Wyoming Gets Eighth Verbal

The dry spell is over. After nearly a month and a half of recruiting silence, the Cowboys received their eighth commitment of the 2008 class, landing Colorado standout Mat Birkeness who committed shortly after making an official visit to Laramie Saturday. Birkeness was impressed with the Wyoming coaches and had good things to say about the program's fast start to the ‘07 season.

Columbine standout Mat Birkeness became the eighth high school player to commit to the Cowboys for the 2008 season when he gave linebacker coach Marty English a verbal Sunday night.

The commitment came on the heels of Birkeness' visit to Laramie for the Cowboys' home win over Utah State Saturday.

"I haven't even told any media yet," he said Monday night in a phone interview with CowboyBlitz.com

The 6-foot-4, 220-pound tight end/defensive end had been leaning toward Wyoming since the Pokes offered him a scholarship after he attended a team camp in Laramie this summer.

What drew the 5A prep star to the Cowboys program?

"The coaches were the first thing," he said, "the coaches and the community. Even if something bad were to happen, I know there will still be people that care about me and they'll treat me well."

The Cowboys' 2-0 start didn't hurt either.

"Their defense was awesome that game," Birkeness said of UW's 23-3 victory over Virginia in the season opener. "They really played well that game. Everything seemed to be clicking. And then against Utah State…the team didn't really have everything together but finally came through in the end. In the fourth quarter, they really played well."

A talented two-way prospect, Birkeness will suit up for the Cowboys as an outside linebacker, a move that should add even more depth to an already talent-packed unit. While the Pokes returned three starters at the position in 2007, head coach Joe Glenn said the linebackers were also the strongest group of that year's recruiting class. Both Ward Dobbs and Mike Juergens will likely return as seniors in ‘08, and Birkeness is already the second linebacker to verbally commit to UW for next season. The other is Iowa All-State standout Ben Durbin, who posted an impressive 104 tackles and eight sacks as a junior in 2006.

"I'm flattered," Birkeness said this summer about the prospect of becoming part of the unit. "It makes me feel good about myself because it's a good honor."

The news of Birkeness's commitment was more than enough to put a smile on Glenn's face.

"He was ecstatic," Birkeness said. "He said it just made his day. He seemed really happy and pumped about it."

Birkeness put up 26 tackles and a sack as a defensive end in 2006, garnering 1st-Team All-Conference honors. He was equally impressive on the offensive end, averaging more than 19 yards per catch. A big target at tight end, the athletic senior runs a 4.58 forty and displayed terrific hands during a Nike camp in Boulder, Colorado this spring. He was named camp MVP after not dropping a ball all day and using his quickness to blow by defenders.

As a junior, he was part of what many scouts considered the best defensive line in 5A Colorado football. His Columbine Rebel front featured Colorado Defensive Player of the Year Curtis Cunningham and all-conference defensive end Ben Tedford. Both held offers from Wyoming before recently committing to other programs. Cunningham gave a verbal to Colorado while Tedford committed to Colorado State.

And while Birkeness would have liked to make the transition to the next level alongside his high school teammates, he will have to settle for a bit of good-natured trash talking instead.

"It would have been nice, but it wasn't like a big thing for me to have them come with me or anything like that," he said. "I think Ben was really set on CSU, and then Curtis, he had a whole lot of offers anyway.

"Curtis and I both gang up on Ben because we both rag a bit on CSU. But actually, Wyoming's playing CU in '09, so Curtis and I are doing a little bit of talking, too."

Birkeness was recently named the 12th best high school player in Colorado by PrepColorado.com. He reports a max bench press of more than 275 pounds with a squat of 375 and a 3.6 GPA.

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