Brigham Young football coach Bronco Mendenhall thinks the Cougars' independent status and, in turn, its TV deal with ESPN is enhancing recruiting far more than hurting it.
Mendenhall said BYU's 2012 recruiting class of 17 prep signees came from a much wider pool of candidates than the program has had in recent years largely because of the national TV exposure.
The Cougars played on ESPN's family of networks 11 times last fall and also enjoyed worldwide exposure on BYUtv.
"We heard from more players and high school coaches who had seen us play," Mendenhall said. "We fielded more interest from all over the country."
Mendenhall conceded that being an independent provided ammunition to coaches of other programs who pointed out to recruits that BYU did not have a conference title for which to play.
"Other schools targeted that," he said. "They tried to use it against us."
In addition to BYU's 17 high school signees, the Cougars will welcome back 12 scholarship players returning from Mormon church missions, including Russell Tialavea, a three-year starter on the defensive line.
Spring drills begin March 5.
■ FULL STABLE -- When sophomore Jake Heaps transferred to Kansas in December, the Cougars were left thin at quarterback with only senior-to-be Riley Nelson having any starting experience. To help remedy that, BYU signed three quarterbacks.
Former Stanford commit Taysom Hill and former Southern Utah quarterback Ammon Olsen are back from missions and will compete with senior James Lark to be Nelson's backup this fall. Mendenhall projects either Hill or Olsen to take the starting reins in 2013.
BYU also signed Tanner Mangum, rated the nation's No. 3 high school quarterback by Rivals.com. Mangum, from Eagle, Idaho, will serve a church mission before enrolling in school in 2014.
"If we are going to err at quarterback, we will err on having too many rather than not enough," Mendenhall said.
■ NELSON HEALTHY -- Nelson finally is healthy after breaking a rib early in the Armed Forces Bowl on Dec. 30. He played through the injury and threw the winning touchdown pass with 11 seconds remaining to beat Tulsa, 24-21.
Nelson also suffered a deflated lung and torn rib cartilage while taking a hit against Idaho on Nov. 12.
"It's taken a few weeks, but I'm fine," he said. "I can now do all the lifts and running, but those first few weeks of January were pretty rough."
Nelson led BYU -- ranked No. 25 in the final ESPN/USA Today coaches' poll -- to a 10-3 record and its fifth bowl victory in seven years.
"I think what is on everybody's mind is those three losses to Texas, Utah and (Texas Christian) and the way they happened -- especially with Utah," he said.
The Utes forced seven turnovers in a 54-10 rout in Provo on Sept. 17.
"We will work on mental toughness this offseason because a lot of our mistakes were the result of mental mistakes," Nelson said.
■ FAMILIAR NAME -- Signee Dylan Collie is looking to become the fourth member of his family to catch passes at BYU.
Dylan's father, Scott, and brothers Zac and Austin played receiver for the Cougars, with Austin, now with the Indianapolis Colts, the Cougars' all-time leading receiver with 3,258 yards.
■ SUPER TIMING -- Credit athletic director Tom Holmoe with good timing.
The former Cougars defensive back played 82 games with the San Francisco 49ers from 1983 to 1989. In that span, San Francisco won three Super Bowls -- after the 1984, 1988 and 1989 seasons.
"I love the rings," Holmoe said. "Each one of my kids was born on the years that we won those rings, except one. He was born in an off-year, and the funny thing is he is the most fanatical football fan of all time."
To ease any future family debates over who inherits the rings, Holmoe returned to Super Bowl XXIX in 1995 as a defensive coach with the 49ers and won a fourth ring -- thereby guaranteeing one for each child.
Holmoe said he likes the New England Patriots over the New York Giants in Super Bowl XLVI on Sunday.
Dave McCann is a morning news anchor on KLAS-TV (Channel 8). He hosts "True Blue" at 5 p.m. Monday on BYUtv and is the play-by-play voice for BYUtv. He can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter: @davemccann8.