Not only were 23 new football players awarded scholarships Wednesday, the University of Wyoming also announced two new coaches.
Jason Gesser is the new quarterbacks coach, and Jamar Cain will coach the defensive line. Fifth-year head coach Dave Christensen introduced both during UW’s signing day news conference Wednesday afternoon at the Wildcatter Club & Suites at War Memorial Stadium.
Offensive coordinator Gregg Brandon, who coached the quarterbacks the last two years, remains the offensive coordinator but now will coach running backs.
Gesser, 33, was at Idaho last season, where he started as the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, and finished as the interim head coach after Robb Akey was fired.
Gesser played college football at Washington State from 1999-2002. He was a three-year team captain and has the school record for most wins by a starting quarterback.
“It was a situation where I wanted to bring in the best coach, and then I was going to shift the staff accordingly,” Christensen said. “Not just go get a coach to coach a position. I was going to get the best coach, and he was the best coach out there.”
UW had a spot on its offensive staff when receivers coach Jason Ray took a similar job at Oklahoma State. Ray shared those duties last season with Derek Sage, who will be the only receivers coach for the Cowboys in 2013.
As for switching from coaching quarterbacks to running backs, Brandon said: “That was the head coach’s decision, and we will move forward from here with that.”
Gesser has been in Laramie for only a couple of days, and said Christensen’s beliefs and mindset of running a program and the spread offense were the biggest factors in him coming to UW.
Plus, he knows the Cowboys’ top two quarterbacks — starter and junior-to-be Brett Smith and sophomore backup Jason Thompson.
Gesser said he worked summer football camps that Smith attended when Smith was in high school in Salem, Ore. Gesser’s relationship with Thompson is more extensive. He has known Thompson since his freshman year of high school in the Seattle area, and has worked with Thompson at both individual and team camps.
“Knowing those guys played a big role in me coming here,” Gesser said. “It is cool to have something pre-existing there.”
Gesser also hopes to pull knowledge from Brandon, who enters his 32nd year as a college coach and seventh at UW. Brandon has been the only coach any of the current UW quarterbacks have worked with in Laramie.
Gesser was Idaho’s running backs coach in 2011 before the tumultuous 2012. Gesser was 0-4 as Idaho’s interim coach, but also said all of 2012 – that included a 40-37 Idaho home loss to UW on Sept. 22 – was a heck of a learning experience.
“I have definitely drawn off of that, and it helped me to grow as a young coach in the business,” he said.
Other staff moves
Cain will be the only one coaching UW’s defensive line. Last season, it was Derrick LeBlanc and Matt Rahl, and in 2010 it was Rahl and Danilo Robinson.
Christensen said Rahl will be UW’s recruiting coordinator, a title he also held last year.
LeBlanc took a defensive line job at Southern Mississippi last month. Robinson enters his second season as UW’s director of player personnel and recruiting.
Defensive coordinator Chris Tormey also coached UW’s secondary last season. He remains defensive coordinator and will coach just the safeties in 2013. The new cornerbacks coach is Renaldo Hill, who was a graduate assistant last season.
Hill played in the NFL for 10 years and concluded his career with the Denver Broncos (2009-10).
Kudos in Colorado
UW didn’t sign any players from Colorado in its 2012 class. Its top recruiter in Colorado, former defensive coordinator Marty English, left for an assistant’s job at Colorado State. However, Brandon recruited in Colorado for UW the past year, and the Cowboys signed five players, second only to seven from California in this year’s class.
“I think we did a good job down there,” Brandon said. “I know a lot of guys down there. I went to college down there (Northern Colorado), went to high school down there, and recruited on and off down there the last 30 years.
“We got some good players, but time will tell how good they are going to be.”
Safety Xavier Lewis of Aurora, Colo., was the winner of The Denver Post’s Gold Helmet Award, which symbolizes the top senior football player, scholar and citizen in the state.
Lewis, defensive tackle James Diamanti and receiver Tanner Gentry were all part of The Denver Post’s All-Colorado Team, which honors the best football players in all of Colorado’s prep classifications.
‘No’ to Texas
Texas used to be a primary recruiting area for UW since Christensen’s first season at UW in 2009.
But this class had only one player from Texas, linebacker Jeff Lark, who went to Cedar Hill High in Dallas, but attended a prep school his first year out of high school, followed by a year at Arizona Western College.
“We pulled our guys out of there a little,” Christensen said. “We haven’t had as great a luck in Texas with the players we have gotten. We will still pick up a player or two down there. We will have a little better luck and a little better fit on the West Coast and Midwest than we have had down there, so we shifted our focus a little bit.”
Wide receiver Josh Doctson and running back Kody Sutton were Texas high school players that left after their first and second seasons, respectively, at UW. Running back Alvester Alexander was another Texas product who left after his junior season in 2011 for the NFL. He wasn’t drafted and bounced around a few teams’ practice squads.
“Our focus was to try to find guys that could play right away, and I think we did that,” Tormey said of the 11 defensive players signed in this year’s class.