Worried about all those 2-star recruits? Don’t be
LARAMIE -- Remember Jon Hawk?
He was the 6-foot, 6-inch, 310-pound offensive guard with four stars beside his name. He was part of Wyoming's 2002 recruiting class after initially playing at Oklahoma and leaving for Garden City Community College. He is the highest-rated player to sign with the Cowboys since, according to Rivals.com.
Wait, you don't recall that guy?
That's because he never played a snap in Laramie. In fact, two of his former teammates at UW don't think he even made it to summer camp.
Here's some guys you might know from that class:
- Chase Johnson, OL
- Dorsey Golston, DB
- Josh Barge, WR
- Aaron Robbins, DE
- John Wendling, S
Those were all two-star players who signed on the dotted line in Vic Koenning's final season in Laramie.
Johnson and Wendling were eventual First-Team All-Mountain West selections. Robbins earned postseason honors, too. Golston picked off six career passes at UW, four alone during his senior season in 2006.
Barge returned a punt 87 yards for a touchdown in a 37-32 upset victory over Ole Miss in 2004. He also hauled in a 69-yard scoring strike from fellow receiver Jovon Bouknight that day in Laramie.
SEC speed, right?
Wendling's playing days, as you know, didn't end inside War Memorial Stadium. The Rock Springs native played seven seasons in the NFL for the Bills and Lions.
"Stars," Barge said with a laugh. "Yeah, Eric Weddle was a two-star player when he went to Utah. Now, he's going to be on the NFL All-Decade team."
After earning MW Defensive Player of the Year twice, Weddle went on to have an impressive 13-year NFL career as a safety. That included 29 interceptions and six Pro Bowl appearances.
We could find similar stories all day long.
Here are some other two-star guys to play at Wyoming:
- Derrick Martin
- Chris Prosinski
- Mike Purcell
- Brett Smith
- Chase Roullier
- Tanner Gentry
- Brian Hill
- Cooper Rothe
There are many, many others, too, like Brian Hendricks, Alvester Alexander, Dom Rufran, Nico Evans, Jacob Hollister, Rico Gafford, Tyler Hall and Chad Muma.
These names litter the UW history books. Smith is No. 1 in touchdown passes with 76. Hill is the school's all-time leading rusher with 4,287 yards. Martin owns a pair of Super Bowl rings. Rothe is Wyoming's all-time leading scorer.
How about the guys with zero stars attached to their name?
Wyoming has had 17 of those since 2002, according to the recruiting site. Any of these guys ring a bell?
- Shaun Wick
- Eric Nzeocha
- Robert Priester
- James Price
- Antonio Hull
- Josh Harshman
Wick is the sixth leading rusher in program history with 2,533 yards. Nzeocha is still a linebacker for the San Francisco 49ers. Priester started 36 games in the Cowboys' secondary. Hull started 35 and picked off four passes. Harshman, the Casper product, snagged three touchdown passes. So did Price.
"I think the star rankings are good to a degree. It give kids something to talk about," said Golston, who was part of that 2002 class. "But, ultimately, I think it comes down to a players' development once they get to school."
Craig Bohl doesn't shy away from "projects."
If a player fits what he's looking for, Bohl and his staff have showed they can mold a guy into an NFL player. They did it at North Dakota State. They're doing it in Laramie.
Sixteen former Cowboys are on active NFL rosters, 13 were brought to UW by Bohl.
"I told (UW Athletics Director) Tom Burman when we first got here we're going to be a developmental program," Bohl said. "We're not going to have the spit-shiny top recruits. So, to do that, we have to have a plan to have the resources in place to get them better. And that means offseason conditioning, that means strength and conditioning, that means nutrition and that means a training table.
"That means grinding things out in spring ball and that means summer conditioning. That means all those things come into it. That's been our secret. Team cohesiveness, chemistry and culture has been our secret."
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It's always easy to look back, but Bohl's secret really came into play with his 2015 signing class.
That group featured Andrew Wingard, Logan Wilson, Youhann Ghaifan, CJ Johnson, Kevin Prosser, Kellen Overstreet, Kaden Jackson, Zach Wallace, Carl Granderson, Hull, Harshman and a no-named quarterback from Reedley Junior College, Josh Allen.
Only Johnson carried three stars behind his name in that group. The class, there were four total. The other three were Milo Hall, Justice Murphy and Dameko Doddles.
Heard of 'em?
Hall transferred. So did Doddles. Murphy caught one ball for 17 yards. He left UW, too.
"It never mattered to me how many stars a teammate had coming in," Golston said. "My mindset was always, 'does this player help us be better?'"
Bohl and Co. just wrapped up the early singing period Wednesday with 17 new signees. All of them have two stars next to their name. According to Rivals, Wyoming's class is ranked in the 100's.
What does it all mean?
Stars are all but irrelevant and it's a crapshoot. Just like professional sports drafts or hiring the guy with the flashy resume, you just don't know until you know.
Coaches were not allowed to travel for recruiting purposes this season. COVID-19 forced staffs to rely on connections and film. Lots and lots of film. Introductions were done over Zoom calls. So were campus visits. Bohl said one of his biggest selling points is the gameday experience. That obviously didn't happen, either.
Some states the Cowboys recruit in -- Illinois and California -- didn't play prep football this fall, adding to the difficulty of evaluating. Bohl, self-admittedly, is not a techy guy. He does this recruiting thing the "old fashion way."
That means boots on the ground, face-to-face.
"It was a year unlike any other year that I've ever experienced," he said. "But, nonetheless, we're convinced we have an excellent recruiting class here."
In the end, do stars really matter?