Craig Bohl took a look at the roster not long after he was hired as the University of Wyoming’s football coach and saw a pattern.
Bohl noticed a lot of attrition from players the previous staff recruited from the state of Texas.
Despite 15 years recruiting in that state over his career, and the fact Texas produces a lot of college football talent, Bohl decided initially not to recruit in the Lone Star State.
“I just didn’t think it would be the right fit,” said Bohl, who is in his sixth season as UW’s coach.
After a few seasons, Bohl said his staff thought they should get back into Texas, but he was leery.
“I didn’t think our resources would be wisely spent there,” he said.
However, UW signed six players from Texas in its 2019 recruiting class, and has nine players currently on the roster from there. Only one of those players is a senior – wide receiver Raghib Ismail Jr., who was signed out of Cisco Community College in 2018, but is from Irving, Texas. The others are redshirt freshmen or true freshmen, and the only one who has played this season is true freshman running back Titus Swen from Fort Worth. Swen had eight carries for 45 yards, including a long of 18 in his UW debut last week against Missouri.
“There are always going to be hits, misses and attrition in recruiting, but we think (Texas) is going to be a really good area for us,” Bohl said.
The right fit
UW’s recruiting profile is to find a kid who wants to get a meaningful degree and have a laser-like focus to win a conference championship.
That’s the case no matter where UW looks for recruits.
Ian McGrew is UW’s director of recruiting. He is in his first full season in that role, but was the assistant director of recruiting in 2018 and has been with the program for five years.
“Texas is a talent-rich state, a blue-chip kind of state,” McGrew said. “You see a lot of talent that you’re intrigued by, but is that talent going to fit into your culture and locker room? That’s what we need to find out. if they don’t, it doesn’t matter how good they are.
“The key is not falling in love with the tape, which is easy to do.”
Although it is a bit dated, Bleacher Report did a story that said 15.3% of all players in the Football Bowl Subdivision were from Texas, which averaged out to 358 players per year.
Bohl was leery about recruiting in California when he first arrived at UW, as well. Like with Texas, he wasn’t sure if recruits would be a good fit in Laramie. California has turned out to be its most productive state, with 24 players on this year’s roster.
It is too early to tell whether Texas will turn out to be that good for UW, but the start is promising.
“(Texas) has been a pleasant surprise,” McGrew said. “The guys we signed last year have done really good, and have been good fits for us.”
Bohl said no matter the state, it depends on where you look for players. In Texas, for example, Bohl said the areas east of Houston where several oil refineries are located have similar demographics in terms of the environment around Wyoming.
Mike Grant, who is in his fourth year as UW’s wide receivers coach, was at North Texas in Denton for five years prior to coming to Laramie and has recruited in Texas for nearly 15 years. Grant said there are a lot of recruits in Texas who fit UW’s profile.
“That may not always be the case in the major cities, but in the outskirts, and in a lot of other areas, you see a hardworking, blue-collar mentality, along with a Western culture,” he said.
But that doesn’t mean recruits from the bigger communities in Texas, or other states, won’t or can’t fit in at UW.
Swen is a good example.
“Wyoming is compact. You don’t get lost in the crowd. You can make yourself stand out,” he said. “Your teachers and professors know you, and your coaches know you. Everybody will know you. You will get a good education and training here. That’s why I chose to come here.”
More to come?
True freshman quarterback Levi Williams is from Canyon Lake, Texas, a community of about 21,000 that is part of San Antonio’s metropolitan area.
Williams was an early enrollee at UW, and started school in January. Williams originally signed with Houston, but after a coaching change, he was released from his letter of intent and signed with UW.
Williams said it is “really cool” to see more Texas guys coming to UW.
“There are a lot of great players there that should be good fits up here,” Williams said. “It is more about getting the opportunity to play here. A lot of guys just try to go for the biggest and best thing, but if they want to win a championship, get a meaningful degree and have a laser-like focus both with school and football, this is a place they should pursue.”
Playing in Texas
The Cowboys play their first game in Texas since 2013 when they take on Texas State at 5 p.m. Saturday in San Marcos.
NCAA rules don’t allow teams to host recruits when they play on the road, but potential recruits and their families can attend the game on their own.
UW plans to have three coaches out watching high school games Friday night. And it doesn’t hurt that it will play a game in the state that it hopes will become a consistent place to sign recruits.
Grant said even though this UW staff is relatively new to recruiting in Texas, the guys who are doing it are not. Along with Bohl and Grant, first-year safeties coach Willie Mack Garza is from Texas, played at the University of Texas, and recruited there a lot in his 24 years as a college coach.
“We are familiar faces, just with a different shirt on,” Grant said. “It is about the trust and relationships with the coaches and people you make in recruiting that makes all the difference.”
UW recruited in Texas when TCU was in the Mountain West, but it left for the Big 12 Conference after the 2011 season. Future UW schedules have home-and-home games with Texas Tech and North Texas.
“It is a perk, absolutely,” McGrew said about playing in Texas. “It is very helpful to get our brand out there in front of people. Texas State will have recruits at the game, and we often are recruiting against them.”