In the dusty plains of southern Wyoming Dave Christensen is building a winner. No one is confusing the school in Laramie for the next college football powerhouse, but there is a quiet optimism for Cowboys fans. In Christensen’s three seasons as head coach of the ‘Pokes, he has won seven, three, and eight games. The three sticks out as being ugly, but the seven and eight stand out as well. In the nine seasons before Christensen arrived, Wyoming reached seven victories just once. Cowboys fans are witnessing success not seen since the late 90′s under coach Dana Dimel. If that success is to continue it will be done with recruits from outside the 44th state.
Including this year’s class, since 2009, there have been three scholarship players from Wyoming itself. Christensen, like his predecessors, must convince prep football players to stray from home, sometimes by thousands of miles. Wyoming is the least populated state according to the must recent U.S. census figures. Building a division one program must be done on the backs of Wyoming’s neighbors, and in many cases, strangers.
So far the 2013 class is small. Rivals lists three verbal commitments with one actually hailing from the Wyoming “metropolis” of Casper. Ryan Anaya is a two star rated linebacker that will arrive on campus next year having to learn a lot of names. On the current Wyoming roster five are home-state kids. Nine players hail from outside the 50 states. In other words there are almost twice as many recruits with international hometowns as there are from Wyoming. American Samoa, Canada, Germany, and Australia highlight just how far coach Christensen must reach to search for talent.
Christensen’s jewel thus far is quarterback Brett Smith from Salem, Oregon. Smith has all the tools to return the Cowboys to the good old days of not just Dimel, but Joe Tiller‘s command. Smith epitomizes the typical Cowboy success story. According to ESPN’s Recruiting Nation Smith was the 107th best quarterback prospect entering his freshman year. A diamond in the rough, Smith was barely a FBS prospect being recruited by New Mexico State, San Jose State, and FCS school Eastern Washington. Now the reigning Mountain West Freshman of the Year
The proverbial collection of misfits or unwanted toys aptly describes the Wyoming depth chart. Although the 2013 class is far from being completed, three verbals thus far puts the Cowboys in the middle of the Mountain West recruiting pack. Once Boise State exits for the Big East next season, room will open up for a new program to take their place. Don’t be surprised if the team in Brown and Gold take their first league title since 1993.
Recruiting at Wyoming has almost no advantages with isolation, a small population, and cold windy weather far from mom’s house. Let it be known those are major detractors. But there is one advantage that trumps ugly winters and not a beach in sight.
For those who wonder what can bring a high school kid to the only four year school in the least populated state with a smile on his face it can be summed up in one word, wins.