Boise State and BYU making noise out West
The BCS schools get most of the headlines, but Boise State and BYU are quietly putting together impressive 2009 classes, writes Greg Biggins.
The Pac-10 is the glamour conference out West with USC being the flagship program in the region. It's on another level from every other program and one of the few schools in the country capable of recruiting outside of its region.
Saying that, BYU out of the Mountain West and Boise State from the WAC have shown they can compete with just about anyone. Both schools have been ranked multiple times in the AP or USA Today top 20 over the last few years and both are off to blazing starts on the recruiting trail this year.
Boise State has 12 early commitments headlined by one of the top quarterbacks in the region. Joe Southwick (Danville, Calif./San Ramon Valley) earned first team all-state underclass honors a year ago after throwing for 3,185 yards and 35 touchdowns. If he were 6-foot-3 instead of 6-1, he would have been one of the most heavily-recruited quarterbacks in the nation as he has all the tools and his intangibles are off the charts.
Southwick has a live, accurate arm, moves around very well in the pocket and shows great poise. On top of that, he's a gamer and a winner. Southwick plays with a toughness to him that is infectious and is one of those players who will have no problem rallying his teammates in the huddle.
The Broncos went in to Washington and landed the top linebacker in the state in Allen Mooney (Seattle/O'Dea). Mooney is the exact kind of player Boise has been winning with for years. He's just 5-10, 210 pounds and all of the Pac 10 schools including his local favorite, Washington, overlooked him because of his size.
Mooney missed three games a year ago but still had over 100 tackles and forced three fumbles. He projects as a weakside 'backer for the Broncos and his quickness and hitting ability could see him on the field sooner rather than later.
The Broncos running back of the future could be Malcolm Johnson (Gresham, Ore./Barlow). He has been one of Oregon's top backs since his sophomore season and has a nice combination of speed, quickness and toughness. He has a great work ethic off the field and may even be a better safety prospect in college.
Yet another player we're very high on is tight end Trevor Peterson (Placerville, Calif./Eldorado). He played more like a big receiver as a junior and caught 54 passes for 964 yards and eight touchdowns. He has a solid frame and is tough and physical, so we have no doubt he can make the move to tight end in college.
BYU has a solid crop of commitments right now, but it's the players its involved with that has Cougars fans excited. It's a deep year for talent in Utah this year, and if the Cougars have the season of which they're capable (will likely be favored in every game on the schedule), they could close with a bang down the home stretch.
A pair of safeties and one of the elite receivers in the West headlines the Cougars' class. At 6-1, 200 pounds, Craig Bills (Provo, Utah/Timpview) has good size, runs well and showed excellent cover skills at the NIKE Camp in Provo where he earned DB MVP honors.
Bills will be a three-year starter for the state's top program and actually committed to the Cougars as a sophomore. Jray Galea'i actually played with Bills at Timpview as a sophomore before transferring to Kahuku, Hawaii for his junior season.
Galea'i is following family tradition, as his father Raymond was a standout football and basketball player for the Cougars in the mid 80s. Galea'i is a headhunter and one of the fiercest hitters in the region.
Like Bills, Galea'i also stood out at the NIKE Camp in Provo and had to be reminded several times that defensive backs were not allowed to tackle as he was looking to blow up every receiver catching a ball in front of him.
The Cougars most recent commitment was a big one from standout receiver Brett Thompson. Thompson has great size at 6-3, 205 pounds and turned down offers from schools like Cal and Nebraska before choosing the Cougs.
Thompson earned all-state underclass honors as a sophomore and had a strong junior season as well. He hails from the same high school (Oak Ridge, El Dorado Hills) as current Cougar receiver Austin Collie and should be the same, dependable possession receiver as Collie has turned out to be once he returns from his Mormon mission after high school.
As for whom the Cougars are still in on, they're in the top five for some of the region's top players headlined by monster linebacker recruit Manti Te'o. Te'o has had BYU and USC leading for some time and it will be a shock if he ends up anywhere else.
Te'o, possibly the highest-rated recruit to come out of Hawaii in over a decade, has strong ties to BYU, including his LDS faith and a pair of cousins on the roster. He's the kind of impact player who can basically make a class all by himself.
Other top national recruits the Cougars are doing very well with include Spanish Fork (Utah) tight end Richard Wilson, Reno (Nev.) McQueen athlete Kyle Van Noy, Milpitas (Calif.) linebacker Steven Fanua and Salt Lake City Highland defensive lineman Latu Heimuli.
Greg Biggins covers recruiting on the West Coast for ESPN.com.