Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer
Rose Baca / The Dallas Morning News
Jeremy Papasso / Staff Photographer
On the field last season, the Colorado football team proved it can play with the big boys.
Now, the Buffaloes are proving they can play in the recruiting game, too.
Following up a season in which they went 10-4, won the Pac-12 South and finished No. 17 in the Associated Press poll, the Buffs signed a top 30 recruiting class on Wednesday.
“This was an excellent day,” CU head coach Mike MacIntyre said. “Our coaching staff, everybody that touches our program, did a phenomenal job in the whole recruiting process.”
The class includes 27 players (22 from high school, five from junior colleges) and represents a higher caliber of recruits than the Buffs have attracted in recent years.
It’s a class headlined by three-star quarterback Tyler Lytle, four-star offensive tackle Jake Moretti — who is arguably the top player in the state — four-star offensive lineman Grant Polley and a pair of four-star receivers from DeSoto High School in Texas, K.D. Nixon and Laviska Shenault.
MacIntyre’s previous four classes at CU all ranked nationally in the 60s or 70s, and this is CU’s first top-30 class since 2008.
“We just kept evaluating the same way and I think more doors were open for us,” MacIntyre said. “We were able to get in there and show what we were all about. When they see everything here now, you’re able to get more hooks in them.”
While it would be easy to attribute the recruiting success to CU’s improvement on the field this past year, CU had 16 players committed before this past season began.
“Even before the season, a bunch of guys really believed in what they were telling us and I think that’s what got us off to a great start and an even stronger finish,” said Lytle, from Servite (Calif.) High School, who committed on June 21 and enrolled early at CU last month.
Ending a 10-year string of losing seasons certainly provided some rewards. Moretti, from Pomona High School, was originally committed to Ohio State, but de-committed in November and pledged to the Buffs. Like Lytle, he enrolled early last month.
CU was also able to steal a couple of recruits away from Pac-12 foes late in the process. This week, they added tight end Jared Poplawski (originally committed to Arizona State) and offensive lineman Casey Roddick (originally committed to California).
“(Having a winning season) did open a few other doors,” MacIntyre said. “We had to turn away some really good football players, which we really haven’t had to do in the past.”
Success also allowed the Buffs to keep most of their commits. The majority of this class has been committed for a while and, despite pressure from other schools, stuck with the Buffs. Only two players flipped to other schools – offensive lineman Xavier Newman (to Baylor) and cornerback Morrell Osling (to UCLA).
“What the season did is it solidified those guys,” MacIntyre said. “They got bombarded (by other schools). You keep recruiting them. You keep showing them how much you care about them. If you try to twist their arm or make them feel guilty about it, that’s not really the way you want to do business.”
The fact that so many other schools wanted CU commits was a good sign to MacIntyre.
“Overall, we had a lot more guys getting attacked (from other schools),” he said. “People out there trust our evaluations now. They also know the kids we’re recruiting will be eligible, and there’s a big key to that.”
When the dust settled and the national letters of intent were signed, the Buffs had a class that should keep them competitive for years to come.
It’s a group that fills several needs, especially at offensive line, with five recruits. The addition of five junior college players – all of which could help immediately on defense – is significant, as well.
“We were able to be very well-rounded in this class with some really good athletes,” MacIntyre said.
He added that there weren’t any needs the Buffs had that weren’t addressed with this class, but also acknowledged that the work has yet to begin with this group.
“You still have to develop young men,” he said. “There’ s still a lot of growing pains that go along with it.”
With a strong group of players returning this next season, however, combined with the 27 players added in this class, MacIntyre is confident that the Buffs can continue on the winning path.
“Hopefully success keeps breeding success,” he said.