Sawvel Values In-State Prospects, Walk-On’s in First Recruiting Class
LARAMIE -- Who's a walk-on? Who's on a full-ride scholarship?
That's the way this Wyoming football program has viewed the recruiting process since Craig Bohl stepped on campus back in the winter of 2014. Nearly 50 non-scholarship players have earned tuition in that timeframe.
Marcus Epps, arguably the most successful walk-on of the Bohl era, is a fifth-year NFL safety. He inked a two-year, $12 million contract with the Las Vegas Raiders last offseason.
Current players -- Jordan Bertagnole, Ryan Marquez, Buck Coors, Wyatt Wieland and many others -- also came to Laramie with no financial guarantees.
That philosophy obviously isn't changing under the new leadership of rookie head coach Jay Sawvel.
Neither is signing in-state recruits.
"First of all, it's critical because it's your closest region. It's the people who are closest to you," he said. "... This university is a state-of-Wyoming university, so every single corner of the state, the University of Wyoming is important. We're not Eastern this, Western that, northern this -- we're the University of Wyoming. The entire state backs us that way and it's important to be in that mode."
Sawvel's first signing class includes three walk-on's from Wyoming, including Cheyenne East defensive back Drew Jackson, Cheyenne South kicker Keelan Anderson and Douglas offensive lineman Tegen Seeds.
Alex Haswell, a 6-foot-4, 205-pound offensive lineman, is the state's lone scholarship player. The 4A lineman of the year helped lead Sheridan to back-to-back state championships. Haswell was named to the 2022 Casper Star-Tribune Super 25 team, along with future UW teammates Cody Crawford (Natrona County - Casper) and Kayden LaFramboise (Thunder Basin - Gillette).
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The Cowboys currently boast 17 in-state players on the roster with the addition of these four.
"I think it's extremely important," said Gordie Haug, Wyoming's Executive Director of Recruiting. "I think it's the No. 1 thing that you want to do to be able to continue your culture. When you have homegrown kids that get to put on the brown and gold every Saturday, it means more to them."
Thirteen preferred walk-on's committed last February on the NCAA's traditional signing day. The program added nine more on Wednesday.
Nebraska was once known for its extensive walk-on program, which ultimately allowed in-state players to suit up for the Big Red. Tom Osborne turned that into tradition, beginning in 1973, the same season the NCAA implemented the reduction rule, eliminating the number of scholarships a school can offer.
Bohl, a Lincoln native, took full advantage, walking on to his hometown program four years later. That didn't stop when he became a full-time assistant coach at his alma mater in 1995, either.
Sawvel said his story is similar. He attended Division-III power Mount Union in his home state of Ohio. He also paid to play.
"All of us who embrace these types of guys that are non-scholarship players coming into a program, a lot of us have Division II and 1-AA backgrounds, where you had to build a lot of your team with guys that weren't always the highest ranked recruits," he said. "The development process of those guys becomes critical. Everybody that comes into the program, we're going to recruit kind of the same way. They still have to meet certain criteria.
"We're going to recruit them just as hard as we do other people. It doesn't matter. I think when they're here, everybody is treated the same way. We're all in the same program. We're all Wyoming Cowboys."
More on in-state recruits:
* Alex Haswell was a unanimous selection as the 2023 Wyoming Class 4A Lineman of the Year in voting by members of the Wyoming Coaches Association. He led his Sheridan High team to its third consecutive 4A State Championship in 2023. He was a unanimous selection to the 2023 Class 4A All-State First Team as both an offensive lineman and defensive lineman in voting by the Wyoming Coaches Association.
* Drew Jackson is a defensive back from Cheyenne, Wyo., where he attended Cheyenne East High School. Jackson was a unanimous First Team Class 4A All-State selection as a running back and also earned First Team honors as a defensive back in voting by the Wyoming Coaches Association.
* Tegen Seeds is an offensive lineman from Douglas, Wyo. Seeds was a 2023 First-Team All-State honoree as an offensive lineman as selected by the Wyoming Coaches Association, and he was a First Team All-State honoree as a defensive lineman in 2022 as selected by the Wyoming Coaches Association.
* Keelan Anderson is a place-kicker from Cheyenne South High School in Cheyenne, Wyo. Anderson connected on a Wyoming High School state record 61-yard field goal vs. Natrona County High School during the 2023 season. He was a unanimous 2023 First-Team All-State Class 4A honoree as selected by the Wyoming High School Coaches Association. Anderson will enroll in classes in January.
More on preferred walk-on's:
* Jordan Abarca is a defensive tackle from Seal Beach, Calif. Abarca was ranked as a three-star recruit by 247 Sports.
* Jack Harvey is a linebacker from Baldwin City, Kan., and attended Baldwin High School. Harvey is a multi-sport athlete, also competing in wrestling where he won a Kansas State title in the 190-pound weight class. He also earned a spot in the Kansas Shrine Bowl.
* Tyler Nystrom is a wide receiver from Arden Hills, Minn., where he attended Mounds View High School. He was ranked as a three-star recruit by On3.com. On3 also ranked Nystrom as the No. 18 recruit in the state of Minnesota. 247Sports.com ranked him as a two-star recruit and ranked Nystrom as the No. 26 recruit in the state of Minnesota.
* Trey Olsen is a wide receiver from Loveland, Colo., where he attended Loveland High School. Olsen was a First-Team All-State Class 4A selection as selected by Colorado head coaches and presented by CHSAANow.com and MaxPreps.
* Joaquin Sandoval is a defensive back from Glenwood Springs, Colo., where he attended Glenwood Springs High School. Sandoval was a Second-Team Class 3A All-State honoree as a quarterback and defensive back as selected by Colorado head coaches and presented by CHSAANow.com and MaxPreps.
* Dontae Burch is ranked by On3.com as a three-star recruit. His senior season, he accounted for 1,683 yards, averaged 140.25 yards per game, averaged 8.23 yards per carry and scored 24 total touchdowns without fumbling once. He was also an outstanding receiver out of the backfield. He helped lead Christ Preparatory Academy to a 9-3 record and the 2023 National Home School Football Association National Tournament. Burch was named an NHFA All-Star his senior season.
More on scholarship players:
Wyoming Cowboys Football: 2023 Season in Photos
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