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Bohl plans to heavily recruit Wyoming, cold weather states

AP Photo University of Wyoming football coach Craig Bohl speaks with members of the media during a press conference on Sunday at War Memorial Stadium in Laramie, Wyo.

By Mike Vorel

Casper (Wyo.) Star-Tribune

LARAMIE, Wyo. — Craig Bohl has heard plenty of coaches say it, throwing out the grandiose declaration as if it’s a campaign promise.

We’re going to recruit our home state.

It sounds good at an introductory press conference, just as it reads well on paper. Saying it, though, takes nothing but a few breaths. Doing it — especially in as sparsely populated a state as Wyoming — is something else entirely.

“First of all, I think it’s really important that we recruit our home state. And every head coach is going to say that. ‘We’re going to recruit our state,’” Bohl said Sunday.

“Well, are you really recruiting them? And that means, are you really looking under every rock? Are you looking at the guy who’s an underachieving guy, where you go, ‘You know what, I think in three years that guy (can play).’ You have to have the eye to discern that.”

Bohl believes he has that eye, and his roster at North Dakota State goes a long way to support his case. During the 2013 season, 22 players on the Bison roster hailed from North Dakota, like Wyoming another state not known for its wealth of big-time high school prospects.

And yet, Bohl found them, and he made it all work. On the other end of the scale, by the end of the 2013 season Dave Christensen had exactly one player from the state of Wyoming on scholarship at UW.


There’s no denying that the Cowboy State lacks a competitive share of Division I talent. But was Christensen really “looking under every rock,” as Bohl out it? And will the new 55-year-old coach make good on his “campaign promise?”

The answer will come over the next few months and in the coming years.

Beyond Wyoming, though, Bohl has other plans to shift the team’s recruiting focus. He wants to dominate the “front range,” of course, but he’d also like to make significant inroads into Nebraska, where he formerly played and coached.

Other states Bohl offered as prime targets were Kansas and Montana.

“That’s going to be the bread and butter,” Bohl said.

Besides “place,” another crucial component for Bohl to immediately consider is “time.” He and his staff will be fighting an uphill battle once they settle in Laramie, forced to recruit as heavily as possible in a shorter-than-usual time frame.

And even worse for Wyoming, Bohl could realistically remain in Fargo, coaching the Bison in the FCS playoffs for three more weeks — depending if North Dakota State keeps winning.

“We want him to be here as fast as he can,” Wyoming athletic director Tom Burman said. “But we’re all in the business for student athletes, and if the best interest for North Dakota State is that he goes back, we’re all fired up. We’ll support it. We’ll get people to donate jet service. We’ll fly him and his staff back and forth. We’ll get it done.”

Bohl would likely not have been able to sign many recruits even if he started in Laramie immediately, however, considering that a recruiting “dead period” extends from Dec. 16 to Jan. 15. During that time, coaches may write and telephone recruits on a limited basis but may not visit them in person or host visits on campus.

Wyoming’s 32nd head coach knows he can’t offer scholarships lightly, but with only three current verbal commitments for the incoming class of 2014, he also has little time to wait around and evaluate talent.

“What’s really concerning is, recruiting is a year-long cycle. The decisions you make, what you invest, are really important,” Bohl said. “Maybe unlike some other program where they’re going to keep flipping guys through, we need to build. This is a developmental program.”

Bohl’s model at North Dakota State, soon to be his model in Laramie, is to disregard player rankings and instead find guys that fit his attitude and style of play.

And what about Wyoming’s current verbal commits — offensive lineman Richard Bettencourt, linebacker Joshua Stanton and quarterback Austin Fort? Do they fit that vision?

While it’s expected that the new coaching staff will keep those scholarship offers on the table, Bohl said he’s going to re-evaluate those players before making any final decisions.

“I look at this plan and go, ‘OK, we need to do our homework on guys before we tender offers.’ I’ll look at those commitments, and I’m going to get on the phone and do what we need to do,” Bohl said. “But without question, that’s going to be a challenge.”

The challenges awaiting Bohl in Laramie are numerous. He must find the right guys to fit his system, without taking the ordinary amount of time to scour the country. He must mold the players he already has to fit a grueling, physical style of play very different from the one they know.

Just as when he started at North Dakota State, Bohl acknowledged that a history of recent wins aren’t here waiting for him. But the tradition, and the opportunity to improve, is.

“The year I got to NDSU, they were 2-8 the year before and lost to Augustana at home. And we’re trying to talk about playing University of Minnesota,” Bohl said with a chuckle. “So that was a pretty tall mountain to climb, and it was a work in progress. What was true, and it’s similar here, there was a rich tradition of Bison football. We just had to rekindle that.

“You look up and see these banners and things like that ... it’s here.”