The Weber State football team is in the second season of a reclamation project under head coach Jody Sears.
Just five years ago, the Wildcats were a serious contender in not only the Big Sky Conference but the FCS national championship picture as well.
In 2008, Weber State came to Alex G. Spanos Stadium and shocked the Ramses Barden-led Cal Poly Mustangs that some were calling darkhorse title contenders.
Since then, the Wildcats’ program has fallen to the bottom of the Big Sky, but the road back to respectability apparently goes through Florida.
You wouldn’t think there would be much of a well-worn path from the Sunshine State to Ogden, Utah, but Sears has welcomed more than a dozen players from Florida in the past two recruiting periods.
There are 14 Florida natives on the Weber State roster. Ten are either freshmen or redshirt freshmen. Three are second-year sophomores, and the lone junior is a transfer from Boise State in his first season with the Wildcats.
The crop includes true freshman quarterback Austin Chipolletti, who has grabbed ahold of the starting spot in the past month, and true freshman receiver Cam Livingston, the team leader with two touchdown catches.
The connection to Florida comes from second-year assistant and quarterbacks coach Justin Rascati. A Gainesville, Fla., native, Rascati began his collegiate playing career at Louisville before he transferred to play for James Madison, leading the Dukes to the 2004 FCS title.
Being less than an hour’s drive from Salt Lake City’s major airport has its advantages.
“The best thing we have resource-wise from a recruiting standpoint is the airport that’s 30 minutes from us,” Sears said. “We can fly direct to anywhere in the country. We fly into Jacksonville and Orlando, and we have good contacts down there. There’s tons and tons of talent, and kids can get up here and get access to a whole new different environment.”