Boise State has closed the last three seasons ranked no worse than 11th in the AP Top 25.
And about a month later, on signing day, it hasn't cracked Scout.com's recruiting top 50.
The Broncos aren't just an anomaly because of their blue turf.
As competition for football recruits becomes ever hotter, gaining more and more attention from fans who post a running commentary along with video of the best prospects online, Boise State stands out not because of how great its recruiting is but, in national terms, how bad it is — at least according to the rankings.
"We've had kids that have no offers and we'll pride ourselves on that," Boise State coach Chris Petersen says. "We don't care who has or hasn't offered a guy. If we like him we'll recruit him."
Sure, Petersen would love to bring in the best talent available. But that isn't the Broncos' reality in a landscape where they are recruiting against established Bowl Championship Series schools, whether it's Oregon from the Pac-10 or Texas from the Big 12.
So the Broncos' staff have become more creative, relying on the upside of a prospect, the basic intangibles all coaches seek, and working on a never-ending homework assignment — to find out as much information as possible about a potential recruit.
The result: those diamond-in-the-rough stars who have fueled the Broncos' success and shown up the experts.
"It just really comes down to they're good football (players). You put the tape on and you like them a lot as a player and then you do your homework and that's where most people won't do it," Petersen said. "It's amazing out there the lack of homework that's really done and people will just end up offering guys because everyone else has. 'If they've offered him then he must be a good player.' We try to stay away from that as much as we can."
Most fans know the story of Heisman finalist Kellen Moore, the undersized, lefty quarterback who only got one other Football Bowl Subdivision offer — from Idaho — before becoming the most prolific quarterback in Boise State's history. His record entering his senior season next fall: 38-2.
But there are plenty of others the Broncos uncovered and turned into stars:
— Starting running back Doug Martin ran for 1,260 yards and 12 touchdowns this past season. His only other offer was Cal Poly of the FCS.
— Former star Korey Hall hailed from Glenns Ferry, Idaho, with a population of less than 2,000, and went on to become a three-team all-WAC first-team linebacker. He'll be in the Super Bowl on Sunday as a fullback on Green Bay's roster.
— Offensive lineman Ryan Clady was a 2-star recruit coming out of Rialto, Calif. He became the No. 12th overall pick in the 2008 NFL draft — selected by Denver — leaving Boise State a year early for the next level.
"If you asked me the single best thing Chris Petersen and his staff do, it's evaluate talent," said Tom Luginbill, ESPN's recruiting analyst. "Forget the coaching on the field, those guys, whatever their model, whatever their blueprint ... whatever they're looking for, their ability to project two to three years down the road and be right more often than wrong in my opinion is a very unique and special talent, and they've got it."
But it's not as basic as simply having a keen eye able to pick out the perfect fits for what the Broncos are trying to accomplish. That talent evaluation comes because Petersen has a little extra time. Luginbill notes that many of the top BCS programs feel the need to sign high school players who can immediately enter as a true freshman and provide help. Part of that is the proliferation of talented freshman being ready to play as soon as they arrive on campus. Part of it is squeezing the most out of recruits, especially those with NFL futures who could bolt early.
Petersen and the Broncos, meanwhile, have made the most of redshirting recruits when the opportunity allows, putting even more emphasis on recognizing undervalued potential. The 3-star recruit most BCS schools will pass on is someone Boise State is highly intrigued by, as long as they have the signs of growing into a star.
Boise State can get away with that plan in part because of their competition, or lack thereof. On a weekly basis, the Broncos don't need to be better than the Alabamas and Oregons they find near them in the Top 25. They just need to be better than the rest of the Western Athletic Conference, and starting next season, the Mountain West.
"There is an assumption because their classes aren't ranked they are recruiting bad players and they all of a sudden are magically coaching them into being good players," Luginbill said. "That's not how it works. They are recruiting good players."
Even though the Broncos have made their mark finding overlooked recruits that evolve into some of the best players in the country, they aren't ignoring the opportunity to pluck some of the best talent available. Entering signing day, the Broncos have 18 verbal commitments, which puts to rest any concern caused by the Broncos thin class a year ago, due to a limited number of available scholarships.
"There aren't a lot of egos in this class and there generally aren't in Boise State classes," said Adam Gorney, recruiting analyst with Rivals.com.
Brandon Huffman, West regional manager for Scout.com, noticed a number of the top recruits included Boise State on their finalist lists. While no 4- or 5-star high school recruits are expected to land in Boise, Huffman said the Broncos decision to go after these recruits was noticed.
"I think the bigger surprise is it took them that long to recruit on that stage," Huffman said. "... Boise prided themselves on getting to that point with some of the overlooked guys. (But) they can recruit on the bigger scale and it wasn't until this year they tried to show that."
Petersen acknowledges the players the Broncos can recruit might be more talented than when he first took over from Dan Hawkins in 2006. But the makeup of who the Broncos target hasn't changed.
"I think it's very simple," he said. "We're looking for good football players that are great kids. That's it."