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Perfecting the art: how Boise State mastered the craft of recruiting

In the 2011 production of “Moneyball”, Brad Pitt made the scouting of underappreciated players famous.

In the 2011 production of “Moneyball”, Brad Pitt made the scouting of underappreciated players famous. For the past six years, Boise State football head coach Chris Petersen has made it an art form.

Before the Broncos rose to fame with the winning of their first Fiesta Bowl in 2007, recruiting four and five star recruits was all but impossible. In order to build a team capable of winning prestigious bowl games, Petersen, along with his coaching staff, were forced to tap into some of the country’s lowest talent pools. By finding players that fit into the Boise State “system”, rather than exceptional individual athletes

Petersen’s 73-6 record, and the rapid growth of Bronco Nation’s population, have solidified the success of the method.

Though California and Texas have always been categorized as breeding grounds for great prep football players, the majority of the most prized prospects end up signing with large universities in the recently disbanded Bowl Championship Series.

Granted, a large majority of the Boise State football team is composed with citizens from the aforementioned states —  33 players come from California high schools, while 15 Texans grace the roster — Petersen has developed many local products into professional athletes.

Take defensive end, linebacker hybrid Shea McClellin from the class of 2012, for instance. Before being drafted 19th overall by the Chicago Bears organization, McClellin, 22, was raised in Marsing, Idaho and played in the seldom recruited 2A Western Idaho Conference.

McClellin’s statistics as a linebacker and running back for Marsing High School were far from laughable, but as an Idaho prospect he stood little chance of getting an opportunity away from the tater heartland.

After joining the Broncos, success continued for McClellin, propelling him to become undoubtedly the greatest linebacker in Boise State football history.

Along with McClellin, Meridian, Idaho native, and Mountain View High School graduate, Tyler Shoemaker also found his way onto an NFL roster in 2012.

He was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and will play with first-round draft choice Doug Martin next season.

Not only has Petersen become an ace at developing local Idaho talent, but he has also been able to produce two other first round draft choices in addition to McClellin. Offensive lineman Ryan Clady was drafted 12 overall following his 2008 junior season with the Broncos, while safety Kyle Wilson was taken 29th overall by the New York Jets in the 2010 draft.

Clady signed with the Broncos for a reported five-year deal worth $46.75 million ($23 million guaranteed). As the third cornerback in the Jets depth chart, Wilson earned a five year contract totalling $13 million.

Who will be the next project for Petersen after a drastic loss of seniors from the 2012 roster? The shortlist may include highly touted freshman quarterback Nick Patti or sophomore wide receiver Dallas Burroughs, who resembles a quicker Shoemaker as a slot receiver.

Boise may not be the first destination for five-star recruits, but Petersen will continue to let his players reap the spoils.

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About John Engel (0 Articles)
John Engel is the sports editor of the Arbiter. He got interested in journalism when he was cut from the baseball team his junior year of high school. He started writing for his high school newspaper and swore he would one day work for ESPN, and indeed he did. He recently finished an internship with ESPN as a radio production intern where he talked to Kobe Bryant and almost fainted. He still works with ESPN Radio's Boise affiliate, ESPN Boise as a studio engineer, reporter and SportsCenter anchor. He is majoring in communication with an audio production emphasis, and plans to graduate sometime in the next decade. Follow John on Twitter: @EngelESPN
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