COLORADO SPRINGS -- Competition for the top in-state high school football players is getting tougher.

When Colorado State hired Jim McElwain after the 2011 season, he vowed to make Colorado a top priority in recruiting. New Colorado head coach Mike MacIntyre made the same vow when he was hired in December.

So far, both have been good on their word.

"Both of them are more visible inside the high schools, developing relationships," said John Wristen, head coach of Colorado State-Pueblo.

MacIntyre, McElwain, Wristen, Air Force coach Troy Calhoun and Northern Colorado's Earnest Collins got together Wednesday for the annual College Football Kickoff Luncheon at the Cheyenne Mountain Resort. The luncheon is presented by The Sports Corp.

Wristen worked as an assistant at CU from 1990-91 and again from 1999-2005 and said during those years, he learned the importance of having a presence around the state.

"That's one thing working with coach Gary Barnett and Bill McCartney (at CU), I was one of the guys that had to be in all the high schools," said Wristen, who has built a Division II power at CSU-Pueblo with a roster filled with Colorado players. "I really pride ourselves about developing our relationship with CSU-Pueblo. Now I can see those guys (MacIntyre and McElwain) doing the same type of thing. I think it's a great thing."


MacIntyre said Wednesday that since he and his staff were hired in December, they have visited every Class 5A and 4A school in the state, about 95 percent of the 3A schools and a large number of 2A, 1A, A-8 man and A-6 man schools. He pointed out that perhaps the best running back in CU history, Rashaan Salaam, came from an 8-man program in California, so it's important to cast a wide recruiting net.

"The whole state is important to us," said MacIntyre, who has already netted one verbal commitment for the 2014 class, Isaac Miller of Silver Creek High School.

Calhoun and McElwain both said that the best years for their two programs in the past have come when the core of the team was in-state recruits. UNC and CSU-Pueblo depend largely upon in-state talent.

"Now both coach Macs have done a great job of making an emphasis of identifying kids in the state of Colorado," Wristen said. "Are they going to sign everybody? No. But, it really helps us identify who they're going to sign so we can focus on our pecking order."

Thornton could be factor in Pueblo

After four years at CU, tight end DaVaughn Thornton has transferred to CSU-Pueblo for his final year of eligibility. The ThunderWolves have a lot of tight ends on the roster, but only two that caught passes last season. That could present a good opportunity for Thornton.

"I haven't had a chance to really evaluate him, because there wasn't a lot of time up at CU," Wristen said. "My thing about him, I want him to add to our team. I don't want him to be a part of it. I'm really looking for him to add to it. We do like to play with two tight ends, three tight ends. He's definitely got some ability. I hope he grows as a person from this experience and that he comes out of our place a better man."

Thornton caught 14 passes for 154 yards during his career at CU, including seven catches for 73 yards in 2012.

Turning the corner?

UNC was 1-16 through the first 17 games of Earnest Collins' tenure as head coach. Then, the Bears went 4-1 during the last five games of 2012. The only loss was a 12-10 decision on Oct. 27 against Northern Arizona, one of the top programs in FCS at the time. The Bears won their last three games after that.

"They believed that they should have won that game," Collins said. "After that game is when everything started to click. It's about feeding their minds that we can win and are capable of winning and I think it's starting to happen for us."


Calhoun and his family were on vacation last week when his neighborhood was evacuated because of the Black Forest fire. His home was fine, but he said that 14 years ago his mother lost her home and several items from his childhood in a single-home fire. ... Last year's luncheon was cancelled because of the Waldo Canyon fire.

Follow Brian on Twitter: