After enjoying an undefeated Mountain West Conference season, being crowned state champions and blowing out the Oregon Ducks in the Las Vegas Bowl, 38-8, the Cougar coaching staff sought out a theme to help their players reflect upon what it takes to become champions and further their accomplishments.
This year the Cougar coaching staff settled on the simple theme of “raising the bar,” and from what the staff has accomplished so far in terms of recruiting, it would appear they’re staying the course of their initial vision towards future success.
Coach Mendenhall and his staff recently offered a scholarship to Utah’s only sophomore First Team All-State performer, Timpview High School’s star 6-foot-2-inch, 200-pound defensive back Craig Bills.
“Yeah, I received an offer from BYU,” said Bills. “Because I’m so young, BYU couldn’t write me letters or talk to me, so they did everything through Coach Wong. Coach Wong told me that BYU wanted to talk to me, so I went down to BYU last week and talked with Coach Lance Reynolds and they offered me a scholarship. They told me that they can’t talk to me, recruit me or write me letters until next fall.
“When I went down to BYU [Coach Reynolds] told me that they watched my tapes and that they were interested in me. I was really excited when they told me they were going to offer me a scholarship, really excited. I told him that I would get back to him about that.”
For a young man just finishing up his sophomore year of high school, receiving his first scholarship offer is probably a bit overwhelming. However, Bills expressed excitement that he has the opportunity to play football at his church-sponsored college where his older brother K.C. played and where another brother, Kelly, currently does.
“It’s a big step,” said Bills. “It’s just a hard decision right now and it’s really just planning out my life. I would have to just think about it and even though it’s BYU I just want to make sure it’s the right place for me. It’s just a big step and I don’t want to rush into anything. I just want to take my time and be positive about my decision.”
After receiving his first scholarship offer, Bills spoke to his older brothers about the recent developments in his young life.
“I talked to them and they just said to not rush into it,” Bills said. “They told me that if I make a decision to not look back and just be happy with what I do. My family was really happy for me and really proud of me. They just told me to make a good decision even though I’m a bit over whelmed.”
So what did BYU coaches see in Bills that made them want to extend a coveted BYU scholarship offer?
“I think they saw that I was a playmaker,” said Bills. “I think they saw how I’m always around the ball, and no matter where the ball is I want to get to it. I think they can tell that I just love to play football rather than just going through the motions.”
On top of Bills’ modesty, the coaching staff saw a hard-hitting, fearless defender looking to make a hit on anyone trying to catch a pass in the defensive secondary. Watching Bills roam the backfield of Timpview’s 4-A State Championship defense last season, it became apparent that his style of play is quick and mature for someone in his second year of high school football.
“I had 86 tackles last year as a safety,” Bills said. “I had six interceptions and 10 pass deflections and I caused one fumble. I wasn’t able to return any of my interceptions for touchdowns but that’s one of my goals for next season. One of our goals for next season is to go undefeated. I definitely want to get faster and want to get my speed down to a 4.5 and get my squat and clean up.”
To help put Bills’ talents into perspective, Utah’s 5-A All-State MVP Jordan Pendleton, a 6-foot-2-inch, 200-pound First Team All-State selection out of Bingham High School who signed with the Cougars in 2007, racked up a total of 89 tackles, five interceptions and eight pass deflections as a senior safety.
Bills plans on utilizing the summer months for improving his skills.
“I’m planning on going to the BYU camp and maybe the Utah camp,” said Bills. “I haven’t been invited to the Nike camp yet because I’m too young, but I am planning on going to the BYU camp.”
Although Bills doesn’t want to rush into a decision, he said that BYU is very appealing to him.
“BYU is my number-one choice,” said Bills. “It’s just such a big decision for me right now, so I’m kind of open. I’m interested in BYU, Utah and Colorado.”
Following his senior year of high school, Bills has definite plans on serving a full-time LDS mission.
“I definitely plan on serving a mission,” said Bills. “I am for sure going on a mission but I’m not sure what I’m going to do. I’m still pretty young and my birthday is in March so I won’t be able to go right after high school. I’m sure it will all play out when the time comes.”
Although he currently plays safety, if Bills continues to grow he could find himself being moved up to linebacker at the college level. During a previous interview with Bills, he mentioned that he didn’t want to grow any larger out of fear that he would be switched, but now feels playing linebacker in the future isn’t all that bad of an idea anymore.
“I’ve grown some since last year,” said Bills. “I’m around 6’2” and a half, and I weigh 200 pounds. I think BYU is looking at me as a safety right now, but I really don’t think I’m done growing. I think I’ll end up being around 6’3” or 6’4”, so I’ll probably get moved to linebacker. I’ll be ready no matter whatever happens.”