The neverending cycle of football recruiting

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Sarah Hill
Cody Hoffman jumps away from Notre Dame defenders during a 2013 game. Cody Hoffman came to BYU as a two-star recruit but played above his rank. (Sarah Hill)

Approximately eight months pass between one BYU football season and the next. Diehard BYU football fans must endure the off-season, but for the BYU coaching staff the season never ends.

“It’s 12-plus-hour days while you’re on the road living in a hotel,” BYU quarterback coach Jason Beck said about the latest recruiting period. “It’s a grind as you’re out there.”

Coaches not only have to think about the season at hand, but they have to be thinking two or three years ahead. Building a successful football program takes dedication and consistent effort from the entire staff.

Two weeks after the Blue and White scrimmage BYU coaches began a six-week recruiting blitz. The NCAA designates April 15 through May 31 as an “evaluation period.” During this time coaches are allowed to visit high schools to scout prospects but are not allowed to meet individually with the players. Coaches are permitted to visit a high school twice during the evaluation period, once for athletic evaluation and another to review a prospect’s academic credentials.

“You can only visit the schools and watch school-related workouts,” Beck said. “Whether it be practice or weight room stuff, or you go into the school to visit with the coach. You’re kind of under those restraints.”

Cody Hoffman is a prime example of recruitment gold. Hoffman was rated as a two-star recruit by most recruiting sites and went under the radar despite an impressive high school career. BYU was the only major program to offer him a scholarship. He broke multiple receiving records before graduating and is now playing for the Montreal Alouettes in the CFL.

Each BYU coach is assigned a geographical region to recruit in addition to their area of expertise. Coach Jason Beck is assigned to Texas with receiver coach Guy Holliday.

“What’s been great with recruiting in Texas is BYU has a great reputation down there, especially with the last couple of years beating Texas,” Beck said. “Everybody knows about it.”

While Beck visits schools in Texas, other BYU coaches travel to various states around the country. Outside linebacker coach Kelly Poppinga is assigned to recruit in multiple states, including Washington, Oregon, Utah and Arizona. Poppinga said the six-week evaluation period takes careful planning, organization and a lot of hard work — a lot like the two years he spent in Ecuador.

“It’s a lot like serving a mission, to be honest with you,” Poppinga said. “You’re out there sometimes just knocking on doors — walking into a high school cold, not really knowing who the high school coach is and not knowing who the players are.”

The most difficult aspect of Poppinga’s job is juggling the different components that come with his position. Coaches spread their attention between managing current players, preparing for upcoming opponents, scouting multiple recruiting classes and spending time with their family.

“It’s just nonstop,” Poppinga said. “There’s some days I’m at the office for 16 or 17 hours.”

One of the newest additions to the BYU football program is former Cougar receiver Justin Anderson. He was hired as the director of player personnel in mid-April. Anderson handles the marketing aspect of recruiting in addition to finding prospective recruits through highlight videos. Some of the film is sent to him.

“The skill is doing your best to make sure you don’t leave any stone unturned,” Anderson said. “There’s been several people I’m sure everybody has missed and also found that one diamond in the rough too.”

Coaches and other staff are always searching for great players who can represent the Cougars on the field, no matter what time of year it is. Despite a time-consuming and demanding workload, coaches and other recruiters love working to put together a winning football team.

“I told my wife the other day that I love getting up and going to work every day,” Anderson said. “It’s a great place to be. Great coaches, great people and great kids. I feel blessed to be here.”

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