OGDEN — As of Wednesday, Weber State football has signed three recruiting classes since playing its last game, and has never before had a regular signing day come during a preseason camp.
Finishing the installation of a new offense, choosing a starting quarterback and sorting other position battles, integrated a new defensive line coach in Robert Conley, all while finishing the 2021 recruiting class and trying to keep COVID-19 from derailing camp?
Adapt or die, as Brad Pitt’s Billy Beane says in “Moneyball.”
“This has been crazy,” WSU head coach Jay Hill said. “It makes for fun and exciting times.”
Two former Power Five juniors highlight the nine new athletes added to Weber’s 2021 class, joining seven players signed during the early period in December — one a known commitment in Tennessee tight end Jordan Allen, the other a surprise signing from former USC and UNLV receiver Randal Grimes.
Grimes is a 6-foot-4 pass catcher from Las Vegas who signed with USC in 2017 as a four-star prospect. He appeared in six games before transferring to his hometown team in UNLV. In 2019, he caught 44 passes for 696 yards and seven touchdowns in 11 games for the Rebels. He did not play in 2020 due to an undisclosed violation of team rules.
Allen came recommended by friend and WSU running back Kevin Smith, and Grimes had current Wildcat Eddie Heckard in his corner; Hill said that helped him be sure the transfers would fit the program.
“That recommendation from teammates means a lot, especially who those teammates were,” Hill said. “We try, in this process, to know everything about them and then make sure that those kids who are transferring are the proper fit into our program.
“Sometimes there’s elite, big-time talent out there because I don’t think the fit’s right. Each guy is different.”
Both Allen and Grimes are practicing with the Wildcats in camp. Allen must sit the spring 2021 season because he played a few snaps in the fall 2020 season with Tennessee.
But Grimes did not play in 2020. Hill said WSU is working on getting Grimes cleared to play, compliance-wise, in the spring season, which would add another threat to a Wildcats squad with aims to play to the final weekend of the season.
“We’ve known about Randal Grimes since he was in high school,” Hill said. “He’s just got the athletic ability and the size you just can’t turn down. He’s a great kid and we’re excited to get him in our program and, around our teammates, he’s just going flourish.”
Other Wednesday additions include the top prep rusher in Texas’ 5A division (Damon Bankston), a game-breaking cornerback and return man from Texas (Jalon Rock), and a stat-stuffing, dual-threat quarterback currently set to play in the defensive secondary (Trevian Tribble).
For now, those are positions the three will play but Hill noted that current NFL cornerback Taron Johnson came to WSU as a receiver and current NFL offensive lineman Iosua Opeta came to Ogden as a defensive lineman.
“Sometimes you just take the best available athlete and guys that fit your program, and once they get here we will put them in the spots where we feel like they can be the most successful,” Hill said.
Three-star tight end Ammon Munyer also joins the Wildcats, a north Idaho prospect rated the second-best player in his state who had offers from Air Force, Oregon State and the entire northern contingent of the Big Sky.
Add three-star quarterback Creyton Cooper (Lehi, Utah) with a top-rated prep long snapper (Grant Sands of Arizona), and 6-foot-4, 315 pound Bingham lineman Lavaka Taukeiaho, and WSU will infuse depth dotted throughout an increasingly talented roster.
“We’re super excited about them,” Hill said.
Hill said decisions in the quarterback battle between Randall Johnson, Bronson Barron, Teryn Berry and Kylan Weisser got delayed by Barron being sidelined due to contact tracing. Coaches want to get Barron more reps before moving to the next step in the process.
“That should start to paint a clearer picture towards the weekend and throughout next week, and hopefully we’re honing in on that guy next weekend, on who the starter is,” Hill said.
Among WSU’s early signees from December were defensive backs LJ Anderson and Josh Olave, who are eligible for the spring season that begins Feb. 27 at Idaho State, where the Wildcats will vie for their fourth straight Big Sky title.
“I like the progression of the football team right now. We’ve got a veteran team coming back, it looks like that out on the football field,” Hill said. “This is probably the most weapons we’ve had offensively. And defensively, I see a lot of progression and building off what we were able to accomplish in 2019.”