High School Sports

Sacramento State’s new football coaches vowed to recruit locally. Have they?

‘Our players are going to win on and off the field.’ Meet Sac State’s new football coach

Sacramento State introduces new head football coach Troy Taylor at the Broad Field house at Sacramento State on Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2018. Taylor is the university’s 11th head football coach and is a former coach at Folsom High School.
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Sacramento State introduces new head football coach Troy Taylor at the Broad Field house at Sacramento State on Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2018. Taylor is the university’s 11th head football coach and is a former coach at Folsom High School.

They said they would go local, mine the region and offer their pitch, and they have.

Sacramento State’s new coaching staff, headed by longtime pals Troy Taylor and Kris Richardson, only has a handful of scholarships to offer this winter, but they are maximizing their opportunities. They are meeting and greeting, shaking hands, making the rounds in their quest to lay the foundation for a new Hornets beginning.

The coaches have landed three verbal pledges amid a whirlwind of campus and home visits. The Hornets received scholarship commitments from Sacramento Bee Defensive Player of the Year Tyler Hardeman, a defensive lineman from Folsom High School; Joe Wagner, a two-way Folsom lineman and All-Metro standout; and Inderkum All-Metro star Brandon Knott, deemed the best offensive lineman in school history by Tigers coaches.

Sac State has also made an offer to Jesuit’s Cade Brownholtz, a two-time Bee All-Metro defensive end who had a recruiting trip to Oregon State last week, and to Del Oro All-Metro kick and punt return specialist Johnny Guzman, who said he will sign with the Hornets.

Taylor and Richardson know the regional prep landscape well. They were co-coaches at Folsom for much of this decade before Taylor left to coach at Eastern Washington and Utah. Under Richardson, Folsom kept winning, claiming the 2017 and 2018 CIF State Division 1-AA championships.

Taylor last month accepted the Sac State job and immediately named Richardson his assistant head coach while also bringing from Folsom assistant coaches Bobby Fresques, Sam Cole and Chris Parry.

Hornets coaches cannot talk publicly about recruits until student-athletes sign binding letters of intent Feb. 6.

Hardeman can speak, though, and the senior is still on Cloud 9, including a spirited downtown Folsom parade last week to celebrate the school’s second successive state championship.

“I was really fired up about being a Hornet before the coaching changes, but after everything happened, my decision got much easier,” Hardeman said. “Being able to play in front of my family is an amazing opportunity. Coach Taylor and Richardson are the best there is, and I couldn’t be more fortunate. I am thankful beyond words.

“Coach Taylor said that Sac State has the best high school football in the Big Sky Conference to recruit.”

Sac State for decades has relied on the local region, though scores of parents have not always viewed it that way while not fully understanding how recruiting works. A criticism of the previous coaching staff was that Sac State bypassed too many local players.

The Hornets will focus on the local area but will also keep an eye on the rest of the state. It would be foolish not to.

What’s more, college programs at the FCS level, including UC Davis, do not have three dozen scholarships to hand out. No one does.

Sometimes, programs have just 15 or 22, or sometimes much fewer, so a pool of 30 candidates cannot possibly land at one school with 15 rides available.

Sac State went from sad sack to contender under Bob Mattos in the 1980s with local recruiting, starting with the first scholarship signee in program history in running back Donald Hair of McClatchy in 1985.

In the early 1990s, Sac State was recruiting statewide, and that trend continued under John Volek in the late 1990s, though Volek remained especially loyal to local athletes. Sac State last won a conference championship in 1995, under Volek, and last reached the playoffs in 1988, under Mattos, whose top players in ‘88 included local gems Hair and Mark Young, the receiver out of Cordova and Sacramento City College.

Taylor said last month he prides himself in knowing “every high school coach in this town.”

He added, “I’m familiar with Sacramento and what this city has to offer. There’s no better high school coaching in the country than right here. We have great coaches, great players, and Sacramento will be a priority recruiting wise for us. The biggest recruiting region in the Big Sky is right here.

“We want to give players a reason to be here. We don’t want to be a cookie-cutter program. We want to be unique. The vision will be based on love. We want players who love Sacramento, love each other, love to compete. Love is the most powerful force..”

Two other Folsom seniors gave verbal commitments to North Dakota - defensive lineman Chandon Pierre and defensive back Caleb Nelson.

Along with Hardeman, Wagner, Kaiden Bennett and Joe Ngata, that gives Folsom six scholarship signees. Bennett and Ngata signed early commitments in December with Boise State and Clemson.

Folsom could have other players sign next week as well.

Who’s going where

Verbal commitments from area athletes for full athletic scholarships. Signing day is Feb. 6.

For updates and to be included on this list: jdavidson@sacbee.com

Wyatt Berry Del Oro DL San Diego

Tyler Bohannon Grant DB Montana State

Jonathan Boyd Capital Christian Princeton

Will Buck Capital Christian OL/DL San Diego

Jackson Canaan Jesuit TE San Jose State

Michael Graves Sheldon WR Idaho

Johnny Guzman Del Oro KR Sacramento State

Tyler Hardeman Folsom DL Sacramento State

Matty Horne Elk Grove DB Northern Arizona

Elijah King Cosumnes Oaks DB Montana State

Brandon Knott Inderkum OL Sacramento State

Caleb Nelson Folsom DB North Dakota

Chandon Pierre Folsom DL North Dakota

Shane Semeit Capital Christian Northern Arizona

Jacob Trach Cosumnes Oaks RB Air Force

Joe Wagner Folsom OL/DL Sacramento State

Ryan Whalley Del Oro K UC Davis

Follow The Bee’s Joe Davidson: jdavidson@sacbee.com, @SacBee_JoeD, sacbee.com/high-school.

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