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Thursday, February 05, 2009

Cowboy coaches built strong ties

By RYAN LUCAS Boomerang Sports Writer

Trendt Marsom spent his high school football career bulldozing opponents.

The 6-foot, 195-pound defensive back knocked down his Hawaiian pigskin brethren again after the 2008 season ended when he verbally committed to play for the University of Wyoming.

That Marsom stuck true to his word — officially keeping his promise on Wednesday as one of 24 players inked in new Cowboy coach Dave Christensen’s first recruiting class — is an expression of confidence in his football suitors.

Marsom’s bond with a fellow Polynesian headed to Laramie helped in his decision, which he settled on weeks ago as one of Christensen’s initial oral pledges.

“They were really surprised that the kid was committed to us already,” Cowboys’ outside linebackers coach Mike Fanoga said of his peers’ reaction to Marsom choosing UW. “The only reason why he’s coming is because I have a great relationship with him.”

“He could’ve gone to BYU, UNLV, Colorado or Oregon State (along with Hawaii), but I have a great relationship with the kid and the family,” Fanoga added. “They trusted me, and that’s what happens.”

The player-to-coach association is one of the foundations of Division I recruiting, and the ‘Pokes’ new staff has already-established reputations in several hotbed areas. The clout reaches from the fertile gridiron grounds of Oklahoma to the shores of paradise, and the coaches intend to develop it further.

“When I was out there, they never even knew about Wyoming,” Fanoga said of the Hawaiian athletes. “(Wyoming) would never recruit the islands, and Wyoming was never out there.”

The Cowboy assistants swayed their influence to the point of signing student-athletes from 13 different states in year one. While the stream of regional talent flowing into War Memorial Stadium takes precedence, other channels are equally important in creating a pool full enough for sustained success.

“We’re going to target kids in this area first — the Wyoming kids, the Colorado kids — because we’ve had success in that area,” new UW running backs coach Jason Ray, the brother of former ‘Poke safety and 2008 senior Michael, said.

“To branch out, especially as a new staff, we all have to have connections in different areas.”

“When you have good relationships with the high school coaches, you’re able to get in there and they’ll tell you about the kids more in-depth,” Ray added. “You can really identify the talent a lot more than you would going in cold.”

Any part of the country will apply to the process in the years to come.

“We talked about trying to get the best kids, no matter where they’re from,” tight ends coach Jim Harding, who courted two players from Illinois to add to the current class, said.

“Our biggest thing is we’ll go anywhere we have to in order to fill our needs as a program.”

Secondary coach Alex Grinch spent his recent time in football-lush Texas, luring three standout prep players to become Cowboys. The massive state feeds many major collegiate programs, and Christensen was quick to plant a fresh seed there for future growth.

“We feel there’s more Division I players down there than there are Division I scholarships,” Grinch said. “That being said, it’s not as if you’re taking the last in the barrel; you’re still taking some high-end guys, and you have to evaluate some people to get those types of guys.”

With the contacts entrenched in certain spots, Wyoming can prod those areas for skill while building ties with less familiar places.

Ray — a graduate of Broken Arrow High School in suburban Tulsa, Okla. — underlined the significance of keeping up with the Mountain West Conference’s upper echelon in recruiting stamina and strength.

“When I was recruiting (Oklahoma), a lot of people said, ‘You know, Wyoming comes in here every once in a while,’” Ray said. “That’s a good thing to have that presence because this is such a great conference and we have just a great opportunity to do some big things here, but it’s going to take a lot of hard work.

“We work long, countless hours.”

The tireless Cowboy coaches also come from diverse backgrounds, all of which can assist in the demanding cycle of bringing in yearly reinforcements to the field.

Fanoga, who also brought in two other athletes of Polynesian descent, is excited to take in more Samoan or Hawaiian athletes. The idea is anyone can help in transforming the UW football culture into one of MWC elite status under Christensen.

“I think it’s important to get some Polynesian kids to start playing here,” Fanoga, who found out during the recruiting process he is distantly related to defensive line commitment Mike Purcell, said. “That’s one of the reasons I’m here.”

“Utah and BYU will get their guys, but we’ll get our guys, too.”

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