Frank Wilson was widely considered one of the best recruiters in the nation before he came to UTSA. But that was at LSU, a powerhouse program that is established and has much more resources than UTSA. So when Wilson came to San Antonio, expectations about improving recruiting were high. Yet at the same time, many expected the process to take some time.
Well, to say that Wilson and his staff have hit the ground running is a bit of an understatement.
Hired just weeks before the 2016 National Signing Day, the then brand new coaching staff put together a quality class of recruits. In addition to the signing class, UTSA was able to land a handful of graduate transfers, many of which are expected to contribute to the team immediately.
Fast forward to this current recruiting cycle and things are continuing to look up. With 14 current commitments, UTSA’s 2017 recruiting class ranks #1 in Conference USA according to Scout.com rankings (LINK). To those not familiar with the coaching staff, this early success may come across as surprising. But for the staff themselves, it is not.
“It’s a sleeping giant,” Defensive Coordinator Pete Golding said about being able to recruit players to UTSA. “We’re going to be the first to do a lot of things.”
And the “firsts” have already begun. Just last week UTSA landed former USC and UCLA commit Javaris Steward. The DE/OLB from Ryan High School in Denton is a consensus four-star recruit. He’s also the highest rated high school prospect that has ever committed to UTSA.
“Everybody is looking at it like “how are you getting some of these guys?” said Golding. “But recruiting is about relationships, that’s sales. Sales about relationships and they’re in person.”
According to offensive coordinator Frank Scelfo, the coaching staff is selling more than a program, they’re selling the entire City of San Antonio.
“The opportunity, in a city where we are, it’s easy to recruit kids,” said Scelfo. “You can tell them in recruiting, if you want a small town atmosphere with trees all over the place and 25,000 people and everybody knows your name, don’t come here. That’s not who we are. We’re a city.”
Another aspect that has been positive in the eyes of recruits is being able to play in the Alamodome. Scelfo says playing in a dome setting is a skill-position player’s dream.
“They’re going to play six games in a dome,” said Scelfo. “There are no weather issues here. Why would you not want to play in a dome. You look at the rest of our schedule, we’re playing in places where you don’t expect inclement weather, for the most part.”
Another selling point UTSA has is the potential play at the next level. Several former Roadrunners are playing in the NFL. Former tight end David Morgan was taken by the Minnesota Vikings in the 2016 draft while former defensive linemen Brian Price, Jason Neill, and Ashaad Mabry are currently on preseason NFL rosters.
“It’s about going to a place where you can get developed,” said Golding. “These kids’ goals are to play in the National Football League and get a degree. You can do that here.”
More than just finding good players, UTSA has been strategic with their approach. They’ve started with San Antonio and worked their way out.
“We’ve made a consciousness effort to prioritize our city and our state. That’s been our approach and philosophy,” said Wilson.
With five of the 14 commits coming from San Antonio and South Texas, and 11 of the 14 commits coming from Texas, the proof is in the pudding.
“I feel like Coach Wilson did a great job this spring of starting in San Antonio, working inside-out, and actually getting in front of these guys,” said Golding. “We are selling our program and what Coach Wilson has to offer.”
With a ton of momentum on their side, there’s no telling how talented UTSA’s 2017 recruiting class could end up.
“We’ve got as good of shot as anybody to get anybody in the country,” said Golding.
Although scholarship numbers will be tight, UTSA is expected to sign a full 25-member class for the 2017 recruiting cycle. All commitments are verbal until National Signing Day (Wednesday, February 1, 2017) unless the player transfers early. The NCAA does allow players who are eligible to transfer in December to enroll as early as January. At least one recruit, Stevens QB Bryce Rivers, has indicated he will enroll at UTSA early.
UTSA’s list of 14 current commits breaks down as follows: eight defense, six offense; one junior college player, 13 high school athletes; 11 players are from Texas, two are from Louisiana, and one is from Mississippi.