Wednesday, February 4, 2009
Bigger, faster, stronger for Christensen in first recruiting class
Richard Anderson photo
New Wyoming football coach Dave Christensen talks about his first recruiting class on Wednesday.
By Richard Anderson
Speed and athleticism were the key ingredients for Dave Christensen’s first football recruiting class at the University of Wyoming.
“We want to recruit across the board, but I also have a philosophy that we find the best 12 guys on both sides of the ball,” said Christensen, after he and his assistant coaches introduced his 24 signees and some preferred walk-ons in the War Room of the Rochelle Athletic Center Wednesday afternoon. “We want to recruit in every position every year. The emphasis is more on speed and athleticism, not one particular position.”
Christensen's first Wyoming class includes student-athletes from 13 different states -- 12 offensive players and 12 defensive players who signed letters of intent on the first day of the national signing period. Of the 24 signees, 17 are skill-position players and seven are linemen.
There are 23 high school signees and one junior college recruit in the class.
"Our coaches really did a great job of developing relationships with these young men and getting them excited about the vision we have for this program and what we want to accomplish here at Wyoming,” Christensen said.
With that emphasis on speed and athleticism, Christensen said they were able to meet those goals.
“In the relatively short amount of time that we had to put this class together, I believe my staff did an excellent job of getting out, finding talent and evaluating players that will fit into our system,” he said.
Among the highlights of his first class include: a pair of quarterbacks in junior college transfer Robert Benjamin from Phoenix, Ariz., and high school quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels from San Jose, Calif., who combined were ranked by Rivals.com as the 15th best quarterback recruiting class in the nation.
Benjamin was the NJCAA Region I Offensive Player of the Year, while Carta-Samuels was ranked by Rivals.com as the No. 22 best dual-threat quarterback in the nation.
Christensen said the two are both talented quarterbacks who should fit in with his spread offense.
“The Samuels kid reminds me a lot of Chase Daniel (Missouri quarterback) in a lot of ways -- the intangibles of playing that position, the upbringing, the support from his family, how he carries himself, being the student of the game that he is and being the competitor that he is. I think Robert Benjamin is a very athletic kid who reminds me of Brad Smith, who played for us at Missouri when we first put in the spread offense. He has great athleticism and throws the ball well. He brings a lot to the table, also.”
The Cowboys again picked up some of the best from Colorado, including three of the 11 members of the 2008 Denver Post All-Colorado Defensive team -- linebacker Todd Knight of Grandview, linebacker Devyn Harris of Fountain-Fort Carson and defensive back Luke Ruff of Douglas County.
Two of the Colorado players were Top 25 recruits from the state of Colorado as ranked by Rivals.com. Knight was ranked as the No. 12 top recruit in Colorado, and defensive linemen Mike Purcell from Highlands Ranch High School was ranked as the No. 17 recruit in Colorado.
Also signed were two high school teammates -- defensive back Shamiel Gary and tight end T.J. Smith from the Oklahoma 5A State Championship team, Booker T. Washington High School out of Tulsa, Okla.
The Cowboys also signed the top recruit in the state of Wyoming, defensive lineman Spencer Bruce of Campbell County High School in Gillette. Bruce was a Casper Star-Tribune Super 25 selection and led the Camels to the 2008 Wyoming 5A State Championship.
“What I like about him is his athleticism,” Christensen said of Bruce, who originally gave a verbal commitment to Southern Miss, but after a visit last weekend to UW, decided to stay in his home state. “With him being from the state of Wyoming, is just special, to have a Division I athletic from the state. We want to make sure that if there are Division I players here, that they attend the University of Wyoming. He’s a great kid.”
Other instate athletes announced on Wednesday were include preferred walk-ons, safety Andrew Meredith from Green River, running back Duell Petsch from Burns and offensive lineman Derrek Jerred from Gillette.
“These kids are tremendous athletics in the state of Wyoming,” Christensen said. “They are very athletic and they are all good kids who are dying to come to their home state school. We’re just pleased to have them in our program.”
Wyoming also signed five players from the state of Colorado, three each from Texas and Illinois and two from the states of California, Missouri and Oklahoma in the 2009 signing class.
“We plan to build our recruiting base around Wyoming and Colorado, but we're going to try and expand our base and find the best players we can to help us be successful,” Christensen said. “Reaching into 13 states this year, I think we were able to find a number of outstanding athletes to satisfy several needs we had."
The national letter-of-intent signing period ends on April 1, but Christensen said at this time he has no scholarships remaining for the fall.
High-School Signees (21)
Name Pos. Ht. Wt. Class Hometown (Last School)
Alvester Alexander RB 5-11 200 Fr. Houston, Texas (C.E. King)
Kenny Browder DB 5-11 175 Fr. Round Rock, Texas (Stony Point)
Spencer Bruce DL 6-5 215 Fr. Gillette, Wyo. (Campbell County)
Austyn Carta-Samuels QB 6-2 210 Fr. San Jose, Calif. (Bellarmine College Prep)
Scott Criss OL 6-5 250 Fr. Omaha, Neb. (Creighton Prep)
Shamiel Gary DB 6-1 210 Fr. Tulsa, Okla. (Booker T. Washington)
Devyn Harris LB 6-3 200 Fr. Fountain, Colo. (Fountain-Fort Carson)
Rodney Jaynes WR 6-4 205 Fr. Chicago, Ill. (Hales Franciscan)
Todd Knight LB 6-2 200 Fr. Aurora, Colo. (Grandview)
Trendt Marsom DB 6-0 195 Fr. Honolulu, Hawaii (Kaimuki)
Chris McNeill WR 6-1 170 Fr. Simi Valley, Calif. (Notre Dame)
Larry Mitchell DB 6-3 185 Fr. Fort Worth, Texas (North Crowley)
Alo Moli WR 6-3 180 Fr. West Valley, Utah (Cottonwood)
Ghaali Muhammad DB 6-0 200 Fr. St. Joseph, Mo. (Central)
Mike Purcell DL 6-3 260 Fr. Highlands Ranch, Colo. (Highlands Ranch)
Jeff Roueche LB 6-3 205 Fr. Niwot, Colo. (Niwot)
Luke Ruff DB 5-11 190 Fr. Castle Rock, Colo. (Douglas County)
T.J. Smith TE 6-3 215 Fr. Tulsa, Okla. (Booker T. Washington)
David Tooley TE 6-5 210 Fr. Moberly, Mo. (Moberly)
Thomas Vonashek OL 6-9 280 Fr. St. Simons Island, Ga. (Glynn Academy)
Mark Willis DL 6-4 230 Fr. Oak Park, Ill. (Oak Park & River Forest)
Junior-College Signee (Who Will Enroll at UW in the Fall of 2009) (1)
Robert Benjamin QB 6-2 205 Jr. Phoenix, Ariz. (Phoenix CC, Ariz.)
Grayshirt Signees From February 2008 (Who Enrolled at UW in the Spring of 2009) (2)
Nick Carlson# OL 6-4 235 Fr. Arlington Heights, Ill. (Prospect)
Josh Leonard# OL 6-4 250 Fr. Helena, Mont. (Helena)
#Grayshirts who went on scholarship in January of 2009. These grayshirts were originally signed in February 2008, but count toward the 2009 recruiting class total.