Expanding its recruiting radius larger than ever before, the Slippery Rock football team signed 21 new recruits on national signing day on Wednesday, Feb. 1. The Rock brought in five transfer athletes and 16 high school recruits from a total of four different states.
The majority of the class was defensive players (17 of 21) as SRU will have to replace 10 of their 11 starting defensive player from this fall.
Head coach Shawn Lutz said that the goal for him and his staff was to sign the best talent available to them, without worrying about location.
“The biggest thing about this recruiting class was, we expanded ourselves,” Lutz said. “Usually it’s just the Pittsburgh, WPAIL area, but we expanded more out in the Harrisburg, Philly area, out east. We didn’t lose to many schools, and that’s what I like. ”
Out of the class, only seven high schoolers come from the western Pennsylvania/eastern Ohio area, with nine coming from central/eastern Pennsylvania.
Out of the five transfers brought in, Lutz said that he thinks they will all have a shot at being day-one starters.
The biggest transfer brought in (both literally and figuratively) was graduate transfer Ian Park. Park is a big 6-foot-four, 315-pound offensive lineman transferring to The Rock from Division I Northwestern University and he looks to be a day-one starter at guard on Slippery Rock’s offensive line. Originally from Upper St. Clair Park, he said he is excited to be playing closer to home with his family and friends.
Another talented transfer coming in is senior defensive end Tyler Schneider. Schneider comes from Austin Peay University in Tennessee. Schneider played every game at defensive end at Austin Peay in 2014 and 2015 and will be an immediate starter at The Rock defensive line, opposite current Rock superstar, junior Marcus Martin.
“(Schneider) brings an instant credibility,” Lutz said. “He is very, very much of a guy that we like: athletic, tough and likes to get to the quarterback. So he can come in and be an impact guy right away.”
Also transferring in to play on the defensive line are Zach Madden from the University of Pennsylvania and Tim Soave from Lackawanna College. Madden will play on the interior of the defensive line as a defensive tackle, while Soave will be play both inside and out. Soave recorded 7.5 sacks last season as a sophomore.
The final transfer is defensive back Bryson Briggs from California. Briggs is from Bakersfield College in Bakersfield, Ca. and a guy Lutz said will basically have to start from day one.
“He’s a guy we had to have with us losing, really, all four guys in the secondary,” Lutz said. “We have a lot of work to do on defense with all those guys that we lost.”
From high school, The Rock signed two receivers, one running back, two defensive lineman, seven linebackers and four defensive backs.
Lutz and his staff had one thing on their mind when looking at receivers to recruit: speed. They signed speedy receivers Kwis Monitard and Noah Woods. Monitard is from Conrad Weiser high school and Woods is from State College. Monitard has a recorded 4.34-second 40-meter dash time and Woods was a part of the state champion 4×100-meter relay team. Lutz said that Monitard reminds him of a younger, faster Marcus Johnson. Johnson, a junior, just had a career year for the football team this fall with 54 catches, 898 yards and 13 touchdowns.
The one running back signed is Koby Kahn from Souderton high school. Kahn is bigger than any Slippery Rock running back in recent history, checking in at six-feet tall and 220 pounds.
“We always have these 5-foot-10, 5-foot-11 guys, those elusive, quick guys who can take it to the house, and we need a little bigger guy who can get the tough yards,” Lutz said. “He’s a bruiser, he’s a pounder, but for how big he is, he’s very athletic too.”
Adding more depth to an already talented defensive line, The Rock signed high school seniors Garrett De Bein and Owen Jacobs. De Bein is from Cedar Crest high school in Lebanon, Pa. and has been highlighted as an “impact player” by Lutz. Jacobs was named the defensive player of the year of his high school league.
“(De Bein) is a relentless guy, he wants to be great,” Lutz said. “(Jacobs) is what we like in our d-linemen. He’s just a relentless playmaker, with great athleticism. He loves to play the game. He’s athletic enough that you don’t have to take him off the field on third down but he can stop the run, he can do it all.”
After adding five linebackers in last year’s class, Lutz doubled down this year, adding seven more. The biggest name of the group is Hubbard’s David Hernandez. Hernandez can be an impact player at all three linebacker positions and is expected to see some early playing time in 2017. Also able to play all three positions are Trysten McDonald from Cedar Cliff high school and Arison Sanders from Archbishop Hoban in Akron, Ohio.
The other linebackers are Jacarri Cleckley from Beaver Falls and Danny Welker and Sean Doran, both from Neshannock high school. Cleckley and Doran are “in the box” style linebackers according to Lutz, while Welker will play on the outside.
“(Welker) is very athletic, so he’s going to have to put some weight on, from a weight standpoint. He’ll be that athletic linebacker we’re looking for,” Lutz said. “Then we get an old-school throwback like Sean Doran. He’s physical, he might as well be wearing a leather helmet or something like that.”
The Rock also added the twin younger brothers of former Rock safety Derrick Fulmore, Maryce and Dorian Johnson. Maryce and Dorian are from West Mifflin high school. Maryce will play linebacker and Dorian will be a defensive back and kick returner.
The other defensive backs added to the roster are Dalton Holt, Khadir Roberts and De’Vijan Franklin. Holt is from Ringgold high school and will play free safety. Roberts is from Archbishop Hoban and Franklin is out of Woodbridge, Va. Roberts and Franklin will both play corner back, with Franklin being a tall (6-foot-2) man-to-man corner.
Lutz said that he did not want to take any player just to take them. He wanted to only take the best players available.
“Some schools will take guys just to take guys. We want to get the best guys,” Lutz said. “We covered a lot of ground in a large area and we got the best player at each position, which excites me.”
While a recruiting class cannot be evaluated right away, Lutz went after a lot of impact players who he thinks can be big time players at The Rock a few years down the road.