Coming into 2015, Portland State's then-interim head coach Bruce Barnum had to scramble to put together a recruiting class. In any coaching transition, it's like having an arm (or two) tied behind your back because of the lack of time to pursue recruits.
Barnum admitted to HERO Sports in fall interviews that he filled holes on the roster by going the JUCO route, and it certainly worked out well, as the Vikings went from three wins in 2014 to nine wins in 2015, including two wins over FBS opponents. The interim tag was removed and Barnum was named national coach of the year–and, just as important, he had a full recruiting cycle to find the exact players he wanted. He told HERO Sports he wanted to go after more high school players in this class so that a larger percentage of his players would be around for four or five years instead of two years with junior college transfers. JUCO players are older, more seasoned and more prepared for Division I football, but don't get to stay in the program as long.
Barnum's 2016 recruiting method is going well. The Vikings pulled off a recruiting shocker just last week when they landed the commitment of 6-foot-7, 300-pound offensive lineman Moustapha Toure, a 3-star prospect according to recruiting lists. Oregon, Oregon State and Washington State had all shown a lot of interest in Toure. Another nice recent addition to the class was 2-star offensive lineman Tom Laverde (6-5/285), who came aboard over the holidays. Both are stoked to be a part of "Barny Ball", which Portland State's style of play is called. Toure and Laverde both said they look forward to playing on the same line with the other.
"The main reason I committed to Portland State was the coaching staff," Laverde told HERO Sports on Wednesday. "They are all great guys and know how to get it done on the football field. They are also very close with their players and everyone I have talked to has loved being around Barnum."
A big topic with all of the recruits has been the 6-win improvement in one season.
"I was surprised by their win against Washington State," Toure told HERO Sports on Wednesday. "I love the team spirit and how they don't give up and play until the end. The O-line did great this year, they also had an aggressive defense … I met (Barnum) at their spring game last year and he really liked what he saw at the Northwest Elite Camp. They have been recruiting me hardcore since. I went to a couple games this year and they played good football. Coach Barney got coach of the year, and he's also a great, funny guy to be around."
It's been an extremely busy month for the Vikings. Toure, DE Mason Vega, LB Avery Jones, LB Dylan Hanley, JUCO DB Ryan Wood have all come aboard in recent weeks. And worthy of note, dual-threat QB recruit Davis Alexander accounted for nearly 4,000 yards of offense as a senior at Gig Harbor, Wash. The QB is stoked about his stout future linemen, and about the turnaround that happened last fall.
"I think it was a bunch of guys that bought into a program and tried to really connect with each other and create a brotherhood," Alexander told HERO Sports on Wednesday. "That was mixed in with the coaches who knew exactly what they wanted to do and how they were going to do it, and of course there were countless hours of hard work and dedication."
From what this Viking trio expressed to HERO Sports, 2015 was not an abberation and they can't wait to get started in college.
Here's a look at the 2016 Portland State commitment list, which will surely grow a bit before national signing day next week and probably afterwards too (NOTE: These are the recruits HERO Sports could verify. NCAA rules prohibit a school from discussing its recruits until they sign with the school).
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