Feb. 1, 2012
Laramie, Wyo. -
The 2012 University of Wyoming football recruiting class was announced on Wednesday, and this year's class has a definite West Coast feel to it. Head football coach Dave Christensen announced his fourth recruiting class at Wyoming at a Wednesday afternoon press conference. Of the 23 signees announced, over fifty percent of the recruits -- 12 total -- hail from the states of California, Washington and Oregon. In addition, the Cowboys signed one player each from Hawai'i and Arizona.
The states of California and Washington led the way with six and five signees, respectively. The next largest group came from the state of Texas, with three recruits. Wyoming continued its trend of international recruiting, signing two natives of Germany and one native Australian.
"We're very pleased with the class that we've put together," said Christensen. "I really like the athleticism and the depth in this class. We always try to balance out each class, signing players at positions across the board -- offensive line, defensive line, linebackers, secondary and skill positions offensively. I think we've added quality players in all of those areas. We also signed a punter. After losing a four-year starter, we needed someone who had the ability to step in there right away and punt for us.
"We've added size and experience to our offensive line, with a couple junior college players. Likewise with adding Justin Bernthaler to the defensive line.
"I'm excited that we were able to get (Tim) Gleeson (punter) and (Eric) Nzeocha (wide receiver) in here early out of high school to go through spring drills with us. That certainly will give them an advantage by getting them 15 extra practices.
"I think we've added more speed to our team, along with more size and strength to all areas.
"We had some needs at wide receiver, and I feel very good about the young players we were able to add.
"Overall, we couldn't be more excited about this class."
In answering why the Cowboys had shifted their recruiting west this year, particularly in the state of Washington, Christensen attributed that to the current makeup of his coaching staff, which includes two staff members, in defensive coordinator Chris Tormey and offensive line coach Pete Kaligis, who like Christensen are natives of the state of Washington and all played at the University of Washington.
"When we hired Chris Tormey, there were a number of coaches he had contact with and relationships with that we wanted to benefit from," said Christensen. "Chris has spent a lot of time during his career recruiting in the Northwest. Coach (Pete) Kaligis has done a great job up there the last three years, and with my contacts there we felt like it was an area that we could be effective. We also feel it is an under-recruited area and an area that we can put more emphasis. We were able to sign five quality players in that area in this class. We'll continue to do that. I think the transition for kids from that part of the country to Wyoming is an easy one."
Among the top-rated individual players in Wyoming's class are junior college transfers Justin Bernthaler from Fullerton Community College in California and Connor Rains from American River Community College in California. JCGridiron.Rivals.com ranked Bernthaler No. 2 in the nation in its rankings of junior college weakside defensive ends, and ranked Rains as the No. 17 best junior college offensive tackle in the country.
While Christensen has never signed a large number of junior college players, he feels like the three student-athletes he signed this year can provide some immediate help in two areas -- the offensive and defensive lines -- where the Cowboys lost longtime starters to graduation.
"Justin Bernthaler is physically ready to help us right away at defensive end," said Christensen. "At offensive tackle, Connor Rains has the potential to help us this coming season. He joined us in January, so we will get a chance to see how he competes this spring. In Walker Madden, we have a young man who has two years of added experience at the junior college level. He is a good technician, and has a great frame at 6'9". Right now, he is only about 260 pounds so we want him to add some weight as he steps up to the Division I level."
Wyoming's 2012 class is a balanced one, with 12 recruits on offense, 10 on defense and one special teams performer.
The Cowboys signed players from nine different states, two individuals from Germany and one from Australia. Native Germans Justin Bernthaler, a defensive end, and Eric Nzeocha, a wide receiver, signed with the Cowboys in this year's class. They join three fellow Germans on the Cowboy roster. Wyoming's other three German natives are: senior linebacker Oliver Schober; sophomore linebacker Alex Borgs; and sophomore linebacker/safety Mark Nzeocha, Eric's older brother.
The class of 23 individuals included 20 high school recruits and three junior college players.
Three members of the class are already enrolled at the University of Wyoming for the 2012 spring semester. The three are: junior college tackle Rains, freshman punter Gleeson and freshman wide receiver Nzeocha.
"We are still looking at some players to add to our class before the end of the signing period," said Christensen. "We would like to add to our corner and safety spots. We've got some guys out there that we are still evaluating, and are in contact with to fill those positions."
The national letter-of-intent signing period for football began on Wednesday, Feb. 1 and will conclude on Sunday, April 1.
The recruits in the 2012 Wyoming recruiting class bring with them a number of outstanding credentials. Among the individual honors received by the members of this year's class are:
Trent Sewell, a wide receiver from Bothell, Wash., was ranked by Rivals.com as the No. 8 best recruit in the state of Washington at all positions. ESPN.com rated him as the No. 11 recruit in the state of Washington. Both Rivals and ESPN ranked Sewell as the No. 1 wide receiver recruit in Washington.
Uso Olive, a defensive lineman from Federal Way, Wash., was ranked by ESPN.com as the No. 12 recruit in its breakdown of the top recruits in the state of Washington. Superprep Magazine ranked him as the No. 20 top recruit in the state of Washington. Olive also was a 2011 Associated Press First Team Class 4A All-State selection. He is joined by his high school teammate D.J. May in this year's Wyoming recruiting class.
Chase Roullier, an offensive lineman from Savage, Minn., was rated as the No. 15 recruit at all positions in the state of Minnesota by ESPN.com. Roullier earned First Team Associated Press All-State honors as a senior.
Jason Thompson, a quarterback from Renton, Wash., was rated by SuperPrep Magazine as its No. 19 recruit on its list of top players in the state of Washington. Thompson was also selected by the Seattle Times as a First Team All-State selection.
Sam Awrabi was ranked by Rivals.com as the No. 66 overall recruit at all positions in the talent-rich state of California. Awrabi, who played outside linebacker at Clovis East High School in Clovis, Calif., is projected as a defensive end at Wyoming.
Chase Appleby was named First Team All-State Class 4A in Texas by Rivals.com. Appleby also was named District 9-4A Defensive Player of the year as a defensive lineman his senior season at Centennial High School in Frisco, Texas.
Jacob English, an offensive lineman from Beloit, Kan., was honored as a First Team Class 3A All-State selection by both the Kansas Football Coaches Association and the Wichita Eagle.
Damian Greene, a talented defensive back and running back, led his Skyline High team in Sammamish, Wash., to the 2011 and 2009 Class 4A State Championships -- the largest classification in the state of Washington.
D.J. May, an outstanding running back and defensive back at Federal Way High School in Federal Way, Wash., earned First Team Associated Press All-State Class 4A honors as a senior. He joins his high school teammate Uso Olive in this year's Wyoming recruiting class.
Tom Thornton was named by the Arizona Coaches Association as a First Team Division II All-State quarterback at Marcos de Niza High School in Tempe, Ariz.
For the complete list of 2012 signees, click on the Signing Day Central link above or the PDF of the full release.