In recent years, the Colorado football team has had trouble luring the top in-state high school players to Boulder.
With a determination to change that, the Buffaloes landed two of the best on Sunday.
Cherry Creek High School teammates Jonathan Van Diest and Dante Sparaco both gave verbal commitments to the Buffs, getting CU off to an early start on its 2017 class.
"I was going to commit before senior year no matter what," Van Diest said, "so I think the reason I committed early was that this felt like the right place to be. It felt like home. I love the facilities, I love Boulder. I feel like (the program) is going to turn, but more importantly, I wanted to be a part of a program that I helped build."
While the Buffs got a jump on the 2017 class, they also added to their 2016 class.
Kyle Trego, a safety from Diablo Valley (Calif.) College, received a scholarship offer from the Buffaloes and immediately gave a verbal commitment. He signed his letter of intent on Sunday night.
"I'm very excited," said the 5-foot-11 ½, 190-pound Trego, who took an official visit to CU over the weekend. "I just can't wait to get out there and really be with the team and start getting ready for the season. I was very impressed. Everything about Boulder, Colorado, is beautiful to me. I just loved it overall."
Earlier this month, the Buffs signed 17 players to letters of intent, 14 from high schools and three junior college transfers. In addition, they are adding Texas Tech transfer quarterback Davis Webb.
Trego becomes the 19th member of the 2016 class. He has four years to play three and is eligible to play this fall, where he expects to compete for a spot at safety or nickel back.
Meanwhile, Van Diest and Sparaco were part of a big group of local players taking part in CU's "junior day," and the two decided not to leave Boulder without promising to come back.
"I just feel really comfortable with my decision and I'm pretty excited that I was able to announce it today," Sparaco said.
Van Diest is a 6-foot-2, 235-pound defensive end who has been rated a three-star talent by Rivals.com. Still recovering from a broken arm he suffered in Cherry Creek's Class 5A state semifinal loss to Valor Christian on Nov. 28, Van Diest said he believes he'll play either middle linebacker or outside linebacker at CU.
Van Diest grew up in Boulder and both of his parents worked at CU as campus pastors.
Sparaco, who is 6-foot-4 and 250 pounds, is labeled as a three-star athlete, and he could wind up at defensive end or tight end at CU.
Sparaco said he feels some players like the ego boost that comes from taking their time and building up offers from a lot of schools, but said his desire to play at CU was most important.
"I just felt comfortable with Colorado," he said. "It's a lot of stress, especially with school and what we're going through at this age in high school. It's just one thing that you can fix pretty easily if you feel like we did about Colorado."
CU is hoping the pair can help lure other top in-state players to Boulder. The 2017 class is one of the best in recent years for in-state talent. Arguably the top two players in the class have committed to other schools — Dylan McCaffrey to Michigan and Jake Moretti to Ohio State — but there are plenty of other big-time players undecided.
"We might not have as many kids (in Colorado), but we have high quality players here," Sparaco said. "If you can build a foundation around kids who really love Boulder and who have a passion for Colorado and who have grown up cheering for the Buffs, if you can get those guys to build your foundation, it'll definitely bring in other guys."
That's the hope, but regardless of what happens, the Cherry Creek teammates are excited about their futures at CU.
"We want to go to CU and turn around the program and build something," Van Diest said. "If we do that here (as in-state recruits) ... looking back it's going to be more meaningful.
"I think it's on the right track, and I think they're taking the right steps to get to where they need to be. I'm excited."