Ron McBride was on the air the other day, discussing Weber State’s football program. Which is apropos, considering he coached the Wildcats for seven years.
One of the things he said is that Weber State’s path to success involves basing its roster on Utah players, then branching out, mostly to California. True to form, this year’s Wildcat team has 49 Utahns listed.
That tells me two things.
First, that high school football in Utah is rapidly improving. The three FBS programs in the state are heavily loaded with Utahns. Utah has 47 locals listed, while BYU has 46 and USU 36.
Considering the Big 3 usually scoop up the top instate talent — provided USC, Stanford, etc., don’t — that leaves Weber State and Southern Utah to recruit the rest. Since SUU and Weber tied for the Big Sky championship, it says something about depth of talent in the state.
Usually the teams are not merely full of local talent, they're bowl-worthy.
Second is that there have been some good coaches come through at Weber. Jay Hill has the Wildcats in the FCS playoffs for the second straight year. He’ll likely be a candidate for jobs at bigger programs. Weber plays in the quarterfinals Friday against James Madison.
But Hill isn’t the only coach to get Weber in the postseason. In 1987 the Wildcats won a game — over Idaho — in the playoffs, then lost to Marshall. The coach was Mike Price. In 1991, under Dave Arslanian, they lost in the first round to Northern Iowa. Both the aforementioned went on to coach bigger programs.
Then there’s McBride. He took Weber to the playoffs in both 2008 and 2009.
The 2008 ‘Cats made the quarterfinals. The next year they lost in the first round.
Yes, McBride did it with a roster based on instate players.
The fact Utah’s high schools can continue to provide enough college-level talent to flood rosters at Utah, Utah State, BYU, SUU and Weber State — and succeed as Weber has this year — is impressive. Utah ranks 31st in population. But as Gov. Gary Herbert likes to say, it punches above its weight.