The Boise State football team flew south Friday with a roster loaded with players who will be closer to home at Saturdays game in Hattiesburg, Miss., than they are in Boise.
Twenty Broncos come from Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, the Houston area or the Dallas area.
Of those, 13 have joined the team in the past 21 months.
And the trend is likely to continue because the Broncos are moving to the Big East in 2013, which will allow them to play games regularly in Texas and Florida, and because the players who are here become some of the programs best recruiters.
Redshirt freshman defensive end Sam Ukwuachu of Pearland, Texas, remembers spotting a handful of Texans on the roster when he considered Boise State.
If they can do good here and get used to it, he figured, then so can I.
I felt like I could fit in, he said.
Texas and the South are two of the most fertile recruiting grounds in college football. Coach Chris Petersen branched into Texas when he became the head coach in 2006 and now has an assistant, defensive backs coach Jimmy Lake, dabbling in Florida.
Petersen also has leveraged the Broncos national profile to lure recruits from places coaches dont usually visit.
He doesnt have a concrete plan for how to recruit in the Big East, but hes intrigued by the talent in places like Florida and Georgia.
Well kind of play that by ear, Petersen said of whether more players from the eastern half of the country are in the Broncos future. With us playing back there, thats probably the probability.
There is risk, though.
Boise State has succeeded for years with players from Los Angeles, and recently from Dallas and Houston, because of assistant coaches who built extensive networks in those areas. The farther the Broncos get from home, the fewer people they know.
You want to make sure you have good information on the kid, Petersen said.
Coaches also must identify the prospects best equipped to handle the move to Boise theyre farther from home than players from California, surrounded by teammates with whom they have less in common, in a place with different people, food and weather.
The food and the weather, in fact, are the two adjustments most commonly cited by the players.
They know where they can find a taste of home in Boise barbecue, soul food, Cajun food but even that is different.
The food, its a lot better (at home), said senior offensive lineman Brenel Myers, who grew up in New Orleans and completed high school in Houston. When I go to restaurants, I try to get the Cajun chicken pasta. Its not the same.
Said Ukwuachu: No matter how much I try to make it seem like it is, (the food) is not the same.
For others, the weather is daunting.
Senior linebacker Tommy Smith, of Atlanta, gets questions about the cold from recruits.
You get used to it, he tells them, just like the humidity down South.
Smith was reassured on his recruiting visit by former Boise State cornerback Antwon Murray, who is from Florida.
Smith has assumed the same role with players from far-flung states. He was the recruiting host for Demarcus Lawrence, a defensive end from Aiken, S.C., who leads the team in sacks in his first season.
I just made him feel like this is a brotherhood and he will be taken care of, Smith said.
Players and coaches say they enjoy the diversity. The 105-man roster also includes two players from Holland, one from England, two from Canada, one from Iowa, one from Hawaii and one from West Texas.
Thats 28 players about a quarter of the team from outside the programs traditional recruiting footprint in the West.
Ive got connections everywhere now, said senior linebacker J.C. Percy, who is from Blackfoot.
The players compare stories about their hometowns (Smith) thinks Atlantas the greatest city. We all know thats not true, sophomore linebacker Blake Renaud of California said and learn a little about life in other places.
Percy has picked up some Southern slang.
Smith has learned to camp and enjoys it.
Senior cornerback Jerrell Gavins, of Miami, disliked Boise until homegrown teammate Josh Borgman took him bridge jumping and hunting.
Were fortunate when we bring a football player in here that he comes into the football culture, and at the same time he has to fit into the college campus, Lake said. As soon as we get a young man up here and show him what this place is all about, it really doesnt matter at that point where youre from. We have a lot of good guys in the locker room. We have a lot of good football coaches who are real personable guys it starts with Coach Pete. As soon as they figure out what a family atmosphere it is here, they can see themselves playing here for four or five years.
Senior nickel Dextrell Simmons of Houston, who joined the Broncos in January 2011, said his high school team was the same way with players from New Orleans and several northern states.
Weve got one common bond its football, he said. I think its a great thing. You get to find out about their lifestyles and what they do. Everybody really does the same things. They just do it in a different way.
Chadd Cripe: 377-6398, Twitter: @IDS_BroncoBeat