Blue Raiders announce 24 new football recruits
Stockstill's third class filled with speedFebruary 6, 2008 · MT Media Relations
MURFREESBORO, Tenn. - Middle Tennessee head football coach Rick Stockstill announced today the signing of 24 players to scholarship agreements on National Signing Day.
"We are very excited about this class," added Stockstill. "It's a very athletic class as you can tell by the number of track athletes we signed. I really believe we met and filled all of our needs at each position except at defensive end. We went in wanting to sign two defensive ends and ended up getting only one. Over the next couple of months we will try to secure a defensive end."
The Blue Raiders inked 12 players from the state of Florida, five from Tennessee, four from Georgia, and one each from Arkansas, New Jersey, and South Carolina. Overall, 19 signees come from the high school ranks, four are transfers from junior college, and one is a transfer from a four-year institution.
Stockstill and his staff addressed the loss of five starters on defense by signing 11 players on that side of the ball. The Blue Raiders brought in four linebackers, two defensive linemen and a defensive end, two safeties, and two corners.
"The biggest thing with the defensive signees is their athleticism," added Stockstill. "Most of them are versatile and can play multiple positions. Defense is all about speed and it appears we helped ourselves out in that area."
Offensively, the Blue Raiders added five linemen, two wide receivers, two quarterbacks, and two running backs. The team also added a placekicker and an athlete.
"We had to sign five offensive linemen so we could begin developing depth and I feel great about all of them," said Stockstill. "Each one has the athletic ability to play every position on the line of scrimmage. We also brought two quarterbacks in who have enjoyed successful careers and are proven winners, and the two running backs run extremely well and have good hands while the two receivers were a must."
Another pressing need for the Blue Raiders was a placekicker and Stockstill went into Florida to fill the void.
"Getting a placekicker in this class was critical," said Stockstill. "We feel good about signing Alan Gendreau. He has a very strong leg and is regarded as one of the top soccer players in the southeast."
The Blue Raiders will begin spring practice on March 17 with the Blue-White Spring Game set for April 12 at Floyd Stadium.
Middle Tennessee Head Coach Rick Stockstill
"You have never heard a parent of a newborn child say, 'What an ugly baby,' or you have never visited the parent of a newborn child and make that statement. I've never heard a coach say, 'What an ugly recruiting class.' "I am not going to brag on these guys and tell you they are the next coming for the NFL and all of that. They have never played a down in college and you never know how they are going to mature and adjust to the game at this level, but I am very excited about this class. "The thing that stands out is their athleticism. Usually when you say that it's about skill guys and we have signed guys who can play multiple positions. That's important when you are talking about developing depth. It is an athletic group. It's a group that has legitimate speed. A lot of them are track athletes as well. "I feel we met all of our needs with the exception of two places. We needed to sign three wide receivers and we have two signed right now. We wanted to sign two defensive ends and we have signed one. We set out to sign a kicker and I'm very excited about (Alan Gendreau). We could sign 27 in this class. We were able to sign a full class of 25 players and we can count back two. So far we have signed 24 and we will continue to evaluate in order to fill the remaining needs with the three scholarships we have available." "The (transfer) players who are here now are working hard and doing a great job in every aspect of their life. We are all excited to get going with spring football."
The recruiting services will likely point to (WR) Anthony Jones as the top guy in the class. What can he bring to the table and how quick can he make an impact?
"He has a chance to contribute early because he has been in junior college and he is an older kid. We have a need at wide receiver and we need immediate help there. With him being an older player it kind of gives him a leg up. He's going to be more mature than a true freshmen coming in and if Anthony takes care of his responsibilities he has a chance to be a really good player for us."
It is hard to know what a 17 or 18-year-old kid will do. What's it like on the staff waiting for the letters to come in on signing day?
"It is amazing how 17 and 18-year-old kids affect grown men's lives. You can feel great and then you try to call and they won't answer and then you are down. Your whole life revolves around it. There are so many highs and lows in recruiting. This was a fun class to recruit for me because it seems like there was a lot of competition to the last day. That's what makes it fun. We won some of those battles and we lost some of those. It was fun to be involved into the last week and fighting for kids to come. It's a roller coaster for sure."
This is your third signing class but it is your first full signing class with no restrictions (due to APR). Do you feel you are back on an even playing field?
"This is our third class but it's really our second. We had three weeks to recruit that first year and there were good players in that class who have contributed to the program. Look at our depth chart and if we went to camp right now we would have 75 on scholarship and 52 of those would be either freshmen or sophomores, so it's a young team. To be able to finally put (the restrictions) behind us and to go out now and look a family in the eye and say, 'We are doing things the right way, kids are going to class, graduating. We are now the model of how to do things when it comes to academics and playing football,' it's a great feeling. We can now make decisions within our program not based on losing one point or two points if they guy or that guy leaves. We can run the program the way we want to now."
Did you feel handcuffed before?
"When you can't sign as many as everybody else you are at a disadvantage. Two years ago we could only sign 13 and last year we could only sign 23. I said when it got here, that it's going to take four or five years to get this program where everyone is. This is our third year now and we are at 75 or 76. We will only have 10 seniors next year and 12 juniors so there aren't a lot of people in those two classes. It has definitely been a handicap not being able to sign as many as everyone else but that is behind us."
Is recruiting the state of Florida becoming a focal point for this staff?
"Our three main states are Tennessee, Georgia and Florida. We signed two out of Tennessee the first year, three last year and five this year. We are not abandoning Tennessee. This is our home state and we will recruit every high school in the state. If a kid from Tennessee is even with a kid in Florida or Georgia we will always take the kid from Tennessee first. I believe we can get more out of Georgia than we have. Our staff has contacts in Florida and that has allowed us to recruit that state as well as we have. There are enough players in Florida to go around."
Is recruiting Florida more difficult because so many more schools recruit that state?
"Florida is oversaturated with players and every school is recruiting Florida and the well has not run dry yet. There is someone there for everybody. It's a state with a lot of skill in it and there are so many players in Florida that there are enough for all the schools in the state and for those coming in to get quality players. We have to do a good job evaluating the ones we have a legitimate chance to get."
Do you find now more so than last year that you were in recruiting battles for players longer?
"I don't think I went to bed last year on Tuesday night worried about someone not signing. This year I was. Last week when I was on the road and you are going into the home for a visit, you are not just there five minutes finalizing things. You were there competing and selling the program, the staff and the University. It was a lot of fun."
What has changed in that aspect?
"First we recruited guys who had more opportunities to go elsewhere. I think people have seen us the last couple of years and realize we are a legitimate program that is doing things the right way. It's a great place to go to school and play ball and you are going to get coached well. The players and their families are looking at Middle Tennessee in a different light and we have been able to get in the fight with some guys we might not have been able to before."
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