Sorry this is so long, I was up the entire night working on a big project, and just switched gears to read some of the recruiting stuff ---
In the long run, my guess is that athletes that were supposed to become BYU players come to BYU, and those who 'vote with their feet' and go elsewhere, do so (or if they come here and aren't suited to all that BYU demands, they leave on their own or are forced to leave, wasting a schollie). Free agency is the most important and deciding factor.
Could it be that unfair tests are the make-or-break ingredient for a lot of athletes? And that athletes who feel entitled to glory probably won't fit at BYU?
Several examples that changed my previous worrying about recruiting ---
(1) Ziggy -- he was supposed to be here. He came, he saw, and once he figured things out on a football field, he started to conquer. 4 years ago, none of us would have predicted Ziggy and what he has done. At one of his last games, a TV reporter asked him about his accomplishments, and his comment was something like -- 'I'm not even thinking about that sort of thing. All I am thinking about is how much I am going to miss these guys I play with,' or words to that effect. He was meant to be here.
(2) Andrew Rich -- After JC, he was given a schollie to Oregon or somewhere and turned it down, to walk on at BYU and face the unfair tests he had to face. He was meant to be here, and it showed. Blue collar lunch pail hard worker.
(3) Ogletree -- His senior year in high school, it looked like BYU wasn't going to offer him, because there were bigger/faster LB's on BYU's recruiting board. Then, guys who had BYU schollies went somewhere else in the last weeks before Letter of Intent day, and Ogletree got the last BYU schollie that year, or one of the last ones. He cried. He was meant to be here and go through the unfair tests that the less gifted athletes go through, and led the team in tackles despite his lack of size or raw speed. Next time someone reports that BYU just lost some great recruiit to someone else, if Paul Harvey was doing the rest of the story (a few years later), maybe he would tell us about the 'lesser' athlete who did get that schollie, who then led the team in tackles, etc., despite his lack of measurables.
(4) Kyle Van Noy -- we almost lost him, but he manned up, paid his dues, and became a one-man wrecking crew (ask the Aztecs, for starters). When others could have folded early on, KVN didn't. He was meant to be here. Because of his obvious athletic gifts, we probably don't see or hear about the unfair tests he had to go through, but that doesn't mean that he wasn't also tested. When Ziggy was thinking about the guys he's gonna miss, I have no doubt that the highly gifted KVN and the wacko-on-the-field Ogletree (who was not so gifted) are a couple of the guys at the head of his list. How else does Ziggy handle that learning curve -- I personally believe that it is the coaches-on-the-field who have the greatest impact on new guys, even more than the actual coaches.
(5) Stratton -- one of several LB's who sounded like he wanted to be a BYU player, but came home early and thought the entire world would adjust, ignoring the practical fact that there are only so many schollies around and that they are committed each year at a certain point; parents who freak out when junior isn't coddled like he was in high school and then takes offense if someone in the athletic department raises an eyebrow the wrong way their direction, then (a) decide to go elsewhere, and (b) decide to make a big announcement at how BYU mistreated them, weren't meant to be at BYU. Had a nice career at Texas Tech, where he was meant to be. (Free agency is that way -- if you choose to go to Texas Tech, you were meant to be there. There are a few guys on the BYU roster who are so committed to BYU that wild horses couldn't pull them away, because they choose that path and are meant to be here. Conversely, the opinions of a few fans about where some athlete is supposed to go are completely irrelevant and meaningless. We don't own these athletes or their decisions.)
(6) Romney Fuga -- What a horse! A Nevada player took out his knee in an unfair test that made me so angry on the replay that I wanted to kick the TV in. When Ziggy is looking at work ethic examples on the DL, Romney was one of his best tutors. We don't have one of the best run defenses in the country and play Notre Dame almost even in South Bend, with little offense, without Romney anchoring that line and helping the LB's and Ziggy make plays because Romney is eating up blocks. I don't think Romney was ever tempted to go anywhere else, and each year there will be solid commits like him that the others build around. He was meant to be here. Precious free agency made it happen, because he decided to make it happen. He's one of the guys I'm gonna miss the most. Does his talking on the field.
(7) Uona K. -- went to USC after committing to BYU. Maybe he wasn't meant to be at BYU, until he placed value on the opportunity. Each of us have our teaching moments, and I don't begrudge him for following his heart, even when it caused him to choose USC. If he wasn't ready for BYU out of the gate, so what? He got ready, and we're glad we had him for his last 2 years. He was meant to be here, but only when he CHOSE to be here. All of the whining from BYU fans when Uona first went to USC was really irrelevant static, because he wasn't ready for BYU and he is the only person who could judge that. Why not respect that? WHy not respect free agency and the many unknown variables that each athlete deals with in his personal situation?
(8) Tysom Hill -- Cougs offered Heaps, and paid little attention to Hill, so he accepted the Stanford schollie, then went on his mission. Using his precious free agency, he decided to transfer. He was meant to be here, when he chose to be here.
Ziggy could have quit when Bronco first met him and said I don't know you, I don't trust you, but using his precious free agency responded positively to the unfair tests life threw at him. I have no doubt that the coaches through so many things at him so fast that it was unfair, but he chose not to fold or whine about it.
Rich could have quit, for this or other reasons when life wasn't a bowl of cherries for him morning, noon and night, but used his precious free agency to face the unfair tests of walking on, hitting the weights at 6 am like the other walk ons, and be refined by those tests.
Van Noy could have quit. Again, HE DECIDED to employ his precious free agency to face the tests and grow stronger in the process -- and along the way, be a diligent tutor of a raw athlete from Ghana.
I don't recall a lot of whining from these guys, even when things were unfair for them. Wasn't it Romney who said that when things were tough, he'd simply think of his folks. They had it hard. They didn't complain. They would just work harder. So he followed their example, and became an example to everyone on the BYU team -- including a painful unfair test of rehab that the rest of us know little about.
Personally, I don't blame any athlete who looks at BYU and says, 'I'm not sure this is a fit for me.' I honestly wish him well and am glad if he gave BYU a look, and don't hold it against him if he goes elsewhere. I expect there are more Ogletree's in the works, who would value the schollie or the walk-on spot that those athletes who were not meant to be here, don't value, at least right now.
Life and its choices are messy, what with people being on different learning curves and coming from different circumstances.
If college football recruiting seems messy, how could it be otherwise? Life isn't a video game. People make mistakes, including athletes and coaches. We're all works in progress. I think we can learn a lot from the non-whiners who come to BYU to play football and go through the unfair tests that will come their way, and eventually grow stronger.
I'm sure proud of the 2012 Cougars. Ziggy at the Senior Bowl reminded me why. I'm gonna miss seeing him play with those guys, because of the glue that developed between them, in spite of how varied their talents and skill levels happened to be.