In the months since Mel Tucker became Colorado’s football coach, he has talked a lot about recruiting the state of Colorado. That’s a new coach cliché, but then again clichés exist because there is truth in them. Regardless of where your school is located, you're probably not winning a lot of games if you aren't winning your state in recruiting.
But all states are not created equal when it comes to football talent. Texas, Florida, USC … these schools could win national championships without any out-of-state players at all.
Colorado is a little different. Buffaloes fans understand this well from the Big Eight and Big 12 days when they were playing schools like Nebraska, Kansas and Iowa State, all of which occupy states with low populations and only a handful of Division I prospects each year. Schools like that have to go to states like Texas, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Florida and California just to fill out their rosters with DI players.
Colorado is in a similar situation. The state's population is just under 6 million, which makes it smaller than greater Houston. If you look through the recruiting sites you’re only going to see a handful of Colorado kids on there in a given year. In the class of 2020 Rivals lists five kids from Colorado — two four stars and three three stars. 247 lists 13.
But let’s be generous and say there are 15 Division I prospects in Colorado every year and let’s assume all of them keep their grades up and all of them stay out of trouble and all of them develop into useful players. If you get every single one of them every year for four years and none of them transfers you've still got 25 scholarships to fill. That’s an entire recruiting class that you’re gonna have to find outside the state.
Realistically, see you're going to get less than a half of those kids, even if things are going well. For one thing you’ve got Colorado State you have to deal with. But you’ve also got all the other schools in the country that'll parachute in and try to pluck your best players.
But there just aren’t many star players that come out of Colorado. I just looked this up. According to CHSAANow, there have been 161 players who played high school football in the state of Colorado taken in the NFL or AFL draft. Only two guys who played college football in Colorado are in the Pro football Hall of Fame. Those are Jack Christiansen, who played for the Lions in the 50s, and Earl Clark who played for the Portsmouth Spartans, which is what the Lions were called before they moved to Detroit in 1934.
That's a long time ago.
So I do think it’s important for Colorado to win the state in recruiting. but this is just not a state you can rely on to consistently give you quality players. What Colorado needs to get really good at is finding those players that are overlooked, like they did with Steven Montez, who was way out in El Paso which doesn’t have a lot of football cred, and caused him to be missed by a lot of other programs. And then of course you’re still gonna need to go to Houston and Miami and Los Angeles and fight it out with everybody else. But I think for Colorado and programs like it that’s the secret sauce to building a talented roster.