Wednesday , August 20, 2014 - 7:45 AM
OGDEN -- The deck has been cleared, and a foundation is being laid for the Weber State football program.
Into their last week of camp before preparing to go against the Sun Devils in the season opener on Aug. 28 in Tempe, Ariz., the Wildcats’ roster has filled with many players that came in as transfers from in-state schools like BYU, the University of Utah, and Utah State.
The most interesting story about coming to Weber came from former BYU offensive lineman Tui Crichton.
“Coach (Bronco) Mendenhall didn’t want me anymore, just to put it plain and simple,” said Crichton. “Luckily (another) coach and I were able to help find another college quick.”
Because Weber State is not an FBS team, there was no requirement for Crichton to sit out for a season -- he could play immediately -- making the decision to become a Wildcat easy.
“I never talked to him, he never responded back to me,” said Crichton of trying to speak with Mendenhall about the situation. “There were some things that were going on with the team -- a lot of guys getting in trouble, my name came up -- and he just didn’t want to work with me anymore, so he just sent one of his coaches to give me the hatchet.”
Since joining Weber, Crichton has been pleasantly surprised with how the team is run.
“Coming from BYU to here, I thought there would be like a major difference,” said Crichton. “But Coach (Jay) Hill runs this program like a legit D-1 program and it’s pretty awesome, I love everything he’s done. I support him, all the coaches, my teammates, it’s just a great program.”
Crichton then went on to talk about the difference he felt with his teammates of the two programs.
“I feel like players here are more sure of themselves, as opposed to BYU. People are more in their shells, I guess you could say. Not everything’s out and open and honest as much it is over here,” Crichton explained. “I went to BYU for three years, and coming from there to here is just day and night. I just feel like people here are more real.”
Regardless of the reasoning behind coming to Weber, Coach Hill has seen the benefits from many, if not all of the transfers.
“There’s been a dramatic increase in the positions that those guys stepped in,” said Hill. “Those guys have come in and solidified some holes we thought we had.”
One of the concerns was with the defensive line, which is now filled with three defensive tackles -- McKay Murphy and Likio Pope coming from Utah, and Jake Gallegos coming from Utah State, who saw the Aggies football program transform under former head coach Gary Anderson.
“Coach Hill and his staff reminds me to a T of what Coach (Anderson) was like up at Utah State when he completely turned that program around,” said Gallegos. “So I see things changing now rather than later.”
Gallegos’ plan was to originally go play for the Utes, until he heard from one of his former coaches.
“I had played for Coach Kite (Afeaki), my defensive line coach here, and he was a GA at Utah State when I was a freshman there,” Gallegos explained. “So I got a got call from him, and he said ‘We could use you down here, we’d love to have you come down here,’ and I loved him as a coach when was up there, so I was like, ‘of course, let’s do it’.”
Another player joining Weber citing a coach for their primary reason was former Ute wide-receiver Tyron Morris, who was recruited out of high school by Hill.
“Coach Hill brings the energy, he had energy when he was at Utah, he has the energy here, he makes people love the game of football,” said Morris. “He’s a good coach, I love him and respect him to death. He’s one of the main reasons why I came over here.”
What’s even more surprising than a group of players that were on the FBS level coming to play at Weber, is the expectations and attitude about Weber State.
“I don’t see why we couldn’t go out and win a Big Sky Championship,” said Gallegos. “We’ve got as much talent as anyone I know. We’re just as talented as we were up there (at USU). If we can get the teamwork and the team leadership to come together as one, I don’t see why we couldn’t.”
The others echoed the sentiment of great potential with the team, and the positivity is spreading.
For Coach Hill, the hope is that this is just the beginning of more successful recruiting.
“We’re hoping that we have a good enough relationship with those in-state schools, BYU, Utah, and Utah State,” said Hill. “That when they have a guy that’s not quite fitting in the mix for them, that we can get a good shot at them.”
With that said, Hill made it clear that Weber will not become the proverbial island of misfit toys.
“There were other guys that wanted to transfer here, and quite frankly, I didn’t know if they were good enough to play for us, or if the fit was good, so we turned some of those guys down,” said Hill. “It’s not like we’re just ‘come one, come all, if you’re a division I transfer,’ we’re taking the ones that we feel can help us, and that fit our system.”
The Athletics Director for BYU, Tom Holmoe, responded to an email in request for a comment from either the university or Coach Mendenhall regarding the comments made by Tui Crichton.
“I wish Tui only the best as he begins playing football at Weber State,:” said Holmoe. “I think it is a good opportunity and fit for him to have success. Coach Hill has the Wildcat program headed in the right direction and I certainly wish him and his team well.”
Contact sports reporter Brandon Garside at firstname.lastname@example.org, on Twitter @BGarsideSE, and on Facebook.com/BrandonGarsideSE
Sign up for e-mail news updates.