About a year ago I wrote a post titled Bronco Mendenhall's NFL Draft Problem. BYU had just been shut out of its second straight NFL draft at the time and my post was on how disconcerting that was for the program.
This year things have changed. Ziggy Ansah was the #5 pick in the draft and he brought a ton of attention to BYU. Ziggy's stunning rise up the draft boards was terrific for the program. Less terrific was that fact that Ziggy was the only Cougar drafted in 2013. But several BYU guys were picked up on free agent contracts after the draft concluded so that is good for them and good for the program -- especially if those guys make teams.
Bronco on getting guys into The League
Here is the question: Is helping his players get into the NFL truly a priority for Bronco? In a recent interview with Jeff Call of the Deseret News, Bronco emphatically answered that question himself:
I think I'm probably as passionate, if not more passionate, as anyone in the country in wanting to help our players reach the NFL.
Welp, there you have it. Bronco is all in. That is good news for the BYU football program because elite college football teams must have NFL-level talent on them. All of the great teams in BYU's past had future NFL players liberally sprinkled throughout the roster and all of the great teams in BYU's future will too.
Preparing BYU players for the NFL draft
From where I sit it appears that BYU is making important changes to better prepare players for the NFL draft. Here are a few of the things BYU seems to be improving on:
- Better training, teaching, and techniques: From what I hear, BYU has been bringing in high quality outside consultants to help BYU players improve their speed, explosiveness, and power. BYU isn't always able to recruit the most naturally fast and explosive kids so the athletes BYU gets probably need cutting edge training to compete at the highest level and eventually impress NFL scouts. Hopefully BYU will continue to aggressively hire quality consultants. There is no reason for guys to have to graduate and start prepping for the NFL draft to finally get taught state of the art training techniques.
- Better nutrition: The nutritionist BYU brought in last off season got a ton of press before the season. Unfortunately, BYU wasn't all that good last year on the field. But that pedestrian on-field performance doesn't mean better nutrition wasn't a good idea. Less lard and more muscle is what you see in most NFL guys and it can only help in college too. We'll see if BYU keeps the nutrition thing going or not though.
- Continued massive exposure: NFL teams might try to deny it, but exposure and buzz make a difference in who they draft. The more BYU is seen on TV and talked about on a national level, the better it will be for BYU guys in the NFL draft. Exposure won't substitute for impressive workouts but it will supplement them.
- BYU Pro Day: Rumor had it that NFL scouts were very impressed with the quality and organization of BYU's Pro Day. That can't hurt.
Recruits want to get to the NFL
The best football players in high school all have NFL dreams dancing in their heads. Therefore before they choose a college they have to believe that school will help their odds of getting to the NFL. The quote from Bronco above will help. Ziggy going #5 will help. Van Noy and Hoffman (and whoever else) getting drafted next year will help. BYU players thriving in the NFL will help too.
And of course things like BYU being on ESPN regularly will help with recruiting. Most of all, winning will help.
One nice thing about a gift like Ziggy is his success can help jump start BYU back down the path of landing better recruits, winning more, landing even better recruits, winning more, getting more and more guys drafted, etc.
BYU still has work to do when it comes to preparing guys to get drafted and play in the NFL, but BYU seems to be improving. Improvement is good.