BOULDER — How do I know Mike MacIntyre is the right coach to transform Colorado football from pushover to powerful?
How long do you have?
Mac2 and his staff hit 52 in-state high schools since he was hired. He knows if a committed recruit is taking other campus visits, well, he's not a committed recruit. He knows you're not getting Tommy Tailback without Mom's seal of approval.
"(On one home visit) Mom made some gumbo,” Mac said. “And oh, it was good.”
Another case in point: On signing day, MacIntyre was asked what he would say to recruitniks who believe the stars in the sky are no match for the stars on Rivals.com and Scout.com.
I know enough college coaches to know exactly how they feel about Top-100 rankings and the five-star caste system. Coaches think the obsession is dumber than a box of rocks.
But instead of alienating a devoted section of the Buffs fan base, MacIntyre obliged their addiction: "I think it’s a fun thing for them to do."
Inside the Dal Ward Athletic Center, Wednesday’s national signing day told me two things. One, MacIntyre is the opposite of Jon Embree. His presence, in a room full of doubting Thomases, is more about reassuring confidence than entitled arrogance.
Two, CU’s inability to lure the four- and five-star studs in his first recruiting class says far more about the state of the program than the new coach.
Pack an oxygen tank into your tailgate, Buffs fans. The road back to respectability is going to be a hike. Before Mac2 rebuilds the CU program, he must repair the CU brand.
CU’s 20-player recruiting class had zero four- or five-star prospects. It ranks last in the Pac-12, according to Rivals.com, and shows three players from the state of Colorado.
“I tried to get in on some other ones and the door was shut,” MacIntyre said.
Before he can open those doors and gorge on five-star gumbo, MacIntyre must excel in two areas: player development and showing progress on the field, even through baby steps.
Before he can draw the cream of the recruiting crop to Boulder, MacIntyre must coach up the lightly regarded freshmen who surely want to show their star ratings were wrong.
"I want guys with chips on their shoulder," he said. "That's the way I was."
His history with player development suggests MacIntyre is an ace at making the overlooked become outstanding. San Jose State had three players in the recent Senior Bowl. Coming out of high school, none were getting calls from Cal or Stanford.
“One was a walk-on,” MacIntyre said. “The other two had only two (scholarship) offers: San Jose State and San Jose State.”
That, football fans, is player development. Now do it again, Coach.
“I knew from the first time I met him, he was going to make me a better player,” Buffs recruit Phillip Lindsay, the two-way standout from Denver South, said Friday.
"Basically, he’s going to be my father now. For the next four or five years, he's my father. I trust him; I know he trusts me to work the hardest I can. He's the kind of coach that you don't want to let down.”
This rebuild is closer to the one MacIntyre faced at San Jose State than Buffs fans want to believe. San Jose State won two games the season before Mac2 arrived. Three years later he won 10 games and guided the Spartans into the Top 25.
“The first step is being competitive in the Pac-12. Just don’t get blown out every week. Score some points, at the very least,” said Adam Munsterteiger, a CU recruiting guru for Rivals.com. “After that, try to get to a bowl game. Remember, six wins got them the 15th-ranked recruiting class in 2008. It’s not like they won 12 games to get that class.”
To lighten the mood on a signing day that lacked star power, MacIntyre explained how recruiting trips can fill a man’s diet with goodness.
“One day (assistant coach) Klayton Adams and I went to three houses in a row. We had one dinner at 4, one at 6:30, one at 9. We ate three different meals. ... It was kind of like a progressive dinner.”
CU football will be a progressive project.
Don’t let a limited first recruiting class fool you: Mac is the Man to do it.
Paul Klee is the Denver sports columnist for The Gazette. He can be reached via email (email@example.com) or on Twitter (@Klee_Gazette).
CU coach Mike MacIntyre dispatched his staff to 52 Colorado high schools since he was hired. Here are three prospects sure to catch his eye before the 2014 signing period, according to Rivals.com recruiting expert Adam Munsterteiger:
Christian McCaffrey, RB, Valor Christian
Sam Jones, OL, ThunderRidge
Kalen Ballage, RB, Falcon