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PROVO — Staying within NCAA regulations, which prevent college football coaches from addressing or reacting to incoming recruits until they have signed a grant-in-aid scholarship or enrolled in classes on campus, BYU offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick's single GIF on his Twitter account said it all.
The Cougars hauled in the biggest recruit to date of the 2023 recruiting class — and potentially changed the tenure of their forthcoming move to the Big 12 with it.
Four-star tight end Jackson Bowers posted a commitment video on social media Friday afternoon, a video that was celebrated by the BYU fan base more than any parade, party or fireworks show will be on Pioneer Day weekend.
The 6-foot-5, 225-pound senior from Mountain View High School in Mesa, Arizona, is the biggest recruit — both figuratively and literally — of the Cougars' upcoming recruiting class. And with it, the coaching staff began seeing their recruiting efforts pay off at a time when recruiting at a high level will become even more important.
"I'm thankful for all of my family and friends for motivating me every day," Bowers said in a recruiting video wherein he selected a BYU hat over offers from Alabama, Auburn, Washington, Ole Miss and his native Arizona. "With that being said, for the next 3-4 years, I will be committing to the … Brigham Young University.
And Roderick's response? You can imagine it. Or if you don't want to imagine, this GIF will do: "I couldn't be more pleased."
Bowers isn't just physically the biggest recruit BYU has added in the 2023 recruiting class — he's a full two inches taller than the previous biggest of fellow Arizonan running back Pierson Watson and four inches over 290-pound defensive lineman Stanley Raass — his size is impressive.
But his stature is more than that. Bowers, who has clocked a 4.7 seconds 40-yard dash, is the No. 4-rated player in the state of Arizona, a top-15 tight end nationally by 247Sports, and top-225 player overall. He immediately jumped to the top of the Cougars' recruiting class, which was previously led by Timpview receiver Pokaiaua Huanga, Washington athlete Leo Pulalasi and Springville quarterback Ryder Burton, all three-star athletes.
Those players are still important in BYU's big picture recruiting efforts, but Bowers' commitment signaled a change.
"It's a huge one for BYU, and what this does for the recruiting class. I think it gives them a little bit more validation," said 247Sports recruiting analyst Blair Angulo in an appearance on ESPN radio in Utah County. "BYU needed to have some sort of payoff; they needed to see their hard work pay out, and this is exactly what has been done. That first initial visit that featured Jackson Bower, Hunter Clegg, another four-star tight end in Walker Lyons and others … and for BYU to put in a lot of effort to bring in top targets on campus, it was crucial to pick up a commitment from at least one of them. They've done that in Jackson Bowers."
Bowers also helps the Cougars get back to doing what they do best: producing high-quality tight ends. On the same day that Isaac Rex was named to the watchlist for the Mackey Award given to the nation's top tight end, BYU ensured that the pipeline is anything but dry behind the son of Byron, Dallin Holker, Masen Wake, Carter Wheat and the rest of the tight end room.
A traditional tight end in the mold of Rob Gronkowski, Bowers' size immediately stands out. But like Gronkowski, don't think his bulk makes him any less athletic, Angulo said. In two years at Mountain View, Bowers caught 73 passes for 1,206 yards and nine touchdowns, averaging 16.5 yards per catch and 63.5 yards per game for the Toros.
"He's out there catching with his hands, and he's really fluid as an athlete," said Angulo, citing Bowers' hand-eye coordination and pass-catching ability specifically. "He can make a huge difference in the red zone, near the goal line, bodying up defenders, protecting his own space and generating open space for quarterbacks.
"He's got a really refined skillset."
Bowers was part of a recruiting mega-weekend this past spring that also included recent Stanford commit Clegg and fellow four-star tight end Walker Lyons, among others, as BYU coaches and recruiting staffers pulled out all the stops to try to upgrade the class of 2023. Top-tier uncommitted Colorado offensive tackle Ethan Thomasen was also part of that group, as was Timpview's Spencer Fano — who Angulo projects with a BYU lean, but who is receiving heavy interest from Stanford, Oregon and Miami and wants to take recruiting visits to Michigan, USC and Utah, as well.
Still, on Friday afternoon, it paid off, with Bowers committing to BYU over scholarship offers from some of college football's top programs. With the Cougars set to shed their non-Power Five label next year, Bowers' recruitment sends a message.
"It's a reflection of how BYU is recruiting now," Angulo said. "They're going into some of these battles, and they're realistically in these battles. Before, as soon as the Power Five schools jumped in, it wasn't a race.. You couldn't blame a kid for going P5.
"Jackson Bowers told me that one thing that swayed him was that he could be an impact player in his first year, and they'll be a Big 12 school. He understands the value of that … and he wants to be a part of it now."