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.