University of Wyoming head coach Dave Christensen announced on Monday the signing of three student-athletes to national letters of intent to join the Cowboy Football program for the 2012 spring semester.
All three are enrolled at UW as of the beginning of the 2012 spring semester, which began on Monday, Jan. 9. One is a junior college transfer and the other two are high school players. The two high school signees both come from international backgrounds.
The three players who signed with the Cowboys and began classes at UW on Monday were: Connor Rains, a junior college offensive tackle from American River Community College in Sacramento, Calif.; Tim Gleeson, a freshman punter from Melbourne, Australia; and Eric Nzeocha, a freshman wide receiver from Neusitz, Germany.
"These three young men each fill specific needs we have as we prepare for the upcoming season," Christensen said. "With Connor Rains, we get a talented young offensive lineman who has two years experience playing at a high level for a successful program at the junior college level. We needed to add competition at that position having lost two senior tackles in Clayton Kirven and John Hutchins.
"With the graduation of Austin McCoy, we need to find a punter to take over those duties next fall, and we believe we've found a young man with a huge upside in Tim Gleeson to compete for that position.
"Eric Nzeocha is a very athletic young man, much like his brother Mark (Nzeocha), who has been in our program for a year. We wanted to add some depth to our receiving corps to go with the group of returning receivers we have and Eric will add to that depth."
Connor Rains, a 6-6, 310-pound offensive tackle, comes to Wyoming from American River Community College in Sacramento, Calif. Rains earned First Team All-State honors from the California Community College Football Coaches Association (CCCFCA) as a sophomore in 2011.
He also was a First Team CCCFCA All-Region 1I selection this past season. A two-year starter, he earned All-Conference honors at American River CC as a true freshman in 2010. Rains will enter UW as a junior with two years of eligibility remaining.
Rains helped lead American River to a perfect 11-0 season, including a 4-0 conference mark and a Mid-Empire Conference Championship in 2011. American River defeated Chabot College 41-18 in the Capitol City Bowl played in Sacramento to conclude the 2011 season.
This past season, American River ranked second among all California community colleges in scoring offense (48.3 points per game), ranked No. 4 in total offense (466.4 yards per game), was No. 9 in the state in passing offense (286.9 yards per game) and ranked No. 19 out of 71 California JCs in rushing offense (179.5 yards per game). Rains played for head coach Jerry Haflich at American River Community College.
Rains played his high school football at Ponderosa High School in Shingle Springs, Calif. His hometown is Cameron Park, Calif. He was also recruited by Nevada, Sacramento State and UNLV.
Tim Gleeson is a 6-2, 195-pound freshman punter originally from Melbourne, Australia. Gleeson comes to Wyoming after training at Prokick Australia. He was trained by Nathan Chapman, a former Australian Football League player who also punted briefly for the Green Bay Packers.
Gleeson originally had dreams of playing Australian rules football professionally, before deciding to pursue American football and an education in the United States.
Gleeson had a former teammate of his, Alex Dunnachie, earn a football scholarship as a punter at the University of Hawai'i after working with Chapman at Prokick Australia. Dunnachie completed his third season as the starting punter for Hawai'i in 2011.
Eric Nzeocha is a 6-1, 200-pound freshman wide receiver originally from Neusitz, Germany. He is the brother of current Wyoming Cowboy linebacker/safety Mark Nzeocha.
Eric Nzeocha played for the Franken Knights Youth Team, a club team in Neusitz, Germany. He also was selected to play on the Junior National Team by the Bavarian Football Association.
This past year, Nzeocha was part of a German Junior National Team that placed fourth in the U19 European Championship in Spain. Nzeocha had one more year of eligibility available to him to play for the Franken Youth Team, but he chose to bypass his final year of youth football to sign with the Cowboys.
Christensen also announced on Monday that several players won't return to the Cowboy Football team beginning with the 2012 spring semester.
Scholarship players not returning include: freshman wide receiver Josh Doctson, redshirt freshman wide receiver C.J. Morgan, freshman quarterback Adam Pittser and freshman wide receiver Kevin Robertson.
Doctson started eight games in 2012, catching 35 passes for 393 yards and five touchdowns. Morgan, Pittser and Robertson did not play in any games for the Cowboys during their time at Wyoming.
It was also announced that senior wide receiver Jonathan Aiken has been ruled academically ineligible and won't return to the Cowboy team. Aiken redshirted the 2011 season after playing in six games in 2010, catching three passes for 16 yards.
In addition to the scholarship players not returning, there are four walk-ons who are not returning for the 2012 spring semester.
Those four walk-ons are: redshirt freshman cornerback Julian Hawkins, junior linebacker Brandon James, redshirt freshman linebacker Luke Knapton and redshirt freshman lineman Helamana Semo.
Hawkins, Knapton and Semo have not played in any games during their Wyoming careers. James played in four games in 2011.
"We wish these young men all the best in their futures," said Christensen. "We thank them for their hard work during their time as part of our program.
"We have a great group of young men returning from our New Mexico Bowl team, and we look forward to building on this past year's success."
Christensen said he would have no further comment on the players leaving the program. National letter-of-intent signing day for football will be Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2012. The signing period will conclude April 1, 2012.
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