LARAMIE — National Signing Day had a much different feel to it this year for Gordie Haug.
“All morning, you’ve usually got events, and you’ve got donuts and are waiting by the fax machine and all that stuff,” the Cowboys’ director of player personnel said. “But now ... it’s kind of more of a work day than kind of a celebration.”
Dec. 20, on the inaugural Early Signing Day for Football Bowl Subdivision teams, Wyoming signed 20 players. Wednesday, on National Signing Day — typically a national bonanza of fax machines and hat-selection ceremonies — Wyoming signed one.
Defensive tackle Mario Mora was the Cowboys’ lone scholarship player to put ink to paper at the start of the second signing period.
“I can’t tell you how pleased we are about him,” Wyoming head coach Craig Bohl said. “The fact that we signed one, that’s not an indication of, ‘OK, this thing’s gone awry.’ We were down to very few scholarships, and we were going to have to pick and choose.”
Bohl said Wyoming filled all its baseline needs in December and was able to be choosier after that.
In addition to Wyoming’s 20 December signees, one of this class’s 25 available scholarships will go toward Theo Dawson, a Jackson running back who signed with Wyoming in 2016 before going on a two-year mission. Wyoming also added 14 walk-ons Wednesday.
Though the February signing date might have lost some of its typical luster, it didn’t lack its trademark zaniness.
“We lost a guy in the 11th hour to a Pac-12 school,” Bohl said. “And that doesn’t mean that he’s an any better player than some of the other guys we signed, but I think it speaks well that we were battling.”
Presumably, that recruit was three-star receiver J.J. Tucker, who was announced as an Oregon signee Wednesday. The Cowboys also have two players who have verbally committed to Wyoming but have not yet signed National Letters of Intent. Three-star cornerback Jelani Ellison announced his commitment Wednesday, which was retweeted by Wyoming football, but he is not expected to sign immediately.
“We’re still kind of coming through the numbers, things like that, but we expect to sign one here hopefully in this next month,” Haug said. “And then we’ll kind of go from there with the rest of the spots.”
Coaches are not allowed to speak publicly about specific recruits until they have officially signed. Running back Miguel Fulgencio has also verbally committed to Wyoming after Early Signing Day. However, he is recovering from a left knee injury, and could be a signee with Wyoming at a later date if it isn’t a long-term issue.
And there’s always the possibility of a recruit signing later on, as Minnesota decommit Eric Abojei did a year ago.
“We kind of always want to do that, find guys that slip through the cracks or become late qualifiers or transfers or something like that,” Haug said. “That’s kind of what we tend to do.”
As for Mora, Wyoming beat out five other Mountain West schools for his commitment.
“Just because somebody else is recruiting him doesn’t necessarily solidify the guy’s going to be a great player,” Bohl said. “However, when we look at guys, what we have seen is there’s been a transition. Our first couple years, we would identify certain guys, and then other conference schools would recruit them ... from a distance, and we had a hard time signing those guys. And that really changed the last two years, and it changed particularly this year.”
Mora’s signing is indicative of more than just Wyoming’s increased competitiveness. The 6-foot-3, 255-pounder is from the Los Angeles area; 10 members of Wyoming’s recruiting class are from California, including a significant southern California contingent.
“I had been there a couple times when I was at the University of Nebraska, but really wasn’t familiar with California and did not know how we would be received,” Bohl said. “What we have found is there’s a lot of good football players out there. We think it’s imperative that we find the right guy that’s going to embrace the university and Laramie. Because it’s quite a change going from Los Angeles to Laramie. All kinds of different changes.
“But we’ve scoured that state from the northern part and the Central Valley. Of course Josh Allen, I believe, is going to be a really high first-round draft choice. That really helps our visibility out there. And we were able to sign a guy from San Diego this year. So between L.A., San Diego, the Central Valley, the northern California portion, there’s a lot of population, a lot of good football players.”