Bryce Johnson went to the state of Colorado for a soccer recruiting visit last summer and left Fort Collins with a dream scholarship offer to play for the Rams.
“It was Division I football and a full ride in your home state,” said Johnson, a two-way player for Lutheran High School and a finalist for The Denver Post’s annual Gold Helmet Award. “That is a huge opportunity. I jumped on that right away.”
Johnson’s dream turned into a nightmare six months later.
That’s because Johnson’s contract was voided in December after the program hired former Nevada coach Jay Norvell to replace fired Steve Addazio as head coach. Johnson is not alone. Norvell’s re-evaluation of Rams’ recruiting class in 2022 led to offers being made for a handful of local obligations deemed inappropriate.
Among those taking their place: Past Nevada commitments and transfers.
“Their staffs came in with a very different schedule on both sides of the ball. They had a lot of changes that needed to be made. So they finally picked up my scholarship to use in the JUCO and transfer portal,” said Johnson, who is now the state of New Mexico, the state of South Dakota and others are considering. “They talked to me about blue shirts and getting me into the class of 2023. But they said that was not approved by their compliance.”
Norvell didn’t hide from that inconvenient truth when he spoke to reporters last month during the early signing period.
“It’s not something people like to hear,” Norvell said Dec. 15. “That they had a scholarship, they had committed (to CSU) and you have a new coaching staff and you kind of have to start all over again. It’s unfortunate. But it’s the reality.”
Where do those former commits go? CSU’s 2022 broadcasts look for new opportunities. Highlands Ranch tight end Jade Arroyo — with 107 career receptions for 1,515 yards and 16 touchdowns — pledged to the Rams in July. He is now considering multiple Ivy League programs.
“It is quite difficult now. Most schools already have their class full for this year,” said Arroyo. “Especially with COVID, there are limited scholarships. I just talk to schools with coaches (direct messaging) me on Twitter. I’m just trying to build relationships right now.”
The list goes on: Arapahoe outside linebacker Jareb Ramos is also no longer committed to the Rams, but recently got a scholarship offer from Penn. Addazio’s staff stayed close to home, offering scholarships at Fort Collins High School to Dorion McGarity and security Dontay Johnson. Neither player has signed with the Rams and their college destinations have still not been determined.
Roosevelt High School linebacker Cooper Walton is another do-it-all local product that was watched by FBS Division I programs until the Rams came calling. Then CSU withdrew its offer. Since then, he has reported scholarship offers from Montana, Northern Colorado, and CSU-Pueblo.
“My world was turned upside down,” said Walton. “It has certainly been a struggle. Many sleepless nights have been thought about it. It’s very hard to go through it as a young man and try to figure out who you are. … Within about 24 hours, I received all three of those other scholarship offers. It really came out of the blue and I wasn’t expecting it. That made me happy that something like this happened.”
The traditional college football signing season is February 2, with some of the state’s best players still looking for school.
“It sounds like we’re all in this together,” Johnson said. “Just trying to find leftover scholarships that they didn’t sign up for in the early days.”