When Boise State defensive line coach Pete Kwiatkowski checked his messages after the Broncos' stunning 43-42 Fiesta Bowl victory against Oklahoma, he got another surprise.
A recruiting commitment.
Hunter White, a 6-foot, 200-pound linebacker from Edison High in Huntington Beach, Calif., orally committed to Boise State in the hours after the Fiesta Bowl.
"I was already in love with Boise State, but that game put me over the edge," said White, whose father is the coach at Edison. Former BSU lineman Ryan Keating played at Edison.
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White was scheduled to make visits to Washington State, Colorado State, BSU, Nevada and Villanova over the next five weeks. He will still take his trip to Boise on Jan. 19. San Diego State, UNLV and Utah State also expressed interest in White.
NCAA regulations prohibit coaches from commenting on recruits before they sign a letter of intent, which can start happening Feb. 7.
White's commitment could be the beginning of a Fiesta Bowl effect, coaches and recruiting experts said this week. The impact, however, likely won't be felt until next year.
"It certainly impacts recruiting. We saw the impact of that not necessarily the year of the bowl, but the next year, because by the time you're going to the bowl, a lot of recruitshave already made decisions. For the next recruiting class, they certainly take notice," said Utah coach Kyle Whittingham, who was defensive coordinator when the Utes defeated Pittsburgh in the Fiesta Bowl following the 2004 season.
The Statesman has confirmed 19 oral commitments from high school seniors and one from a junior college transfer. Plus, there are four greyshirts from last year's class.
The Broncos expect to sign 25 or more student-athletes in February and have nearly filled all their slots, recruiting coordinator Viliami Tuivai said.
Many of the prospects that Boise State targeted early in the recruiting process committed, leaving few, if any, vacancies after the Fiesta Bowl.
"We won't pull a scholarship from a guy that's committed," Tuivai said.
Boise State coaches cannot call high school juniors, but they can text message and e-mail prospective recruits. They can also call high school coaches for information.
The Fiesta Bowl win should make those players more receptive to Boise State, which has gotten unprecedented national publicity since Monday's victory in Glendale, Ariz. In addition to sports networks and coverage, tailback Ian Johnson appeared on ABC's "Good Morning America" and CNN's "American Morning" after proposing to his girlfriend on the field after the game.
"There's never been anything that has happened about any aspect of Boise State football that's remotely comparable," said Allen Wallace, a national recruiting editor of Scout.com. "It's about the biggest promotional push for one school."
Now it's up to the Broncos to leverage that publicity into players. Coach Chris Petersen has said throughout the year that simply getting better players to pay attention and visit campus is not good enough. As the quality of recruit increases so, too, does the quality of competition.
Higher quality recruits also bring higher expectations during the recruiting process. And the Broncos, the winningest team in the nation since 1999, have been very successful at their current recruiting level.
"How will Boise State react to the fact that there's going to be a significant amount of people, at least recruits, who will open that first letter or two that in the past might not have paid any attention?" Wallace said.
White, who was named co-MVP of the Sunset League based on coaches' votes, played wide receiver at Edison this past fall and had 74 receptions for 1,201 yards and eight touchdowns. Last year, he was named the league's defensive player of the year. He was All-County in Orange County the last two seasons.
Schools were considering him at linebacker, safety and wide receiver. He is likely to start his Bronco career at weakside linebacker, he said.
White sent text messages to Kwiatkowski and Petersen during the Fiesta Bowl and spoke with both coaches after the overtime victory.
"I love their style of play. I love how they've got a lot of Orange County guys," said White, who played against wide receiver Austin Pettis, another BSU commitment, in a state title game last month.
"They're not getting five-star guys like Oklahoma, yet they can beat Oklahoma. It's my kind of fit."