall said he is confident that this recruiting class understands what BYU is about.
"They've been turned upside down, inside out, shaken sideways; they're passionate about playing for BYU," said the new head coach. "They know what this place is about, they've been told in advance and they still want to come and they want to represent this place."
This emphasis on the Honor Code has led the coaches to place their priorities on first recruiting the talented Latter-Day Saint players from around the country and then building around that foundation. Fifteen of the 17 players in this year's class are LDS, and six of the players are from Utah.
Mendenhall, who has developed a reputation for being disciplined and intense, said he is committed to ensuring that the football team is aligned with the mission of the university.
"I will not, as a steward over this program, have a standard of letting young men be part of what you represent as well, unless I think they're going to do it right," he told the audience of over 600 boosters and media.
Fans are also buying into the Mendenhall philosophy.
"It seems like he is generating an enthusiasm that was lacking previously," said Milton Backman, a season ticket holder for over 20 years. "I think there will be real enthusiasm because I think we'll have a much better team."
Much of Wednesday's press conference involved the theme of building on a strong football tradition. Mendenhall said it is his intent to bring the team back to the glory days.
"Three losing seasons -- to me that's in the past," he said. "I'm talking about 30 years of tradition before that we have to return to."
(C) 2004 The Daily Universe via U-WIRE
BYU head football coach Bronco Mendenhall talks about the new recruits. Coach Mendenhall stressed the importance of building the future on the Spirit.