|2014 Top 10 HBCU Recruiting Classes
FROM THE PRESS BOX TO PRESS ROW Ranks the 2014 HBCU FCS Top 10 Recruiting Classes
South Carolina State sits at head of the class
As has been the case for eight years now, FROM THE PRESS BOX TO PRESS ROW has ranked the top 10 HBCU FCS recruiting classes. The rankings are based on the talent that was brought in and research that we did based upon school releases, local newspaper articles, and recruiting boards.
A special thanks goes out to the various beat writers at respective newspapers.
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- South Carolina State
Head coach Buddy Pough and his staff have never been below five in the all the years we have done these rankings. The Bulldog program had the No.1 class, in spite of losing out on some big time recruits. Pough and his staff always recruit at home first and while last year was the only time they really didn't (of the 17 players from last year's class, only four were from South Carolina), this year, 12 of the 16 are from the Palmetto state. The Bulldogs focused on offense as evidenced by the 12 recruits on that side of the ball. The term "it begins in the trenches" has always been the mantra of the Bulldog program and this year is no different, as they signed three linemen, led by Saluda's three-star prospect Kwamelle Barnes. The sexy pick in this class was Union County's T.J. Foster, a three-star wide receiver who runs a 4.46/40 and was ranked as one of the top 175 in wide receivers in the country. More times than not, recruits don't play right away, but Foster could with the loss of All-American Tyler McDonald. Also Northwestern's Quadarius Fair put up some huge numbers as a senior (91 receptions for 1,484 yards and 28 touchdowns) and could have an impact, as well as Blythewood's Lynard Jamison who was timed running a 4.39/40. With the No.1 ranked defense in the country in 2013 and talent returning, the Bulldogs didn't place a lot of emphasis on defense, signing just four in defensive backs Jermaine Baxley (Burke County) and Alex Brown (Lake Marion), linebacker Damu Ford (Dillon), and defensive end Bryant Wilson (Burke County).
- North Carolina A&T
The Aggies class was very intriguing. Head coach Rod Broadway and his staff didn't get some of the recruits that had the stars by their names as maybe some of the other programs, but they certainly recruited to fill immediate needs. It began with the three quarterbacks who all put up excellent numbers at their previous stop. Hasaan Klugh (Central Cabarrus) is a two-star quarterback who compiled 2,387 yards in total offense and 34 touchdowns in 2013. Lamar Raynard (Andrews) completed 61 percent of his passes and threw for 2,168 yards and 29 touchdowns in leading Andrews to the 2-AA North Carolina state title. Frank Foster already has collegiate experience, transferring from Southwestern College (CA) where in two years he threw for 2,338 yards and 18 touchdowns, completing 63 percent of his passes in 2013. The Aggies signed two speedy receivers in Khris Gardin (Freedom) who caught 55 balls for 1,033 yards and 15 touchdowns, and Malik Wilson (Eastern Alamance) who caught 38 passes for 782 yards and seven touchdowns as a senior. Aggies running back Tarik Cohen had a phenomenal freshman campaign and was BOX TO ROW's Rookie of the Year, but the Aggies also added Marquell Cartwright (Andrews) who carried the ball 233 times for 2,650 yards and 38 touchdowns and was named "Mr. 2-A Football" by North Carolina Preps. Linebackers Deion Jones (South Point) and Joshua Patrick (Southwest DeKalb) highlight the defensive signees. Jones' 211 tackles, 14 tackles for loss, three sacks, two forced fumbles, four interceptions and 11 passes defended helped his team to a 13-1 record. Patrick initially signed with Memphis out of Southwest DeKalb where he was named first-team All-Region 6 5-A after recording 79 solo tackles, 10 tackles for loss and two sacks. Like SC State, 12 of the Aggies 16 signees were in state.
- Tennessee State
The talk of Tennessee State in 2013 was about its defense and rightfully so. The Tigers, who made the national playoffs for the first time since 1999 and won a game in the playoffs, had the top-ranked defense in the OVC and the sixth ranked defense in FCS. Its offense was a little underrated, but there was great balance between the two. That balance showed in this year's recruiting class as head coach Rod Reed and his staff brought in nine players each on both sides of the ball. With the loss of a couple of offensive lineman led by BOX TO ROW All-American offensive lineman Kadeem Edwards, the Tigers signed four including Justin Brooks (Melrose) and JUCO transfer Tony Holmes (Itawamba Community College). With tight end A.C. Leonard declaring for the Draft, the Tigers signed two tight ends in 6-7, 250 Chris Wallace from Lainphier High School in Springfield, Ill. and Itawamba Community College transfer Archie Dennard. The Tigers only signed one wide receiver in two-star athlete Darrell Haralson (Smyrna) who could have an immediate impact and was offered by Appalachian State and Indiana State. Other signees include a couple of two-star recruits in Javon Brandon (Stockbridge) who started at quarterback and safety and is listed as safety and runs a 4.4/40, and Terrell Bonds (Miami Central). The Tigers also signed four mid-year transfers including running back Tom Smith who transferred from Tennessee.
- Norfolk State
The one thing head coach Pete Adrian hasn't had in a while is a starting quarterback that he and his staff could groom for all four years. He may have found one with the signing of Terrance Ervin (L.C. Byrd). Ervin led Bird to its first two Virginia state titles his junior and senior seasons. Ervin threw for 2,065 yards and 27 touchdowns as a senior. He was 29-0 in those two seasons as a starter. The Spartans picked up a couple of very good offensive linemen in two-star recruit Thomas Coleman (Western Branch) and Martavias Robinson who was a teammate of Ervin in 2012, but played a year of prep football at Atlanta Sports Academy. The Spartans only out of state recruit was North Port's (Fla.) running back Terry Polk who ran for a school-record 1,840 yards as a senior with 22 touchdowns.
- Prairie View A&M
Head coach Heishma Northern and his staff placed a great emphasis on defense in this class. While the Panthers had the top offense in the SWAC and sixth best in FCS, they had one of the worst defenses. A couple of two-star recruits committed to the Panthers including Northview's (Ala.) Josh Bighems and Landry-Walker's (La.) Damond Jackson who received a number of FBS offers including Arkansas State, SMU, and Troy. Of their six recruits on offense three are wide receivers. In state recruits including Worthing's Yzerrick Oliver and West Mesquite's William Stanley could be great additions. Oliver caught 67 passes for 1,626 yards and 18 touchdowns as a senior and once had 19 catches for 419 yards in a playoff game. Stanley was rated a two-star recruit and received an offer from Air Force. Because of his size (6-2, 185) and experience, Santa Monica College transfer Anthony Okray is the receiver that could have an immediate impact with BOX TO ROW All-American DeAndre Cooper lost to graduation.
- North Carolina Central
On December 19, NCCU announced Jerry Mack as its new head football coach. Four days later, Mack filled an immediate need, signing junior college transfer quarterback Quinn Billerman (New Mexico Military Institute). Billerman, who played his high school football at Raleigh's Ravenscroft, passed for 2,962 passing yards, 34 passing touchdowns in 2013. As has been the case with the NCCU program, the Eagles stayed close to home, signing 13 of the 16 from North Carolina. Twelve of the players' teams played in the playoffs with five winning state championships. To that end Noah Chase (Southern) stayed in Durham and signed with the Eagles. He is rated two stars by Rivals and three stars by ESPN and was a key blocker on an offense that averaged 46.1 points per game and won the 3-AA state championship. Chase also received and offer from East Carolina. Tucker's (GA) Davanta Reynolds is a two-star prospect and recorded five interceptions while forcing four fumbles.
- Jackson State
Newly hired head coach Harold Jackson said he wanted to recruit the Jackson area and the state of Mississippi first when he was introduced as the head man of the JSU program last month. JSU said a lack of recruiting locally was essentially the reason it let former coach Rick Comegy go. Only four of JSU's recruits were from Mississippi. But one of the recruits was Canton's defensive end Keontre Anderson. Anderson is a three-star prospect that was named first-team All-State after finishing his senior campaign with 82 tackles and 18 sacks. Javancy Jones had an outstanding freshman campaign at one defensive end and if you throw in the good linebacking core that returns, Anderson could contribute right away to a special defense at JSU. As a matter of fact the Tigers placed an emphasis on the defensive line, signing Tampa Hillsborough's Frank Carter, a two-star recruit, who at 6-3, 330, can also play on the offensive line, as well as DE/LB Shawn Bishop (Callaway), and Jonathan Burnett (Terry).
The SWAC champions return a good portion of their team, but have some key losses on offense and defense that they hope this class will address; at the very least it will raise the competition level of those already in the program. The BOX TO ROW National Offensive Player of the Year quarterback Dray Joseph was lost to graduation. Head coach Dawson Odums and his staff brought in two quarterbacks in Central's (La.) Jarrad Hayes and West St. John's Austin Howard. Hayes completed 180 of 283 passes for 2,391 yards with 27 touchdown passes and just five interceptions. Howard threw for 26 touchdowns. The loss of BOX TO ROW All-American wide receiver Lee Doss is huge. The Jaguars signed Memphis transfer Reggie Travis and East Feliciana's Danny Johnson who is listed as an athlete but played wide receiver in high school. The running game has been an issue for the Jaguars the last couple of years and it looks like it will get a boost with the addition of transfers Malcolm Crockett (Pittsburgh) and Jamarcus Jarvis (North Texas).
- Texas Southern
Since Darrell Asberry took over the TSU program in 2012, the program has had more setbacks than a little bit. Asberry is known as a master recruiter, but it has been hard to get players to come to TSU with all of its sanctions including no post season play and no spring ball that runs through at least this upcoming season. One bright spot for TSU is the facility it plays in – the state of the art BBVA Compass Stadium. That helped Asberry land a solid recruiting class that includes four two-star recruits in defensive tackle Keyshawn Parrish (Lithonia, Ga.'s Martin Luther King), defensive back Willie Hobdy (North Garland, TX), offensive lineman Jahlil Mathis-Ellis (Fairburn, GA's Langston Hughes), and running back CJ Eddison (Odessa) who rushed for 1,836 yards and 25 touchdowns. What was interesting is as big as high school football is in Texas and the talent in the Houston area alone, the Tigers only signed four from the state.
- Alcorn State
Coming off a tremendous 9-3 season which included victories over SWAC champion Southern and Eastern Division champion Jackson State, the Braves take that momentum into 2014 by singing 14 to National Letters of intent. Two-star prospect defensive end/linebacker Michael Brooks, who also received an offer from Southern Mississippi, is at the head of the class. Running back Darryan Ragsdale is a transfer from Hinds Community College and with his experience can help fill the void left by SWAC Co-Offensive Player of the Year Arnold Walker. Head coach Jay Hopson and his staff wanted to sure up the offensive line and got three linemen in Eric Snow a transfer from Mississippi Delta Community College, and a pair of Florida linemen in Kris Lingo (Tallahassee's Leon) and Christopher McCrea (St. Petersburg). Hopson hopes to duplicate the success he had with freshman Detonio Dade who started on the offensive line for the Braves last year.