Like most football coaches that have come through Colorado, Mel Tucker has declared that recruiting in-state talent is a top priority.
Like most recent CU football coaches, Tucker is finding it will take some time to make a dent within the state.
On Wednesday, Tucker and the Buffs announced 20 players that have signed national letters of intent, nearly completing his first full recruiting cycle at CU. Only one of those players – Cherry Creek offensive lineman Carson Lee – is from Colorado.
“It’s disappointing in a way,” said Lee, rated the No. 7 prospect in the state by 247Sports.com. “But I think it’s something that, I hate to say it, but the state of Colorado was not recruited like they are by the staff that’s up there now. We were not recruited as well (by the previous coaching staff).”
Tucker has recruited the state more aggressively than his predecessor, Mike MacIntyre. Lee said he heard from Tucker at least twice a week, compared to once every couple of months from the previous staff.
“Making sure that we know that we’re a priority, I think it’s just going to come with time,” Lee said.
Tucker and his staff offered many of the top recruits in the state and several visited the campus.
“We had conversations and we got guys on campus and we went to the schools and talked to the coaches and we put our best foot forward and we recruited them,” Tucker said. “Everyone’s looking for the right fit and the right seat on the bus for them.
“That’s the process that we’re going to continue to follow and we’re going to be very, very aggressive and I expect things to change.”
Winning will be the main aspect to that change. Three consecutive 5-7 seasons is a tough sell, especially for this year’s class, which is one of the best in-state classes in years.
The state’s top player, Columbine offensive lineman Andrew Gentry, is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and was long considered a lock to go to BYU. He wound up picking Virginia, led by former BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall.
Valor Christian offensive lineman Roger Rosengarten (Washington), Mullen defensive tackle Aidan Keanaaina (Notre Dame), Grand Junction Central tight end Kole Taylor (LSU), Eaglecrest offensive lineman Reece Atteberry (Michigan) and Pine Creek cornerback Max Lofy (Wisconsin) all picked programs that have been among the elite teams in the country in recent years. Durango offensive lineman Carver Willis picked Kansas State, which is going to a bowl for the eighth time in 10 years.
“The big time guys that we do have were wanted by everybody in the country,” said Lee, who had offers from 20 schools, including Kansas State, Michigan, Nebraska and Utah. “When you have guys like myself, Roger Rosengarten, Andrew Gentry, Kole Taylor, that had big SEC offers and attention from all around the country, it’s hard to say no to that.”
Tucker is well aware of that, and knows the best way to get in-state players to stay home is to make the Buffs more attractive.
“We have to show progress on the field and that’s what these in-state players are looking for,” Tucker said. “As these in-state players have grown up, they haven’t seen CU winning, haven’t seen them going to bowl games. So, if you look at it from their perspective, why would you want to go there, right?
“As we shift the culture and as we build our program, I think that they will start to see that if you come to CU, you’re going to win and you’re going to win championships and you’re going to be in the conversation year in and year out. But that is a process, and we’re going to do it and we’re going to get it done in state, one player at a time.”
The last time CU had only in-state recruit was 1998. They averaged 4.6 per year from 1999-2019. The Buffs are expected, however, to add Cherry Creek running back Jayle Stacks as a blueshirt in the 2020 class.
Lee said Tucker’s ability to relate to players will help draw talent.
Receiver Keith Miller III, from The Colony (Texas) High School, signed with CU on Wednesday. Miller has stayed with the Lee family a couple times and Lee said it made an impact on Miller that Tucker collects sneakers and has a style that young players like.
“One thing Keith Miller said was a huge thing was just seeing how (Tucker) is like the type of guy that he wants to be when he’s older,” Lee said. “Like the swag he brings, the intensity that he brings.
“(The staff), they relate so well to all of us. I think that’s why it’s so hard not to like them because coach Tucker … you get a vibe that he’s going to be there for a very long time.”
CU has three coaches ranked by 247Sports among the top 21 recruiters in the Pac-12: assistant head coach/receivers Darrin Chiaverini (No. 7), outside linebackers coach Brian Michalowski (No. 20) and offensive line coach Chris Kapilovic (No. 21). … CU already has verbal commitments from one of the state’s top players in 2021 (Kaden Dudley of Palmer Ridge) and 2022 (Anthony Costanzo of Palmer Ridge).