One thing about college football coaches: They have to trust their recruiting base on a player hunch.
Chris Ault maximized this philosophy, and his resignation last week as Nevada's coach after three tours of duty brought to mind scores of regional talents who played a role in his 233 victories and rise from Division II, I-AA and D-I FBS status.
Ault's first All-American was quarterback Jeff Tisdel of Christian Brothers High School in 1977. This was when the Wolf Pack ran the wing-T, was emerging out of D-II and when Tisdel had decent wheels.
That same fall, Ault was urged by then-Valley coaches Dave Hoskins and Mel Fontes to peek at film of a long, lanky defensive end named Charles Mann. A late bloomer, Mann set sack records at Nevada in 1982, became a third-round NFL draft pick and earned Super Bowl rings with the Redskins and 49ers.
Marshall Sperbeck of Valley and Eric Beavers of Davis set Nevada passing marks from 1981 to 1986. When Sperbeck became head coach at Sacramento State in 2007, he met with Ault to discuss program building.
In 1990, Ault took a flier on quarterback Chris Vargas when no one else would, thanks partly to the good word of Davis coach Dave Whitmire.
Davis' chief rival was Woodland, where Vargas torched teams with his skills but was undersized. Only Nevada offered him a scholarship.
Vargas went by "Captain Comeback" at Nevada for his penchant to rally the Wolf Pack in 1991 and '92, the second season marking the program's first in D-IA.
Ault tapped into Tisdel to land wide receiver Alex Van Dyke in 1995. Tisdel coached Van Dyke (formerly of Burbank) at Sacramento City College in 1993 and '94 and for one season at Nevada when he replaced Ault. Van Dyke became the highest-drafted player in Wolf Pack history, going 31st overall to the Jets in 1996.
The real Ault coup was Colin Kaepernick.
Kaepernick was a three-sport star at Pitman High in Turlock who wanted to play quarterback in college. After watching Kaepernick dominate a basketball game as a senior in 2006 despite the flu and 102-degree temperature, Nevada assistant coach Barry Sacks (now at Cal) urged Ault to give him a look. Nevada was the lone school to offer him a scholarship. Kaepernick set NCAA all-purpose records as Ault's most prolific and exciting player, which prompted the 49ers to draft him.
Placer All-Metro defensive tackle Eddie Vanderdoes has de-committed with USC, which is still offering a scholarship. Vanderdoes, who will play in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl on Saturday in San Antonio, Texas, said he wants to better gauge his "lifetime decision" before signing day in February. USC, UCLA, Washington, Notre Dame and now Alabama are in the running. Athletes giving early verbals, then de-committing has become the norm.
Jesuit All-Metro football athlete Thomas Sperbeck has given a verbal commitment to play at Boise State. A quarterback for the Marauders, Sperbeck also made plays at receiver, in the secondary and on special teams. He is the son of Sac State's Sperbeck.
Granite Bay's Ernie Cooper is Cal-Hi Sports' Football Coach of the Year. The Bee's two-time Coach of the Year, Cooper led the Grizzlies to the CIF State Division I championship. He joins Ron Lancaster of Cordova in 1979, Mike Alberghini of Grant in 2008 and Mike Papadopoulos of Vacaville in 2011 as coaches in the region to receive the award.