When Anthony Dye
committed to UCLA
in March, he was the first prospect to pull the trigger for the Bruins in the class of 2008.
Dye was asked then if he would begin to start recruiting other prospects UCLA was after. Dye said he would love to start getting other guys on board. By the end of that week, UCLA had double-digit commitments, and while the Dye family won't take any of the credit when it comes to the numerous verbals UCLA has in this class, they have done their part to make sure the class of 2008 becomes a tight one before they ever move onto campus in Westwood.
Mark Dye, Anthony's father and a former San Jose State defensive back himself, decided the best way to get the recruits to know each other early on was to host a barbecue at their Corona home.
"The first one we had was early on, right after "Sudden Saturday." There were not this many commitments yet. The first one, we had Aaron Hester, Rahim Moore, E.J. Woods, Datone Jones and Damien Holmes. It was just to have them over. But what we saw from that, from the kids themselves is that they got something out of that that was unexpected. They got a chance to learn about the other kids outside of football."
Dye said that many preconceived notions were shattered during that first gathering.
"These guys already had some notions of what they thought the kid was like. Then they realized, they're not as cocky, that they are good guys. They're funny and they learned that about each other. So it sparked in my mind, ‘lets see if we can't do some more of these'."
That led to a second one in June, not too long after UCLA's 1-Day Camp. A notable uncommitted prospect there was Cory Harkey, who traveled over from Chino Hills. Harkey spent hours with the already-committed guys, and a few weeks later, he gave UCLA verbal, saying that much of his decision was how well he got along with the other prospects.
A third one happened in early August, and it was the biggest one in attendance.
"We had like 14 or 15 guys at that one. Nelson Rosario, Donovan Carter, the Orange County guys Jeff Baca and Nick Crissman and Derrick Coleman came out. Milton Knox wanted to come but he was at a family reunion. We were hoping Aundre Dean could come out for an unofficial that weekend, but he couldn't."
So Dye and the future Bruins took measures into their own hand.
"We called Aundre and did a conference call, so he could be a part of it as well. All the guys talked to him and they wanted to get to know him too. He wants to feel the love as well, even though he's thousands of miles away. They want him to know he's going to be one of the guys."
The most notable event that transpired that weekend was that Kevan Walker came to the barbecue, with his Arcadia teammate and 2009 target Todd Golper. Already having committed to Minnesota, Walker had been waffling between going to the Big Ten or staying close to home.
That weekend sealed the deal for Walker and a week later, he committed to the Bruins.
I went to Anthony Dye's house and guys like Anthony, E.J. Woods, Nelson Rosario, Nick Crissman, all those guys were saying ‘come to UCLA'. Just hanging out with those guys, I like the vibe. I'm really close to some of those guys too. Like Rahim Moore and E.J.," said Walker.
The idea behind the barbecues has led to a unique bonding between the class of 2008 and it all stemmed from Mark Dye's personality.
"I'm that type of person who enjoys hosting barbecues. We have the pool, pool tables, pinball machines, video games and air hockey. It's just an entertainment friendly house. We thought we'd have some of the recruits over but didn't realize what it would turn into."
What is also has turned into is an opportunity for the families of the recruits to get to know each other as well, and be a little more comfortable about dropping their sons off at college in a year.
"It makes it easier on us as parents to drop the kids off when they know someone. Here is an opportunity that doesn't come around often. They get to know 20 of their other teammates, 365 days before they gets there, so when we do drop them off, we're not as worried about it. They've exchanged e-mails, cell phone numbers, MySpace pages and schedules. They're already talking about who they're going to see on their bye weeks."
And the bond between the families is growing stronger.
"We're wanting to do a tailgate as parents, and maybe renting a bus for the Stanford game. I went down with the Crissman's to the Elite 11 to watch Nick through. Mr. Hester and I have talked about him coming over before Dominguez plays at Corona Centennial (the same night Santiago plays Murrieta Valley). We wanting to do some more things as parents. And it's not just a class thing. It will hopefully be with other parents when they get there to UCLA."
Dye said hearing the recruits talk to each other, he sees a sense of pride from amongst them.
"They all know what kind of players they are, but whether or not the kid can play isn't relevant. They want to find out about the person. They know what kind of class they have and know this could be one of the best classes UCLA has brought in, in a while. They have a very big sense of pride in that. They really believe that the 2008 class is going to be a big part of getting them that glass ball (the BCS Championship trophy). They've gotten a chance to be with each other at some of these camps, and they've taken home some MVP trophies. When they saw the (team recruiting) rankings, it dawned on them that they have a special group and they can do some things that are special. And they feel that many of them are underranked. So where would they be if they were ranked where they should be," said Dye.
Though Harkey and Walker both committed not long after barbecues, Dye said that he doesn't see the guys pressuring anyone to make a decision. What he sees instead, is guys that have pride in their future program and are talking it up to those making their decision.
"I think there is some positive feedback there. I don't know how much influence directly they have, but I know some of those guys think ‘I'd really like to play with that guy'. There are other variables involved, but I know they're comfortable around the other team. And that's definitely a plus. They talk to each other and that's outstanding in that regard. This is not for you to make a decision to commit here, this is for you to come to meet the guys. Take what you hear, take that back home with you and decide whether you want to commit. Look at the totality of the program. I told many of them, write down every thing that is important."
With the season starting next weekend for several of them, Dye said that the barbecues may have to take a break, but he's not done planning events for them.
"There are a couple more things we definitely want to do, but we'll have to squeeze something in with everyone's schedule. I'm trying to get a remote computer so they can all see each other on Signing Day and then have a big bash the weekend after Signing Day. I'd like to maybe do a Christmas Party. Something, but it's probably going to have to wait until after the season.
Anthony Dye, the first prospect to commit to UCLA this year, and his family have hosted three barbecues at their Corona home for his future teammates at UCLA, and the results have been very positive for the recruiting class of 2008...
The family of UCLA commit Anthony Dye has helped class of 2008 unite before coming to UCLA.