Klayton Adams wasn’t sure what to expect the first time he was sent down to Texas to recruit football players to Colorado.
“I didn’t grow up in Texas and hadn’t spent a whole bunch of time down there,” said Adams, the Buffaloes’ offensive line coach. “I was a little bit interested to see how we were going to be received.”
It’s now safe to say the Buffs are quite popular in the Lone Star State.
This past week, the Buffs announced their 2017 class of recruits, which includes 28 players from the high school and junior college ranks, with eight of those coming from Texas.
“I think it’s absolutely essential,” Adams said of recruiting Texas players.
Co-offensive coordinator Darrin Chiaverini thinks so, too. A former CU receiver, Chiaverini was hired in December of 2015 after two seasons at Texas Tech.
Chiaverini knows that Texas doesn’t just have talent, it has overflowing numbers of exceptional players.
“It’s a great state with great high school football and great college football,” Chiaverini said, “but that doesn’t mean every kid wants to play college football in Texas. You see that nationally. You see the SEC pulling from Texas, you see the ACC pulling from Texas, you see the Pac-12 pulling form Texas. It’s a great, great rich tradition of high school athletes down there.”
In addition to being co-OC and receivers coach, Chiaverini was hired to be the Buffs’ recruiting coordinator. He wanted CU to make more of an effort to recruit Texas.
“We wanted to get in Texas but we weren’t really having a lot of success,” CU head coach Mike MacIntyre said. “And then Darrin came, and from being at Texas Tech had made some inroads there, so he had some connections.”
In MacIntyre’s first four recruiting classes at CU (2013-16), the Buffs signed a total of eight players from Texas high schools.
This week, Pac-12 schools signed a total of 24 Texas players, with a third of those going to CU. Only two other Pac-12 schools (Arizona State and Utah with four each) signed more than three from Texas.
Prior to Chiaverini’s arrival, CU was sending three coaches to recruit in Texas, but expanded to five in the past year.
“(We) then narrowed down some other areas, because we felt like (Texas) would be a hotbed for us and sure enough it worked out well,” MacIntyre said.
In the past 45 years, CU has signed 133 players from Texas — third, behind California (265) and Colorado (254) — with former coaches Rick Neuheisel and Gary Barnett putting more emphasis on Texas than others.
Because he’s seen CU have success in Texas in the past, Chiaverini was confident it could work again, despite the fact that the Buffs’ trip to the Valero Alamo Bowl in December was its first game in Texas in more than seven years.
“I honestly was not worried about that one bit,” he said. “I think that kids want to expand their horizons in their life.”
One of the players CU signed this week, cornerback Chris Miller, from Denton High School, said he chose CU in large part because it’s different from Texas.
“I’ll be around a bunch of different people and I’ll get to experience new things and different types of people,” he said. “When you go (to Boulder), there’s not really one bad thing I can say about it.”
Adams quickly earned respect for Texas, not only because of the wealth of talent, but for the emphasis the state puts on football.
“I love recruiting down there,” said Adams, who also spends a lot of time recruiting Northern California. “Football is really, really important to those high school coaches, and I think they’re not in the business of pushing kids to one school or another. If those coaches know you’re working your butt off and that you’re interested in the kid and you’re not about yourself, they’ll allow your kids to come to your program.”
While a lot of the players in Texas aren’t too familiar with CU football – especially successful CU football — many of the coaches know all about the Buffs, and that’s helped CU.
“They like Colorado football down there,” Chiaverini said. “The coaches that are older guys, they remember CU football in the heyday and the golden era. When I walk in there, it wasn’t a hard sell. The coaches remembered guys like Eric Bieniemy and (Darian) Hagan and Kordell Stewart and Michael Westbrook.”
Chiaverini said he’s discovered that many of the coaches in Texas are glad to have CU recruiting the state again.
“When I came in there and put five coaches in there, they were like, ‘This is cool. We’re seeing Colorado again,'” he said.
Three of the top programs in Texas belong to DeSoto, Allen and Cedar Hill high schools – all three ranked among the top five in Texas, according to MaxPreps.com. CU signed two players each from DeSoto and Denton and one from Allen.
“It came down in the end that they trusted us and they wanted to be with us and our program and where we’re headed, and that was big,” Chiaverini said.
Developing and continuing relationships with those schools in Texas should pay off for the Buffs in the future, as well, because this was not a one-year deal. CU is in Texas to stay.
“You have some really, really big-name, talented players that turned down a lot of big-name schools to come to Colorado,” Chiaverini said. “That just shows you we’re back in the scene now.”
Brian Howell: firstname.lastname@example.org, on Twitter: @BrianHowell33.