CU approaching National Signing Day with strong recruiting class
With less than a week remaining until National Signing Day, the Buffs have a recruiting class that will likely be their strongest since the earlier part of the decade.
The 2-10 football team CU head coach Dan Hawkins commanded this season was a source of frustration for all Buffs fans. That frustration lent itself to questions about CU’s coach and how successful he can be guiding the Buffs. But if Hawkins’ first recruiting class is any indication, Buffs fans can expect the team to be much better in the coming years.
As of this week, CU’s recruiting class ranked in the top 30 classes on the country’s main recruiting databases, www.scout.com and www.rivals.com. To put that in perspective, CU’s recruiting classes in the previous three years were all ranked below 40 by Scout.com.
Adam Munsterteiger, a recruiting analyst on Rivals.com, said Hawkins has done a nice job in his first full recruiting cycle with the Buffs.
“Obviously, coming off a 2-10 season, it’s a little more difficult to recruit than coming off a national championship season. But right now, on paper, this looks to be the best class (CU) has had since 2003,” Munsterteiger said. “Overall, it’s definitely been a positive recruiting cycle for the Buffs.”
The headliner of the class for Hawkins and the Buffs is offensive tackle Ryan Miller. The graduate from Columbine High School in Littleton is listed at 6 feet 8 inches and 280 pounds, and he is widely regarded by recruiting analysts around the country to be a top-five player in his position. Six other offensive linemen have committed to CU.
Miller is the type of player that has escaped the Buffs over the past few years for a myriad of reasons, one of which is the stringent policies that former head coach Gary Barnett and his staff were under the last three years.
Hawkins and his staff have been given more leeway by CU’s administration for recruiting, and the results are starting to be seen. In addition to the extra freedom given to Hawkins and his staff, the coach has placed a higher importance on recruiting than previous coaching staffs.
“Hawkins and his staff have come in with this whole new energy,” said Mark Collins, editor of the Buffalo Sports News. “Hawkins has re-arranged the staff a little bit, and there’s actually three guys doing what one guy used to do. That’s a big deal to have three guys full-time doing recruiting.”
Munsterteiger said he agreed with Collins’ assessment.
“One of Hawkins’ strengths is that he’s got so much energy. He’s constantly text messaging kids and staying in contact. He’s really more involved,” Munsterteiger said.
The lead man in Hawkins’ recruiting staff is Robert Tucker, the assistant director of football recruiting and operations. Tucker, who has worked with Hawkins for five years, has kept up daily contact with Hawkins for the past several months, and he said the past week has been no different.
“Coach Hawkins has been sending me text messages every day, getting us information and keeping us informed on what’s going on,” Tucker said. “He wants to make sure no stone is left unturned.”
The extra time Hawkins and his staff have devoted to recruiting is paying off. In addition to Miller, the Buffs made a big splash this past fall when they landed Markques Simas, a four-star wide receiver from San Diego. Simas is one of the best receivers to come out of California this year, and Munsterteiger said Simas will help the Buffs’ weak receiving core early in his career.
“I don’t think you can watch (Simas’s) film and not gather that he’s got a bright future in the game. He’s very athletic, very good at catching the ball at its highest point and somebody that’s going to make his quarterback look good,” Munsterteiger said. “He’s somebody that I’m sure they’d love to get on the field as a true freshman.”
Also committed to CU in the wide receiver position is Kendrick Celestine, a three-star player from Louisiana. Celestine, who runs a 4.4-second 40-yard dash, should add more speed to a CU receiving core in desperate need of playmaking ability.
“He’s one of the faster kids in that region,” Munsterteiger said.
Celestine is not only indicative of the speed CU is gaining this year, but he’s also one of many players from different corners of the country that the Buffs have gone after.
In the 27 verbal commitments the Buffs have secured, 11 states are represented, including talent-rich states like Georgia, Tennessee, Pennsylvania and Florida.
“(Hawkins) has taken the attitude that if they can play and they’re interested in us, then we’re going to recruit them. It doesn’t matter where they go to school or where they’re from,” Munsterteiger said.
One of the marquee players Hawkins and his staff have recruited from a national perspective is defensive end Conrad Obi from Georgia. Originally slated to sign with Southeastern Conference power Georgia, Obi reneged on his verbal and committed to the Buffs. Obi is ranked as a top-150 player by some recruiting services, despite sitting out his senior year in high school with an injury.
While the Buffs were the beneficiary of Obi’s decision to switch on his commitment, the tables have been turned somewhat in recent weeks. Two players who were once solid commits to CU, offensive lineman Adam Tello and center Garth Gerhart are now listed as soft verbal commits for the Buffs and are said to be looking elsewhere.
Jason Jewell, who is the southwest recruiting analyst for Scout.com, said wavering potential recruits are not a good sign for CU.
“To me, if a kid is wavering this late, it just says they’re not sure because signing day is around the corner. If they were sold and wanted to go to CU, they would just commit,” Jewell said.
According to Munsterteiger, Tello has ruled CU out while Gerhart is looking heavily at Arizona State.
“It Sounds like Tello is leaning toward Arizona or Louisville. Arizona State is pushing hard for Gerhart, and he’ll probably come down to signing day,” Munsterteiger said.
Munsterteiger added that CU is trying its hardest to close in on Gerhart because the Buffs are extremely thin at the center position.
“They really don’t have a true center on their roster. The coaches were at his house Tuesday, so we’ll have to wait and see how that went,” Munsterteiger said.
Despite the possible losses of Tello and Gerhart, Munsterteiger said CU’s class would still have a top-35 recruiting class.
“If things go well and (CU) is able to keep the guys that are kind of wavering right now, I think they’ll end up somewhere from 26 to 30. Now if a bunch of those kids de-commit, then maybe they end up somewhere around the mid 30s,” Munsterteiger said.
Three junior-college transfers have already signed their letters of intent with the Buffs. Those players are middle linebacker Josh Hartigan, quarterback Nick Nelson and defensive end Drew Hudgins. Of the three, Munsterteiger said Hudgins has the best chance to make an immediate impact.
“He’s somebody who, with the Buffs’ lack of depth at defensive end, will come in this spring and compete for a starting spot,” Munsterteiger said.