There are three wide receiver transfers joining with five high school prospects on the offense, but the largest focus in the 2014 BYU recruiting class came on the defensive side of the ball where the Cougar staff signed 12 players.
For Director of Player Personnel Geoff Martzen, whom Coach Mendenhall praised during today’s press conference, the toughest aspect was simply managing the recruits needed for the positions the staff needed to fill.
“You know it was probably just managing the numbers making sure we squeezed everybody in that we needed to, a tight class this year and next year, so fitting the right guys we wanted into those spots was the most challenging,” said Martzen.
The transfers coming in are both highly touted and highly capable players that will provide immediate help for BYU’s offense. Geoff Martzen and the BYU coaching staff beat out Oregon, USC, LSU, Utah, Washington State and Fresno State for the services of Nick Kurtz and Devon Blackmon. Kurtz, who was midyear transfer, is enjoying his time at BYU and feels his decision to come over Oregon and USC was the right decision for him.
“Loving it!” Martzen said. “I mean, Nick was a kid, you know, non-LDS, highly recruited kid that could potentially be a high maintenance guy and he’s been completely the opposite.”
“You know, Geoff is a great guy and did a great job of getting me to know more about BYU,” said Nick Kurtz in a previous interview with Totalbluesports.com prior to enrolling at BYU. “He stays on top of everything and really does a great job in helping to get you excited about BYU. He’s a great guy and he did a lot in getting me to want to go to BYU. I’m excited about going there and to get going.”
Jordan Leslie will transfer from to BYU from UTEP. BYU wide receivers coach Guy Holliday has a close relationship with Leslie and helped facilitate his transfer. Leslie will be graduating from UTEP this spring in engineering and leaves as UTEP’s leading wide receiver.
“Jordan Leslie is going to be huge,” Martzen said. “He was the leading receiver for the past two years at UTEP. He graduated with a 3.9 in engineering. He came out here and was out here for an unofficial visit this past weekend and fits in great with everybody. As far as how it went down I’m not exactly sure. I know he got released and then contacted us and we got him on board. Love to have him. I’m fired up for Jordan Leslie too.”
While the staff beat out of highly touted football programs for the services of many of these recruits, it wasn’t all smooth sailing for Martzen and the Cougar coaching staff. USC made a desperate push to persuade Fred Warner away and even Teancum Fuga thought about changed from BYU blue to Utah red late in the game. Needless to say many kids gave Martzen a few sleepless nights throughout the process.
“Oh, it’s ridiculous,” Martzen said with a smile on his face. “Yeah, it’s ridiculous. I think we had four or five spots open and then we had a couple guys drop late, but, yeah, it’s outrageous even for guys like Fred Warner who had been committed for a year almost. I mean he was even scary down at the end but we pulled him in. But yeah, sleepless nights… a few of them.”
However, seeing the fruits of his tireless labors is more than rewarding for the program. It’s a result that gratifies in a deeper and lasting manner that doesn’t end once the recruits sign their letters of intent.
“Oh it’s awesome!” said Martzen. “I mean a guy like Nick Kurtz, who I developed a strong relationship with, I personally invested in him. Like I would have been devastated if he went anywhere else. Now that he’s on campus we go and grab lunch and hang out and it’s been great to have that kind of relationship with because when I got here I didn’t know anybody. To have these guys come in will kind of be like more of a group of people to be around and associate with in the program.”
There were quite a few in the 2014 class that Martzen and the Cougar coaches were onto early. Players such as Trey Dye, Matt Bushman, Tyler Cook, Sione Takitaki, Zac Dawe, Isaiah Nacua, and Isaiah Kaufusi to name a few. Martzen understands that while identifying fits early and extending the offers doesn’t always end in the desired results it does have its benefits.
“I think on being early it won’t necessarily land the kid, but it will keep you in it with them,” said Martzen. “A lot of kids, you know, the first team that offers them it holds a special place in their heart. Even if they don’t end up going there you’re going to be in it till the end, so these high profile guys it’s important to be early because that’s how you’re going to stay on their list. You’re going to stay in their mind the longest. It’s all about staying in their top as long as you can.”
During the press conference Coach Mendenhall announced that BYU head beaten out Stanford in a head-to-head battle over Dominguez High School recruit Uriah Leiataua. Martzen recognized that as BYU goes after more national guys under his direction the later announcements might become more and more the case.
“That whole mindset of being on guys late, and having these late decision, is just the type of kids we’re going after,” said Martzen. “It’s different than in the past. You know, when you’re going after those national guys their going to decide later. They’re going to have more options and it’s going to be a tougher decision for them than a kid who was born and raised a BYU fan and wanted to come here his whole life. When you’ve got the Nick Kurtz and the Fred Warner’s, you’re going to have to wait out and find out if they’re really going to come. That makes it hard to manage spots but we squeezed it in this year.”
In the end Martzen has been able to draw upon his past recruiting experiences at Boise State and Alabama to help bring in what Coach Mendenhall said “might” be one of the better classes he’s had in his BYU tenure.
“I think it was just what you said just past experiences, being at different places and seeing how they do it,” Martzen said. “Then coming in here and seeing what BYU already did well and then applying what I’ve done to already what they do so well here. I think it’s kind of helped us get a step up on where we’ve been in the past.”
The most challenging part about the job is simply identifying those top notch caliber prospects in a recruiting pool that fits a unique standard both academically and in character.
“If I had to pick one thing it would have to be just the identification process,” said Martzen. “Finding the kids that are going to come here and, you know, kind of getting out of our comfort zone and taking a few chances on a Nick Kurtz kind of kid.”
The list of players Geoff Martzen and the BYU coaches staff hauled in for the 2014 BYU recruiting class are as follows.
WR Nick Kurtz: 6-6, 205-pound junior from Grossmont College
WR Devon Blackmon: 6-1, 185-pound junior from Riverside City College
WR Jordan Leslie: 6-3, 210-pound senior from UTEP
WR Trey Dye: 5-9, 175-pound freshman from Abilene Cooper High School
TE Matt Bushman: 6-5, 215-pound freshman from Sabino High School
OL Austin Chambers: 6-5, 297-pound freshman from Shawnee High School
OL Chandon Herring: 6-7, 270-pound freshman from Perry High School
OL Tejan Koroma: 6-0, 255-pound freshman from Allen High School
OLB Tyler Cook: 6-3, 220-pound freshman from Vista Murrieta High School
DT Sione Takitaki: 6-3, 240-pound freshman from Heritage High School
OLB Fred Warner: 6-3, 210-pound freshman from Mission Hills High School
S Kavika Fonua: 5-11, 185-pound freshman from Syracuse High School
S Isaiah Kaufusi: 6-2, 175-pound freshman from Brighton High School
CB Michael Shelton: 5-8, 170-pound freshman from Wakefield High School
DT Zac Dawe: 6-4, 280-pound freshman from Pleasant Grove High School
DT Teancum Fuga: 6-1, 280-pound freshman from Edison High School
DT Jaterrius Gulley: 6-3, 325-pound freshman from Hoover High School
OLB Uriah Leiataua: 6-3, 245-pound freshman from Dominguez High School
DT Earl Mariner: 6-4, 300-pound freshman from Washburn High School
DT Isaiah Nacua: 6-3, 250-pound freshman from Timpview High School
Congratulations to Geoff Martzen and the BYU coaching staff for signing another fantastic class of highly talented BYU recruits.