UW signs 22 in 2014 recruiting class

There were not a lot of surprises — good or bad — Wednesday as Wyoming received 19 national letters of intent from recruits to go along with the three players that already signed and are enrolled in school.

First-year coach Craig Bohl said when he was hired in December that he and his staff would recruit and sign players that were “above the line” that could play in the Mountain West.

“We thought if we could reach 20 that would have opp to play in the Mountain West, and not just play but win the Mountain West, we would have done well. We reached 22 guys,” Bohl said.

Bohl added UW could add a player or two in this class if the opportunity came up, but said the right players at the right positions would have to surface for that to happen.

“There is a purposeful reason why we are at 22,” Bohl said.

UW had its class wrapped up before noon. There was some drama as Snow College (Utah) defensive back Lee Crosby picked New Mexico over UW. Kind of ironic that the UW men’s and women’s basketball teams play New Mexico tonight, isn’t it?

A couple of other guys UW was recruiting also choose different schools. Athlete Jay McIntyre of Colorado, son of Colorado coach Mike McIntyre, will play for his dad and the Buffs. Receiver Ronald Nash Jr. from Iowa stayed home and signed with Northern Iowa.

UW did not sign a receiver in this class. Not a huge surprise since it returns seven receivers that caught passes last season, including three of its top four guys: Senior Dominic Rufran, sophomore Tanner Gentry and senior Jalen Claiborne. Bohl said a “program-changer” receiver did not emerge in this class, and also said what UW currently has didn’t make receiver a top priority in this class.

Here is the breakdown position-wise in this class: QB (3), OL (3), TE (4) DB (4), DE (3), DT (2), RB (2), LB (1).

Thought UW would have signed more linebackers, but it is not like it didn’t try. But with all of these positions, who is to say there won’t be any position changes or any of the current players on the roster will change positions?

No fullback/H-backs in this class, either. Not the easiest position to recruit. Expect some of the current players in the program to get looks there in the spring, such as junior Deven McKenna (6-2, 225) and sophomore Brandon Lukenbill (6-2, 224). Both were backup linebackers last season and played on the scout team. Other possibilities could be senior Riley Lange (6-3, 250) who has played H-Back and defensive end in his career, and senior Luke Leddige (6-2, 205).

UW currently has three quarterbacks on scholarship on campus — redshirt senior Colby Kirkegaard and sophomores Tommy Thornton and Aaron Young (who signed in January out of a junior college). Two true freshmen signed Wednesday in Nick Smith (ranked as one of the top 155 pro-style quarterbacks in the country by 247sports.com) and Austin Fort of Gillette. There could be yet another in the mix as senior Sam Stratton (5-11, 196) has been told by new coach Craig Bohl and his staff he will be given a look at quarterback. Stratton was a high school quarterback in Colorado. He is best-known at UW running the “Wild Sam” offense in 2011 where he took a shot gun snap and mostly ran the ball. Stratton has dealt with knee issues at UW and was the holder on field goals and extra points last season. He’s one of the nicest kids on the team, and it would be great to see him get a chance to play any where next season.

And then there are the national recruiting rankings. Earlier on Wednesday, Rivals.com ranked UW’s class as 98th out of 125 Football Bowl Subdivision teams — ahead of fellow MW schools such as Nevada, New Mexico, San Jose State, Hawaii, UNLV and Utah State. Boise State had the highest at 68.

But another national recruiting site listed San Jose State as the MW’s worst-rated class. Rivals had the Spartans at No. 80.

My point is that none of this stuff matters. Sure, it’s great to see UW or whatever your team may be ranked high and see three or four stars by recruits names as opposed to one or two. Bohl said when he got to UW that he doesn’t care about any of that. But he did say he knows that there is “a line” where recruits must be above to play at UW and in the MW — no matter what their star-rating is at.

When will we see that in this class? Some sooner than later. I wouldn’t be surprised if a handful of these guys contribute next season, especially at quarterback, defensive line and defensive back. Possibly tight end and maybe running back.

Speaking of Florida, UW signed four guys from there. That was the most from any other state. It also signed four from California. In all, this class represents 10 different states. The others: Arizona (3), Missouri (3), Colorado (2), Iowa (2), Idaho (1), Illinois (1), Tennessee (1) and Wyoming (1).

Bohl said he is not sure if Florida will continue to be a place he and his staff recruit players, but felt good about the guys he got from there this year. Bohl also said he hopes to amp up recruiting in Wyoming and Colorado in the future.

Bohl said when he was hired he and his staff also would recruit in Nebraska, Minnesota (Minneapolis area) Montana and the Dakotas. Don’t be alarmed that there are no players in this class from there. He also said he would not recruit any of North Dakota State’s (his former employer) commitments from there. Bohl said Wednesday he and his staff will recruit in those areas next year.

But in the end, does it really matter where UW gets players, as long as they can play and represent the school well? Don’t get me wrong, I think it is important Bohl and Co. have go-to spots, such as Colorado, California, Arizona, Missouri, and from the looks of it now, Florida. Still, Rome wasn’t built in a day and recruiting ties and staff ties to those recruiting grounds were not, either.

Here’s the complete list of signees:

OL Richard Bettencourt, 6-3, 288, Meridian, Idaho (Meridian HS)

LB Alex Bush, 6-2, 220, La Habra, Calif. (La Habra HS)

DE Conner Cain, 6-4, 250, Littleton, Colo. (Heritage HS)

OL Ryan Cummings, 6-6, 310, Highlands Ranch, Colo. (Valor Christian HS)

RB Nico Evans, 5-7, 177, Los Angeles (Loyola HS)

QB Austin Fort, 6-4, 210, Gillette (Campbell County HS)

RB Brian Hill, 6-2, 210, Belleville, Ill. (Belleville West HS)

TE Jacob Hollister, 6-4, 230, Yuma, Ariz. (Arizona Western CC)

DE John Jackson Jr., 6-4, 265, Tucson, Ariz. (Canyon del Oro HS)

CB Cornelius Jennings, 5-10, 175, Orlando, Fla. (Jones HS)

TE Brinkley Jolly, 6-5, 230, Liberty Mo. (North HS)

TE Grant Lewis, 6-5, 225, Memphis, Tenn. (White Station HS)

TE Tyree Mayfield, 6-4, 220, St. Joseph, Mo. (Central HS)

DT Sidney Malauulu, 6-3, 280, Sierra Vista, Ariz. (Buena HS)

DB Chavez Pownell, 5-10, 190, Tampa, Fla. (Jefferson HS)

CB Robert Priester, 5-9, 165, Tampa, Fla. (Robinson HS)

QB Nick Smith, 6-4, 203, Merritt Island, Fla. (Merritt Island HS)

DE Joshua Stanton, 6-3, 240, Valencia, Calif. (Valencia HS)

OL Cole Turner, 6-4, 285, Cedar Rapids, Iowa (Xavier HS)

DT Daniel Vega, 6-4, 260, Cedar Rapids, Iowa (Xavier HS)

CB Ryon’e Winters, 6-0, 185, Grandview, Mo. (Grandview HS)

QB Aaron Young, 6-3, 210, Sacramento, Calif. (ASA CC)

For more recruiting coverage, go to wyosports.net for stories, bios and video links of all of UW’s signees. Also check out Thursday’s Wyoming Tribune Eagle and Laramie Boomerang.

Just a reminder, Thursday’s live chat on UW sports has been moved up from 3 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. due to my travel with the UW men’s basketball team.