Coach Peterson and past and present members Boise State’s staff first made their mark in the early 2000s. The last time BYU played Boise State was in 2004, when the Cougars lost 28-27 – and this is going to hurt given the recent loss to Utah – after a missed field goal late in the game. In that year, Todd Watkins and Austin Collie were newcomers to BYU’s offense, and since then Boise State has been able to bring many top-quality recruits.
“People say [the Broncos] don’t get the high-quality recruits. I just don’t buy into the high-quality recruit thing,” said BYU outside linebacker Spencer Hadley.
Hadley knows a thing or two about not being a highly touted high school prospect. He came from a farming community in Connell, Washington and played for a small high school.
He wasn’t looked at by local Division I programs such as Washington or Washington State. Instead, Hadley was recruited by schools like Air Force, Montana, Portland State, Brown, Columbia, Idaho, and, oh yeah, Boise State. However, his only offer was from BYU.
“Kids come out of nowhere and are great players,” Hadley said with a smile. “At this level, every team has players to play the game at a high level. You look at Division I-AA teams that have lesser athletes and then they come in and beat D-I schools.”
As the 2010 season began, Boise State had 26 former Broncos on NFL rosters. Currently, there are 18 former Broncos on NFL rosters. Many of the players that BYU will face on Thursday turned down other top college programs to come to Boise State with the perception that they could follow suit.
One is junior offensive tackle Charles Leno, another NFL prospect.
“I came in at left tackle and the standout name was Ryan Clady,” Leno said to the Idaho Statesman regarding Boise State’s first ever first-round draft pick. “That was like a little sales pitch they gave me. It was nice to see.”
Now NFL fans are hearing about former Boise State defensive lineman Shea McClellin, who was a first-round draft pick for Chicago, as well as starting Tampa Bay tailback Doug Martin, who was also a first-round draft pick. The interesting thing is that both of them were two-star recruits.
“You take a look at several years ago as Appalachian State beat Michigan,” Hadley said. “Some might argue, ‘Oh, they don’t have the right athletes,’ but at this point there are a lot of athletes out there that can play football. I never judge a team by what kind of a recruiting class they have. We all work in the offseason, we all get better and we all grow up. They have great athletes and great coaches and a great team.”
In fact, BYU backup quarterback Taysom Hill was recruited by Boise State, but chose Stanford out of Highland High School in Pocatello, Idaho.
“Coach Peterson offered me a scholarship and, you know, I was interested,” said Hill. “But doing the various things that I did, I ultimately chose Stanford and then ended up here.”
Another recruit that wasn’t very highly rated and that Boise State and BYU both recruited is running back Jamaal Williams, who has contributed a lot as a 17-year-old true freshman. Williams and Hill were three-star recruits.
“Coach Peterson never came down to Pocatello,” said Hill. “I saw, I believe it was, Coach Sanford who was the quarterback coach. I’m not too sure if he’s still there. I talked to him frequently and I talked to Coach Peterson. Like I said, they’re a very well coached team and very disciplined. Yeah, I liked them and thought they were great guys.”
So when the Cougars of BYU face the Broncos of Boise State, one has to wonder who is that next hidden gem that will rise up to become an unexpected star. It’s a common thread that seems to run through both programs and is a credit to the evaluation process of both college programs.