Archive for February, 2013

2013 Football Signing Day Thoughts

D-II school fans don’t have the luxury of simply counting the number of Five star or ESPN 150 players their school inked. Two questions need to be asked and answered when defining Signing Day success.

The two questions I’ve asked myself while evaluating Coach Daryl Dickey’s recruiting success are:

1. Who was signed to replace what was lost at season end via graduation/eligibility end?
2. Who was signed to replace what was missing throughout the season?

Let’s look at the Defensive side first. We lost one DB in Kelly Dawsey. We signed three DB transfers and five more high schoolers. Three in that group were All-State. That’s a win. We lost one DE in Brandon McEachern and a top DL in Juan Pickett. We signed two FCS DE transfers plus one more high schooler. We signed three high school DT’s; two of whom made All-State and one All-Region 4AAAAA. All told the Defense gains 6 transfers, 8 schoolboys and 6 All-State players on defense to replace three guys. We were very (keyword VERY) young on the defensive front last year. Beyond the two seniors we lost everyone else of note (except Bobby Liggins) is a Rising Junior/Sophomore.

Offensively we lost one RB and gained two transfers each potentially better than the one lost. We lost two receivers but this need was addressed in a big way last year. We replace our PK Davis Brackett with an All-State selection. We lose two OL starters but add 3 high schoolers. I doubt they’ll be ready for 2013 but the 3 returnees will all be Seniors. The other two spots will be filled by guys already in the program. This is what i’m most curious to see in spring training. The O-line is a slight loss; break even at best.

All in all I would have liked to see more experience on the defensive front but overall the coaches did well considering the win/loss record hanging around their necks.

University of West Georgia Football Signing Day 2013

Signing Day 2013 (a.k.a College Football Fan Christmas) is in the books. It appears that once again the University of West Georgia coaching staff has put together a great group of young men. Head coach Daryl Dickey and recruiting coordinator Louis LeBlanc didn’t have a lot to work with in terms of available scholarships. There were only 11 seniors on the 2012 squad, but most all were important contributors.

I’ll try to break down the losses and what was done to address them, starting with the offense.

The receiving corp lost two big ones in All-Region TE Daniel Youssif and V.J. Hunt. Hunt went down to injury during the Homecoming loss to those guys down state. Both of these guys (I think) were four-year starters and will be sorely missed by the UWG faithful.

Receiving was largely addressed last year. TE Ricky Williams came from Fort Valley State with the size we needed in a valuable blocker. Dickey has four All-State receivers coming off redshirts next year in Chase Rierson (Calhoun), Ben Lamb (Calhoun), Quez Mahogany (Wilcox County) and Eastern Kentucky transfer P.J. Stone. Coming in via signing day is Michael Cheeks, of Mill Creek. Nick Burke and Spencer Jones also come off redshirt.

Also returning are Denarious Appling (praise the Lord), Bobby (over the middle) Burum, Joey Eliezer, Alex Macauley, Randall Snell, Kramer Hendricks and Tavarus Lewis. I love me some Youssif and Hunt, but this area is clearly both deeper and better going into next season.

Appling was injured in a car accident the evening after the first game last year and was out for the entire year. He returned six punts in that one game for a 20.83 yard average. The three players that spelled him post-injury averaged less than 3.5 yards between them. That is a 17-yard swing in starting field position for the offense.

Considering the Wolves lost three games by seven points or less (and DSU by nine), that swing is a significant statistic. I would go so far as to say than if we had not lost Appling to injury and QB Emmanuel Taylor to grades, the 2012 Wolves would have been GSC champions. The kick-return game is better with Appling’s return, plus the addition of All Middle Georgia returner Kimball Magee, if needed.

Running Backs Coach Matt O’Brien loses All-Conference caliber David Bailey to graduation but gains a speedster in All-Conference JUCO transfer Derick Seward plus Air Force transfer ATH Alex Lakes, who was All-State coming out of Northgate High. Returning to the squad are 2nd team All-GSC starter Seth Hinsley, Quan Jones, Lane Thompson, Grambling transfer Walter Holsey and Niagel Curtis, who we haven’t seen much from yet. Orlando Howard (Burke County) also comes off his redshirt year.

Bailey was as talented as anyone in the conference not named Matt Willis (West Alabama) but Seward, who averaged almost seven yards per carry in the tough California JUCO system could be better. I will be surprised if he doesn’t break the 1,000 yard barrier. It remains to be seen whether Lakes will wind up in the backfield but if he does this could be the best running game in the Gulf South. The running game has improved over the last year.

Nothing new at QB with both Austin Trainor and Dallas Dickey returning. Redshirts John-Mark Rhodes (Whitewater) and Ty Shelnut (George Walton Academy) join Adam Holley and Brian Hickman in the battle for the No. 3 spot. QB play should be marginally improved simply because the guys all have an extra year of experience.

The offensive line is my biggest concern since they dictate how well we move the ball running or passing. Gone are two four-year players in All-American Jordan Ritchey and Ukandu Emeonye, who has battled back from injury to get on the field more times than I can count. Dickey managed to fill the void with several behemoths – 6’6, 298lb Reno Messler (Jackson County), 6’5, 290lb Jok O’Bar (Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe) and 6’3, 260lb Harley Vaughan (Dawson County).

This is another area that was largely addressed last year, as there are already 13 O-linemen on the roster without counting the aforementioned trio. Dickey will look for 2-3 players to step into the main rotation with returning starters Brandon White, Cortez Hoskins, second team All-GSC William Wright and Somto Okeke. I will look for 6’5, 310lb Malcolm Aldridge (Burke County), 6’5, 309lb Spencer Whitehead (Newnan) and 6’4, 285lb Shaquelle Heard (Troup) to get first crack. I want to call this section a wash because of the losses, but the fact is there will be three seniors in the rotation which has to be good.

The entire linebacker group returns, led by second team All-GSC Bobby Liggins, and the secondary only loses one man. Sadly, that one man is a whopper in first team All-GSC corner Kelly Dawsey. He was the closest we’ve had to a shutdown corner since the glory days of multi-time All-American Marquis Floyd. His end zone interception preserved the win over then No. 1 Delta State in 2011. There is no overestimating the loss his graduation means, to the extent one should ever reference a student athlete graduating as a loss.

Immediate help has already arrived in the forms of DB transfers Carlos Hutton (Carson-Newman), Tev’n Hamilton (Eastern Kentucky) and Phillip Warren (Marshall). All three are already in class and going through conditioning with the returners. Five signees join the pack for next year, headed up by two-time All-State performer Kimball Magee, of Westside Macon. I watched his YouTube highlights, and this kid is a real baller. I won’t be a bit surprised if he sees the field early.

The defensive line is another area hit hard by graduation with All-GSC DL Juan Pickett and Brandon McEachern moving on, both four-year starters. The only immediate help is from Jackson Bland, who did see the field at Morehead State and Will Costley, 6’5, 260lb DE from Texas Southern and College of the Sequoias. He’s originally out of Wheeler High. I haven’t found much info on him beyond a grainy Youtube reel. There’s some depth in this group but they’re all sophomores or juniors; not one senior in the bunch. Considering our run defense was gashed on the regular last year, this was an area that screamed out for immediate JUCO help. If the two new guys are on the field early this group could be a positive. For now the Defensive line has to go down as a minus.

All in all, the squad is primed for success in 2013. We’ll have to at least get through spring practice to see what the transfers have brought to the table. There’s certainly enough there to get back above .500. We’ll have to see what the out of conference schedule looks like to get a good idea. Run defense is still a big concern for me but everything looks pretty good, I must say.