With so many options to choose from, Cherry Creek High School’s Carson Lee never envisioned he’d be one to pick a school early in the recruiting process.
The 6-foot-3, 320-pound center did, however, give his pledge to the Colorado Buffaloes on Feb. 2 and he hasn’t looked back. More than 10 months since making that choice, Lee will finally have an opportunity make it official on Wednesday when he signs his national letter of intent.
“I’m just ready to get the ball rolling and officially be official,” he said. “This is by far the biggest thing that’s happened in my life so far, signing away a paper to have a full ride scholarship to a university like Colorado, being able to fulfill my dream of playing football at the collegiate level and especially at the Division I level. I think it’s a day that I’ll never forget and a day that my family will never forget either.”
On Wednesday, the first day of the early signing period, the Buffs are expected to get NLIs from around 20 players. That will nearly fill the 2020 class for CU, which is nearing the end of its first full recruiting class with head coach Mel Tucker.
Tucker’s first full class is shaping up to be CU’s best in years. As of Tuesday, the Buffs’ class ranked 30th in the country by Rivals.com and 33rd by 247Sports.com. Both sites had the Buffs among the top six in the Pac-12. CU hasn’t had a class rank among the nation’s top 30 since 2008.
Hired a year ago, Tucker hit the ground running with recruiting, filling his staff and getting acclimated. This year, the full focus is on signing day.
“It’s a lot different, and we’ve also played a season,” said Cymone George, the Buffs’ director of football recruiting. “A lot of the guys signing last year, they were just signing and hoping coach Tuck would do what he was planning on. Now that the guys are seeing that we’re going to be great again, it’s a lot easier to sign all these guys and keep the guys that were committed. We’ve had a lot of commitments for a long time. Honestly, our commits are doing a great job recruiting as well. If you can get guys that love Colorado and like CU, that’ll really sell everything for everyone else.”
There’s been no better example of that than Lee. Ranked as one of the top players in the state for 2020, Lee received about 20 scholarship offers, including from Michigan, Nebraska and a handful of Pac-12 schools. He chose CU and has been touting the program to other recruits ever since.
“When I go up there, everybody calls me Mr. CU and says that I’m one of the most important parts in the recruiting department,” he said. “Being able to be a voice of an actual recruit and telling the kids what they can expect and what I went through and what I’ve seen, I think, is just as valuable as hearing the vision from coach Tucker, just because you see that a kid your age is being able to see that, too. My biggest pitch throughout these last 10 months has just been, ‘Just take a visit up here.’ There’s nothing to not like about Boulder. Boulder sells itself with all and the beauty when you get up there, the facilities, the coaches’ vision, and I think once you get up here, it’s hard to tell coach Tucker no.”
Lee’s love of CU and his outgoing personality have allowed him to bond with several CU recruits. Three-star receiver Keith Miller III from The Colony, Tex., has stayed at the Lee house a couple times and refers to Lee’s dad as “his dad in Colorado.” Lee said his father talks with the father of three-star tackle Jake Wray several times a week.
“All this stuff that I’ve been able to experience, just from being the first commit in the class and being the advocate for this 2020 class has just been a blessing in disguise,” Lee said.
Several schools kept trying to recruit Lee after he committed, but his choice was solidified Sept. 7 when the Buffs rallied from a 17-0 deficit to knock off Nebraska 34-31 in overtime at Folsom Field.
“I said, ‘This is 100 percent where I belong, where I want to be and where I want to go,’ because I just saw the change in the culture, the toughness of the players, the resilience of the players,” Lee said. “I don’t think that’s something that CU has had in a very long time and for coach Tucker to be able to bring that to the program in less than a year I think shows where we’re going to be in three to four years and how we’re going to be the dominant team that CU once was.”
Several other recruits are seeing that vision, as well. Lee said that did not waver during the Buffs’ five-game losing streak that ultimately kept them out of a bowl game for a third consecutive season.
“We honestly saw the fact that other schools have just had better recruiting classes,” Lee said. “Even though there was a lot of negative with the losing, there was so much positive with the vision of where the program is going and where it’s going to be by the time we’re sophomores, juniors and seniors there.”
Colorado’s 2020 class
A look at the players committed to Colorado for the 2020 football recruiting cycle:
High school players, hometown (high school)
DT Jordan Berry, Harbor City, Calif. (Narbonne)
WR Chris Carpenter, Jacksonville, Tex. (Jacksonville)
RB Ashaad Clayton, New Orleans (Warren Easton)
TE Caleb Fauria, Attleboro, Ma. (Bishop Feehan)
S Christian Gonzalez, The Colony, Tex. (The Colony)
DE Devin Grant, San Antonio, Tex. (Antonian College Prep)
OC Carson Lee, Englewood, Colo. (Cherry Creek)
WR Montana Lemonious-Craig, Inglewood, Calif. (Inglewood)
QB Brendon Lewis, Melissa, Tex. (Melissa)
OT Gerad Lichtenhan, Davis, Calif. (Davis Senior)
WR Keith Miller, The Colony, Tex. (The Colony)
TE Louis Passarello, Palo Alto, Calif. (Palo Alto)
S Toren Pittman, Frisco, Tex. (Lone Star)
WR Brenden Rice, Chandler, Ariz. (Hamilton)
RB Jayle Stacks, Englewood, Colo. (Cherry Creek)
P Josh Watts, ProKick Australia
DE Alvin Williams, Ellenwood, Ga. (Cedar Grove)
LB Mister Williams, Westlake Village, Calif. (Oaks Christian)
OT Jake Wray, Marietta, Ga. (Marietta)
Junior college transfers
DE Justin Jackson, Northwest Mississippi Community College
CB Jaylen Striker, Independence (Kan.) Community College
OLB Guy Thomas, Coahoma (Miss.) Community College