Football Hawks ink 14 on National Signing Day
By Jim O'Hara
ROME – By the end of the day, there were plenty of smiles on the faces of the Shorter University football coaching staff. And for good reason – Wednesday’s National Signing Day resulted in the Hawks inking the first recruiting class that will compete at the NCAA Division II level.
“Overall, we feel extremely blessed and thankful that we were able to recruit and sign young men who were very high on our list,” Shorter head coach Phil Jones said about the 14 players that signed formal letters of intent Wednesday. “I’m very proud of our coaches and our recruiting coordinator Paul Pitts, who have worked many, many hours to make this happen for us. This is very critical for us as we move into Division II and the Gulf South Conference.”
Of the players who signed on to attend Shorter, nine will take to the defensive side of the ball while the remaining five are offensive players, three of which provide some much-needed relief on the offensive line.
Highlighting the day was the signing of five players from tradition-rich Central High in Phenix City, Ala., each who played key roles in helping the team advance to the Alabama 5-A state semifinals last fall. Linebackers Reggie Brown, Luke Wilson and Trevaris Horton, cornerback Justin Wiley and fullback Jerald Walker will represent Phenix City while wearing Shorter’s Royal Blue and White next season.
“We were very fortunate to sign these five guys from what was a great football team,” said Jones. “They’re very athletic and high-character kids who wanted to stay together.”
Shorter’s defense will also see the arrival of former Moultrie High standout DeRyan Arnold, an outside linebacker who is already enrolled at Shorter after transferring from Northwest Oklahoma State; nose guard Greg Carswell who starred at Warner Robins High; Lance Sanders, a key player at Gadsden High in Alabama; and safety Santavious Bryant from Wheeler High in Marietta.
“The biggest factor of all on defense is speed,” said Jones. “The guys we were able to bring in are good pass rushers and have speed to get to the edge outside.”
Offensively, the Hawks did not have to look far to land a player who will become the tallest wide receiver in program history. 6-foot-4 Hayden Vaughn, a two-time All-Area standout who prepped at nearby Armuchee High in Rome, chose Shorter on Wednesday.
“We are very excited about Hayden,” said Jones. “Particularly excited because he’s from Rome. He comes from a team that runs the same offense and he has an idea of what we do.”
The Hawks have also sured up their offensive line, which saw the departure of four starters including three-time All-Mid-South Conference standouts Nick Newborn and Andy Kellogg.
Signing with Shorter on Wednesday were linemen Noah Henson, who prepped at Sonoraville High in Calhoun, and Tavious “Gator” Bridges, who comes from nationally renowned Glade Central High in Belle Glade, Fla.
“All of the kids are very high-character individuals that will fit in right away with the team’s philosophy,” Jones said of the class. “They are ‘we’ guys, not ‘me’ guys.”
Although the highly-publicized Signing Day is over, Jones points out that the work to add to this year’s recruiting class is far from over. Shorter has plenty of work to do as it prepares for a 2012 schedule that includes a pair of NCAA Football Championship Series teams – Campbell University and Charleston Southern – and a rugged Gulf South Conference slate.
“We’ll have a lot more kids to add to the program,” the coach said, noting that there are more significant prospects Shorter is recruiting. “We will also be welcoming walk-ons who are vital to our program.”
Shorter University Signings
OLB DeRyan Arnold (6-1, 205) -- Moultrie/Colquitt
Coach Jones’ comments: “His nickname in ‘Snoop’ and he comes from a very good football program. He’s a very athletic outside linebacker.”
OL Tavious Bridges (6-2, 290) -- Belle Glade, Fla./Glade
Coach Jones’ comments: “Geographically, he’s the furthest from Shorter and we’re pleased that Shorter is where he wanted to be. His size and quickness is really a plus for us.”
OLB Reggie Brown (6-0, 190) -- Phenix City,
Coach Jones’ comments: “Reggie’s an outstanding athlete and with the spread offenses we see, you have to have a real athlete like him out there.”
S Santavious Bryant (6-0, 185) --
Coach Jones’ comments: “My impression of Santavious is that he’s a tremendous leader and a very good player. He was our No. 1 choice as a safety.”
DL Greg Carswell (6-2, 280) -- Warner Robins/Warner
Coach Jones’ comments: “Greg had several other offers and we’re excited he chose Shorter. He is the type of nose guard we need – strong, big and quick.”
OL L.A. Dunaway (6-3, 260) -- Rome/Armuchee
Coach Jones’ comments: “It was a pleasant surprise when he walked in here and wanted to transfer from Tennessee Tech. He’s ready to play.”
OL Noah Henson (6-1, 250) --
Coach Jones’ comments: “Noah was the best center we looked at that we could recruit. He’s a very good player and a good student.”
OLB Trevaris Horton (6-2, 220) -- Phenix City,
Coach Jones’ comments: “If he is not the top athlete of the group, then he’s very close. He has all the tools and the size to play his position.”
DE Tyler Ray (6-2, 230) -- Waycross/Ware
Coach Jones’ comments: “Tyler is a non-stop player effort-wise. What impressed us was his intensity and how hard he plays.”
DE Lance Sanders (6-0, 230) -- Gadsden,
Coach Jones’ comments: “He is the fastest pass rusher at defensive end that we saw and we rated him as one of the top ends we wanted to sign.”
SE Hayden Vaughn (6-4, 180) --
Coach Jones’ comments: “Most of the time our receivers get one-on-one coverage, so having a player like Hayden, who is 6-4, should help our passing game.”
FB Jerald Walker (5-10, 205) -- Phenix City,
Coach Jones’ comments: “He’s very physical and has real good speed. He’s certainly capable of playing fullback for us.”
CB Justin Wiley (5-10,170) -- Phenix City,
Coach Jones’ comments: “Justin is a very good technician at corner, smart and a very good cover guy.”
ILB Luke Wilson (6-1, 220) -- Phenix City,
Coach Jones’ comments: “He was a high choice of ours who is a good athlete and a great kid, and we feel like he can follow in the footsteps of some of the great inside linebackers we have had at Shorter.”