LARAMIE — Craig Bohl has never seen his newest quarterback play in person. In fact, Bohl hasn’t been in his presence when he’s thrown a pass.
Exactly how much in-person evaluation has Wyoming’s coach done of incoming freshman Levi Williams?
“None,” Bohl said.
It’s almost unheard of nowadays with coaches and their assistants often spending years dissecting and recruiting high school players, figuring out exactly which prospects would best fit into their systems and thus be offered a scholarship.
So how did Williams go from virtual afterthought on Wyoming’s recruiting board to the Cowboys’ lone quarterback in this year’s signing class?
Start with the University of Houston, which is largely why Wyoming — and every other school that had any semblance of interest in the 6-foot-4, 200-pound signal caller — didn’t pursue him. Williams, a consensus three-star prospect who played his high school ball at Smithson Valley in the San Antonio metropolitan area, was verbally committed to Houston for nearly a year and effectively shut down his recruitment before signing with the Cougars during December’s early signing period.
That was when Major Applewhite was still Houston’s coach. Just a few days after Williams’ signature dried, offensive coordinator Kendal Briles left to take the same position at Florida State. Applewhite was fired before the end of the month, and Houston hired Dana Holgorsen away from West Virginia in early January.
It just happened to be the same time the American Football Coaches Association’s annual convention was going on in San Antonio — an event Bohl attended as a member of the AFCA’s board of trustees. Instead of returning to Laramie once the convention ended, Bohl stayed in Texas to recruit the area once coaches were allowed to go back on the road.
Meanwhile, Williams was granted his release from Houston. And Wyoming, which had just two scholarship quarterbacks on its roster in rising sophomore Tyler Vander Waal and freshman Sean Chambers, was in the market for a quarterback after not signing one during the early period.
One of its top targets at the position, St. Thomas High three-star quarterback Peyton Matocha (who eventually signed with Miami), was just down the road in Houston. That’s when Wyoming offensive coordinator Brent Vigen, who’d received an email from Smithson Valley coach Larry Hill informing him Williams was looking for another landing spot, got in touch with Bohl to gauge his interest.
“They liked what they saw (in Williams),” Hill told the San Antonio Express-News. “He fit the profile — a bigger, taller kid with a strong arm.”
Once Bohl learned Williams had been released from his scholarship, he made the short drive to meet with Williams at Smithson Valley, where there was also a connection. Williams’ quarterbacks coach was the same one Indianapolis Colts general manager Chris Ballard, whom Bohl had recruited to Wisconsin as a young Badgers assistant in the late 1980s, had as an option quarterback at Texas City High.
“The stars aligned right,” Bohl said.
After discussions with Williams and Hill and “a lot of film evaluation,” Bohl said, Williams was offered a scholarship. He followed up with a visit to Wyoming’s campus the weekend of Jan. 19 and verbally committed before it was over.
“It wasn’t a whim, but make no mistake: That recruiting process was not near as lengthy or as thorough,” Bohl said. “But because of Coach Hill and the evaluation, we’re confident that we got a big-time player.”
Williams signed with Wyoming before the spring semester started and is already enrolled. He’ll get a head start on his collegiate career by going through spring practice, giving Bohl a chance to finally see his most unlikely recruit up close and personal.
“We’re really excited about Levi, and Levi’s excited about being here,” Bohl said. “Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good.”