PHOENIX – During the 2019-21 football seasons, the Idaho State Bengals went 6-23.
Ten years earlier, Chaparral High School coach Charlie Ragle led the Firebirds to a 63-7 mark and rattled off three straight Arizona state championships.
On Dec. 10, the two joined forces as Ragle became the Bengals’ fifth coach since the turn of the 21st century. Like most first-year coaches, Ragle went right to work recruiting high school talent, with the addition of a state that ISU wasn’t too familiar with: Arizona.
The work paid off. After National Signing Day ended Wednesday, Idaho State had landed eight Arizona recruits, including five scholarship players.
Arizona To The ???! Let’s Go!
— Idaho State Football (@BengalGridiron) February 2, 2022
From 2000 to 2016, Ragle coached at several schools in the Grand Canyon State. He began his career as a defensive coordinator at Moon Valley High School for five years before taking brief one year stints at Chaparral High School and then Arizona State as a graduate assistant. In 2007, Ragle took his first head coaching job, at Chaparral, and led the Firebirds to state championships in 2009, 2010 and 2011.
After assistant roles from 2012 to 2021 at UArizona and California, Ragle returned to head coaching status, accepting the job at Idaho State.
“This was my dream since growing up. I wanted to be a college head coach,” Ragle said. “But it’s beyond that. I always said that I would never take a job just to take the job.”
Ragle was wildly successful in the high school ranks. The differences between college and high school sports, however, need no explanation.
For Ragle, the level of play is different and the location is vastly different, but the method of head coaching follows a model he has used since 2007.
“I’m the head coach. I oversee the whole program,” he said. “I have an offensive coordinator. I have a defensive coordinator. I have a special teams coordinator. I’ll be involved with all three phases of those guys, but I hired those guys and entrusted them to do their jobs because I know they’re good at it.”
It’s the model he followed at Chaparral, he said, and “it’s the same model and approach I’ll take here. Obviously, different times, different sets of problems, but I know the model works.”
Ragle isn’t the only Arizonan coaching the Bengals this season. Vince Amey and DaVonte’ Neal joined the Idaho State staff on the defensive side of the ball for the 2022 season. Neal was a former four-star cornerback who spent most of his playing time at Arizona, while Amey was a defensive tackle for the 1997 Arizona State Rose Bowl team and was selected by the Raiders in the seventh round of the 1998 NFL draft.
Neal played under Ragle at Chaparral and UArizona, while Amey coached with Ragle at both schools.
It was no secret that recruiting in Arizona would be a big opportunity for the Bengals for the 2022 season.
“We have local people that are in Arizona that want to come back and get kids that can play from here,” Neal said. “Coach Ragle knows there’s a lot of talent in Arizona, and a lot of guys that maybe slip under the rug here and there.”
A member of the Big Sky Conference, the Bengals have some in-conference competition. Although Northern Arizona is the only Arizona school in the league, recruiting battles in the state come from a variety of members in the conference.
“(Idaho State will) try to challenge NAU and the other Big Sky schools that have recruited here traditionally,” said Jason Jewell, coach at Brophy College Prep in Phoenix. “Weber State has done a good job here in the past, Southern Utah as well. They’re going to come in and fight for some of those kids.”
After a great conversation with @VinceAmey I am beyond excited say I have received an offer from Idaho State University! @jason247scout @bangulo @BrandonHuffman @CoachCotton12 pic.twitter.com/mIpMDb1Q42
— layton duncan (@duncan_11111) January 26, 2022
With Ragle, Neal and Amey familiar with the territory, Arizona would seem to be an ideal target for the Bengals. However, the coaching staff doesn’t get tunnel vision.
“(Ragle) wants to make sure that we do our due diligence from being native to Arizona,” Neal said. “Getting kids in Arizona, but also still doing our due diligence to get kids in Idaho as well.”
Idaho State will open the 2022 season Sept. 3 against UNLV. Trying to turn around a program that went 1-10 last year, Ragle believes the formula to getting into the win column can be summarized in one word.
“I really believe winning is about people,” Ragle said. “You win with people, and you lose with people. … In my final interview, I knew if I got this job, we would have a chance to be successful.”
Don’t be surprised if some recruits from Arizona contribute to that success.