Apo the latest casualty of the Iggy’s curse?

 

PROVO — Things haven’t exactly gone according to plan for the three standout recruits who announced their commits to BYU at Iggy’s Sports Grill back in June of 2009. Jake Heaps and Zac Stout have since left the program while Ross Apo has struggled to meet his lofty expectations and recently wasn’t even listed as a starter out of the spring practice session.

All three held as much promise as any prospect BYU had signed in its history at their respective positions. Jake Heaps was simply tabbed as the top quarterback prospect nationally by most recruiting services. Stout was widely regarded as a top-flight linebacker while Apo presented the type of size and speed combination rarely, if ever, seen at BYU.

It was easy to buy into the hype and most, including yours truly, bought into every ounce of it. National pundits widely proclaimed the commitments as a sign that BYU was reaching the next level — a level that could see the team legitimately compete for a national championship in the near future.

Instead, each of them stand as the starkest reminders to date that recruits, no matter how hyped, don’t always pan out.

Head coach Bronco Mendenhall has since made mention that he was not a fan of each making such a spectacle of their commitments. This should surprise no one who understands who Mendenhall is, as a coach, and how he runs his program.

There are a myriad of specific reasons why both Heaps and Stout didn’t pan out, but it was generally due to an inability to completely mesh with BYU’s unique ideals and precepts.

So is it fair to now put Apo in the same category? Absolutely not.

Apo not being named as a starter out of spring should be viewed as a speed bump and nothing more. Apo is merely a junior — a junior who has managed to start in each of his first two seasons after redshirting which is no small feat.

Given his 6-foot-4 frame and sub 4.5 speed out of high school many assumed he’d be the second-coming of Austin Collie, in terms of production, right off the bat. Yes, he’s come along slower than most anticipated, but his story is hardly finished like those of his Iggy’s cohorts.

Apo simply has work to do and will have to put in that work this coming offseason if he’s to assume the starting wide receiver position. He still holds the same rare combination of size and speed, and if he continues to progress, he may yet meet the lofty expectations fans and pundits assigned him.

Meanwhile the starting spot belongs to walkon Skyler Ridley, who is a proven performer who has very good hands and runs solid routes. His upside doesn’t approach Apo’s, but his overall production this past spring apparently surpassed that of his much-hyped teammate.

Yes, Ridley is currently the starter, but given Apo’s attitude and dedication to the program, don’t be surprised if he has a breakthrough fall practice session and starts alongside Cody Hoffman when the team opens the season against Virginia.

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29 comments

  1. Steve

    After watching Apo play for two years, it seems to me that he doesn’t give 100% all of the time. His problems appear to be mostly mental, and maybe he shared the aversion for contact that derailed Heaps as a great QB.

      • Andrew

        Just because the kid has running ability doesn’t mean he’s going to run all the time whenever his first receiver isn’t open. This isn’t a fair assumption. Hill isn’t Nelson. First of all, Hill actually WON the games he started. Second, he’s a far superior athlete to Nelson. Third, he’s 4-5 inches taller than Nelson and can see over the O-Line to make a pass. Fourth, he was recruited by QB guru Jim Harbaugh to be Andrew Luck’s replacement at Stanford.

        I’ll make you a deal – I won’t assume he’s going to be an all-time great if you don’t assume he’s Riley 2.0. Let the kid play and prove who he is.

      • BarkforSark

        There’s nothing wrong with running the ball. But you have to be smart about it. It’s encouraging to hear that they won’t be designing runs for him between the tackles. And it’s encouraging that there is an emphasis on getting down. If Hill is smart, and I suspect he is if he got into Stanford, he should be able to minimize his hits.

        If a quarterback has the ability to run, he needs to take advantage of it. The havoc that causes defenses can’t be understated.

      • Naval Vet

        Andrew:

        “…he was recruited by QB guru Jim Harbaugh to be Andrew Luck’s replacement at Stanford.”

        No he wasn’t. Hill was recruited by QB guru Jim Harbaugh to be 4-star QB Josh Nunes’ backup. Nunes was the guy recruited to be Andrew Luck’s replacement at Stanford.

  2. Flatlander

    Not just at the Y all schools do the hype dance on their recruits and that is why there is such letdown for he fans when they don’t pan out as superstars. They should all say, we recruited a bunch of 18 year old high schoolers and we wish them best

  3. okiamthatguy

    “Instead, each of them stand as the starkest reminders to date that recruits, no matter how hyped, don’t always pan out.” –Really?!! Three of the nation’s top picks and none of them “pan out” vs. head coach who only wants to play gritty walk-ons. Hmmm. Sounds more like a coach who needs to figure out how to reach out and develop more than just one type of player. Players who can “take us to the next level” also have to have a coach who can do the same. Until he can reach out and tap into the talent of more types of players, in other words, be more versatile with his scope of influence and deal with more personality types we will likely never the complete package. He has done great with some, especially on defense, but we need great players developed in all the positions.

    • cougarcoisa

      Blaming Bronco for Apo’s shortcomings and unrealized potential . . . really?

      I applaud the move to start the player that produces, whether that player be a highly touted recruit or a walk-on that flew under the radar.

      As for developing more than just one type of player, moving Apo down in the depth chart is an attempt to do just that. By telling him he’s lost his spot to someone who produces more, runs harder, finishes routes, and flat-out catches balls the coaches are trying to help Apo realize the potential that he has.

      I say bravo for the move, now it is up to Apo to prove he’s got the skills and the mindset to be a performer.

      • cougarcoisa

        BTW, I should acknowledge that I agree with your inference that Bronco and his staff mismanaged the Heaps/Riley situation. But in this case, the gritty walk-on has outperformed the highly recruited star, so I have no issue playing the walk-on. With Riley, there were blinders firmly affixed that kept going to the gritty walk-on DESPITE poor performances.

  4. Santaqougar

    Which recruiting service(s) listed Heaps as the top prospect overall? I though he struggled to make the top 25. Some services only had him at a 4 star. His #1 QB ranking was the product of an exceptionally weak QB class coming out of high school that year. In any of the 5 years previous, he would not have even been a top-10 QB recruit.

    • Wiscougarfan

      Scout and Rivals both had Heaps as the number 1 quarterback prospect, and ESPN had him at #7. Rivals had him as the number 1 overall prospect that year.

      • Naval Vet

        Wiscougarfan:

        “Rivals had him as the number 1 overall prospect that year.”

        No, Rivals had him as the #63 overall prospect that year. It’s called “research”. Try taking some classes at the U for a change. They teach that there.

  5. BarkforSark

    This sounds like a lot of sugar coating. I would be very concerned about this if I was Bronco. Apo might “merely” be a junior, but so is Ridley. And Apo has a lot more game experience than Ridley (65 catches in two years compared to just 20 for Ridley last year). Did Ridley take advantage of his catches last year better than Apo? Not really. 10.3 yards per reception for Ridley and 10.0 for Apo. BYU is going to be better than last year. That’s a given. But it’s not hyperbole to suggest if BYU REALLY wants to turn some heads, it can’t do it with Apo failing to be a starter.

  6. BlueHusky

    I think we can quit bagging on Heaps and wish him well. His press conference was over the top and parental influence was, shall we say, unwarranted. But I think that if Robert Anae has stayed in the program, Heaps may well have been the starter we expected.

    But Robert did not stay. And he has returned rejuvenated by his Arizona experience. New ideas, a new scheme, a new offense. A sabbatical, if you will.

    I don’t know if Heaps could play in the new Anae offense. But Hill can. And Apo will have to win his way onto the team. As it should be. As it will be.

  7. The Rock

    I had a mission president who was also the founder of Husky Oil. This guy had over $200 Million in the 1970′s. He was a very successful businessman. He once gave some advice: “If you ever become a manager, don’t change anything you don’t have to change. Wait until you know why your predecessor did what they did. They had a reason.”

    When Brandon Doman became offensive coordinator he changed everything. It didn’t work. Jake Heaps did a great job as a freshman, especially for a freshman. The entire offense sputtered under his new system.

    It was not the Iggy curse.

  8. Willie

    On the other side of the coin are Eric Weddle, Cody Hoffman and others who received little recruiting attention, but flourished in college ball. Rating high school recruits is a risky business.

  9. BigTime

    At big time programs, if a top recuit doesn’t pan out, most don’t notice because there are a dozen other top recruits to carry the team. If the team struggles, the coach gets the blame.
    When a smaller school gets a top recruit, fans look to that player as the team savior. The kid gets the blame when things don’t work out, when again, its likely the coaches.
    It will be interesting to see how Jake Heaps does at Kansas this year with coach Charlie Weis. Hopefully Heaps has matured. Charlie Weis knows how to coach talent.

  10. Mark

    No one considers that it’s a coaching problem?? Bronco is masterful at defense, but he has no business being a head coach. He was elevated to his “level of incompetency” and should volunteer to go back to defensive duties. Apo was the real deal, and so was Heaps.

  11. David Albrecht

    To Big Time. Your comment “Charlie Weiss knows to coach talent” is lacking in a track record to prove it. If indeed Charlie Weiss knew how to coach talent he would still be a Notre Dame.

  12. MIchael

    “a level that could see the team legitimately compete for a national championship in the near future”
    give me a break.

  13. CougFaninTX

    Apo does not lack for talent or skill, he just needs a little more heart. I think his attitude was influenced by poor passes that were thrown his way. Hoffman, on the other hand, didn’t let the poor passes impact his play making. He figured out a way to catch them.

    Something tells me that this will motivate Apo. Holladay is sending a message. We’ll see a rejuvenated Apo in August.

  14. Rowan

    Just for the record, Taysom Hill was Harbaugh’s first choice for quarterback. Not Nunes. Nunes was a late addition. Of this, I am sure.

      • Naval Vet

        Wahului:

        He IS INDEED mistaken. And the reason why I “know all” is because I actually research the question. Here are the facts per Rivals:

        Harbaugh recruited 2 QBs to Stanford’s 2009 class: Josh Nunes and Taysom Hill.

        Nunes was a 4-star recruit ranked as the #13 pro-style QB of 2009. Hill was a 3-star ranked as the #30 pro-style QB. This does NOT suggest that Harbaugh was recruiting the 4-star talent to back up the much lower rated 3-star.

        Rowan’s frantic and emotional fantasy that Nunes was a late addition can easily be proven false just be reading Nunes’ profile. Nunes “committed” to the Cardinal on Sept. 27th; over 4-months ahead of signing his “Letter of Intent”. That’s not a “late addition”. A “late addition” would be an athlete who would have committed in the 11th hour…like late January (2009) or early February.

        Lastly, Nunes and Hill both took their official visit on the same day: Jan. 9, 2009.

        Next time, try doing a little research before making some smart alecky retort impugning my vastly superior knowledge than your own. You won’t end up looking as frantic and emotional as Rowan did.

  15. Gary Mecham

    It will be good if BYU can get away from starting freshman quarterbacks. It’s good to let them sit a year or two. My opinion. If Heaps would have red shirted maybe this would be his year. He chose to leave so we’ll never know. I’m looking at Green , assuming he makes it as a Senior quarterback. Mangum as a two year etc. Some freshman make it but I think the majority of time they do better if they sit at least a year, maybe two. Back to the subject, Apo never really showed a lot. Ridley did early on but not at the end of the season. I was high on Brett Thompson. I think he’ll be a difference maker.
    Gary

  16. Wind

    Not that I really care, but to keep the dynamic dialogue between the opposing camps moving along I offer the following: Like him or not, Jake Heaps was the 2009 Elite 11 Camp MVP. After evaluating >1000 HS QBs by the so-called experts (none of which I presume are involved in this blog’s discussion) that is no small accomplishment. So one can debate his rating # by the respective recruiting services but his Elite 11 status is firm. And it’s a shame the football fans in this state — of red, blue, purple or white ilk — won’t see him playing anywhere near a football field here for his junior and senior seasons. Gritty walk-on QB. Phooey!

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