While the University of Wyoming has scoured Colorado for the foundation of its starting lineup, Air Force has recruited recently with Georgia on its mind. When the Cowboys take the field Saturday at Falcon Stadium for a crucial Mountain West Conference matchup, 10 of their likely starters will be back in their home state. Four Colorado natives will be in Air Force’s starting lineup, but no state can claim more starters for the Falcons than Georgia. Though Air Force has 15 players from Texas — more than any other state — only four will start Saturday compared to five Georgia natives. Much of that can be credited to Air Force defensive coordinator Richard Bell, whose recruiting area is Georgia and the Carolinas. “I enjoy winning in recruiting just like I enjoy winning in the games. And Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina has really good football,” Bell said. “I really set out to get as many players in those areas to come out here because I think when you get them, you get a special type of kid. He’s been in a football program where football’s very important, so he’s learned how to win, and it’s not something you have to instill in him. “We’ve been fortunate to get some guys out of there that can play, and I’m just happy for the team that we’ve got them.” When Bell recruits in that area, he’s essentially on his home turf. At various points in his career, Bell coached at Georgia, Georgia Tech, South Carolina, Duke and East Carolina. With long-standing connections to that area’s talent base and a smooth southern accent that makes him a hit in the living room, Bell has hauled in halfbacks Chad Hall and Justin Handley, tight end Robert Mc-Menomy, tackle Robert Kraay and cornerback Carson Bird, all of whom went to high school within 40 miles of Atlanta. “Southern boys know how to play football, so it’s not that surprising,” Handley said. “Back home, football’s everything. Friday nights are everything. It’s a real big deal.” Bell found Kraay at Tucker High, a team with seven Division I-A scholarship players at the time. “Coach Bell is a really good recruiter,” Kraay said. “He had come by and talked to a couple guys the year before me who didn’t pan out.” While Texas players are spread around the country’s I-A programs because of the depth of talent in that state, it’s somewhat surprising that so many Georgians have come so far west. But Ron Sebree, football coordinator for 19 schools in De-Kalb County, said his district does a good job of promoting athletes to programs outside the South. One of them was Handley, who starred for Dunwoody High School in Sebree’s district. Every December, DeKalb invites college coaches to a forum in which they can watch game tapes. Information on every player is available on the spot, including SAT scores and 40-yard dash times. “We just feel good about the talent pool we have here, and we do a good job of selling our players, and we really work hard at it,” Sebree said. “Football keeps things running in Georgia and especially in De-Kalb County. We have a $1.4 million athletic budget, and 85 percent of that comes from football revenue.” With that kind of money at stake, Sebree said schools place a premium on finding and keeping good coaches. Bell said that translates well to Air Force’s recruiting goals as a program that must recruit nationally and often has to find players who were overlooked by SEC or ACC programs. “The players know what to expect from a football knowledge standpoint and the demands that will be made on them,” Bell said. “They’re not afraid of work and not afraid of discipline because they know that’s going to be kind of the bottom line and the foundation for success.” CONTACT THE WRITER: 636-0258 or email@example.com SOUTHERN-FRIED FALCONS Five of Air Force’s starters come from within 40 miles of each other in Georgia. Here’s who they are. 1 CARSON BIRD Position: Cornerback Height: 5-11 Weight: 190 Class: Sophomore Hometown: Newnan 2 CHAD HALL Position: HB Height: 5-8 Weight: 180 Class: Sophomore Hometown: Atlanta 3 JUSTIN HANDLEY Position: HB Height: 5-8 Weight: 175 Class: Junior Hometown: Stone Mountain 4 ROBERT KRAAY Position: OT Height: 6-8 Weight: 295 Class: Junior Hometown: Tucker 5 ROBERT McMENOMY Position: TE Height: 6-4 Weight: 235 Senior Snellville
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