By Donal Ware, boxtorow.com
This is the 13th year of BOXTOROW’s Top 10 HBCU FCS Recruiting Classes. I must say that this year is one of the years where there were a lot of really good classes. In year’s past, we’d be hard pressed to get a top 10. The top five would be clear, but not necessarily 10.
There were a couple of schools that didn’t make this list, but I liked what they were doing with their classes. Hampton had a good class and in another year would have been on the list. Second year coach Robert Prunty and his staff got a nice mix of freshmen and players with college experience. The Pirates went the junior college and FBS/FCS route getting experienced players to help them compete in their first year of Big South play, including 6-3, 295-pound North Carolina State transfer Benjamin “Shug” Frazier. One of the areas the Pirates didn’t address, at least as of right now for the 2019 season, is quarterback to try and replace Delmon Williams. While the Pirates got Maine transfer Isaiah Robinson, because he is transferring from a fellow FCS program, he won’t be eligible to play until 2020. I also liked what Cedric Thomas and his staff did at Arkansas-Pine Bluff. They didn’t necessarily get the high profile players with all of the stars (inside linebacker Timon Akins from Marion High School is a two-star player), but they signed 17 players – all high schoolers – from nine different states. The corps of the Golden Lions talent is young. First Team All-SWAC running back Taeyler Porter returns as does quarterback Skyler Perry who had a solid freshman campaign.
After some more research all of the teams that were announced on FROM THE PRESS BOX TO PRESS ROW this past weekend are still the same; the order is a little different.
The rankings are based on research that we did based upon school releases, local newspaper articles, and recruiting boards.
Special thanks goes out to the various beat writers at respective newspapers and to the sports information directors.
Note: Prairie View A&M was inadvertently left off of the original list and has been included.
T-10 Jackson State
This was the first class for head coach John Hendrick, who took over for Tony Hughes midway through last season and had the Tigers in contention for the SWAC Eastern Division title. This was a big class as JSU signed 26 mostly high school players. The Tigers landed three-star wide receiver Brandon Sanders from Jefferson Davis in Montgomery, Ala. Sanders had several FBS offers. They also landed former Ole Miss transfer D.D. Bowie who was a four-star wide receiver in high school, but played defensive back at Ole Miss. Both will have the opportunity to catch balls from former Western Michigan quarterback Matt Little who also signed with the Tigers. Running back Kimo Clarke, Jr. from Lake Weir in Ocala, Fla. could be a game changer and received offers from Arkansas, South Alabama, and Marshall. The Tigers also signed Christian Allen, an athlete from Mendenhall High School who was Mr. Football 4A in Mississippi and racked up 5,453 total yards and 68 touchdowns in his career.
T-10 Alabama A&M
Head coach Connell Maynor and his staff had some time to recruit this year after taking the job in January last year. Their efforts have paid dividends by signing three-star defensive end Davion Wheeler from South Oak Cliff in Dallas. Wheeler had 21 sacks last year. The Bulldogs also added another wide receiver for quarterback Aqeel Glass in two-star receiver Jurial Caldwell from Lee in Jacksonville, Fla, who had offers from Auburn, South Alabama, USF, Utah, and Temple. The Bulldogs bulked up defensively, signing former Ole Miss safety A.J. Harris.
9. Prairie View A&M
Second year head coach Eric Dooley and staff got the party stared in the early signing period by signing seven all transfers including wide receiver Klyde Chriss, a transfer from Texas A&M who played in only four games last year for the Aggies and is a former three-star recruit from New Orleans Warren Easton. Another transfer wide receiver the Panthers signed is Wyoming transfer Jared Scott, a 6-6, 220-pound physical wide receiver who played in 19 games in two seasons, but only had three receptions. PVAMU signed three-star running back Ahmad Antoine who chose the Panthers over Georgia Tech, Boston College, Houston, Indiana, Kansas and Kentucky to name a few. Antoine had 18 FBS offers. The Panthers signed a couple of two-star players in Cedar Hill (TX) quarterback Shayne Lawrence, 6-6, 220-pound tight end Marcus Whitaker from West Memphis (AR), and offensive lineman Gary Walton from Lausanne in Memphis, Tenn. Also be on the lookout for defensive linemen O’tay Baker from Mesquite (TX) High School, who received offers from Baylor and SMU, and defensive end Thomas Brown from Woodlawn High School in Lafayette, La. Who chose PV over multiple schools. The Panthers signed 26 players.
Broderick Fobbs and staff had a small but impactful class. The Tigers placed an emphasis on players that could help them right away by signing five JUCO prospects. The jewel of the class is safety William Savala from Dallas Carter, a three-star recruit who had offers from Louisiana and Louisiana Monroe. Wide receiver Kash Foley is another three-star player who could have an immediate impact and had offers from Kentucky, Kansas and a few other FBS programs. The Tigers also signed Arcadia’s CJ Russell, the sixth all-time leading rushers in Louisiana history. Russell rushed for 2,801 yards and 32 touchdowns in 2018 and had 7,769 rushing yards and 99 touchdowns for his career. He was First Team All-State and is a member of the National Honor Society and has a 3.55 GPA. Cisco JUCO transfer inside linebacker Brendan Vaughan is a former three-star recruit from Forney High School who originally committed to Oklahoma State. At 6-1, 225, he could have an immediate impact after finishing 2018 with 55 total tackles, five tackles for loss, three interceptions, and 2.5 sacks.
Howard new head coach Ron Prince and staff signed 20 players to national letters of intent, 14 of those players in the early signing period. All 20 are high school players. The Bison was able to sign a couple of three-star players including Dr. Henry Wise quarterback Quinton Williams. Williams had originally committed to Morgan State and could be the future as MEAC Offensive Player of the Year Cailyn Newton has two years remaining. Cornerback Elijah Coleman from Rockwall in Texas is a three-star commit to Howard. Howard recruited well in the secondary by signing another three-star recruit in CaSaan Dixon from I.C. Norcom in Portsmouth, Va. The Bison also got a couple of two-star recruits in tight end Thomas VI of Liberty High School in Brentwood, Calif., offensive lineman James Prince from Archbishop Stepinac in White Plains, N.Y., 6-5, 260-pound defensive end Deion Harry from Crete-Monee in University Park, Ill., and offensive lineman DeShawn Ingram from Martin Luther King in Detroit.
7. Tennessee State
Another strong recruiting class for head coach Rod Reed and his staff. The Tigers are in the rankings every year. And their blueprint remains the same. Draft local. Draft some high school players. Fill needs with FBS players. This year was no different. Four of the 15 players are from Nashville and surrounding areas (seven total from Tennessee). Ten High school players. Five transfers (four FBS). Offensive line has always been a priority and five of the signees were offensive linemen, led by three-star recruit Jaalon Gupton from Nashville’s Stratford High School. He was just outside the top 150 ranked tackles in the country and received offers from Louisville, Memphis, and South Carolina. Michael Brooks, Jr. from Cedar Grove High School in Ellenwood is a two-star product and led CGHS to the Georgia AAA State Championship. Jimmy Nixon comes from a winning program, helping lead Chaminade-Madonna College Preparatory to back-to-back state championships and could have an immediate impact on the line. Also on offense wide receiver Dayron Johnson is also a two-star recruit who hauled in 51 passes for 1,146 yards and 15 touchdowns in 2018. On defense two-star defensive tackle Cameron Stewart could have an immediate impact with his 6-3, 325-pound frame. Christian Abercrombie was going to be a staple at middle linebacker for the Tigers but was seriously injured last year. Abercrombie is doing much better and came by the TSU football facility this past weekend. The Tigers were looking to fill middle linebacker and signed local product Michael Bond a two-star recruit from Lighthouse Christian High School. Bond amassed 113 tackles and 13 tackles for loss.
6. North Carolina Central
Trei Oliver returns to his alma mater as head coach and has already begun to put his stamp on the program. Oliver and staff signed three, three-star players. One of the biggest signings was offensive lineman Michael Cartwright a 6-5, 295-pound offensive tackle from Champagnat Catholic High School in Hialeah, FL who received offers from Nebraska, Pitt, Temple, Pittsburgh, UCF, and many other FBS schools. Like a lot of the Eagle signees, Cartwright played and excelled in multiple sports. The other three-star signees are tight end/wide receiver Darrius Buchanan from Washington, DC’s Roosevelt and defensive end Nicholas Witherspoon from Greensboro’s Ben L. Smith who had an offer from Temple. As a senior, Witherspoon collected 55 tackles, including 24 hits for a loss with 21 sacks. NCCU also signed quarterback Davius Richard from Pahokee’s Glades Central High School who was named Palm Beach Area Offensive Player of the Year and passed for more than 3,200 yards and 29 touchdowns as a senior. He boasts a 4.0 GPA. Cornerback Kendall Winston from Rocky Mount’s Nash Central was a two-time first team all-conference selection and amassed 140 tackles, 12 interceptions and four forced fumble in three seasons.
5. Florida A&M
Last year, Rattler head coach Willie Simmons recruited for two programs; Prairie View A&M, who tied for second in the ranking last year and FAMU. Simmons left PVAMU to take the job at FAMU in December. FAMU finished No. 8 in last year’s rankings. FAMU finished with a really good class in 2019, signing 19 players, 14 from Florida and four from Tallahassee. The Rattlers finished better than most thought they would in 2018, but slipped down the stretch after controlling their own destiny for the MEAC championship after defeating eventual champion North Carolina A&T midway through the season. FAMU signed 10 offensive players and nine defensive players. A pair of three-star linebackers signed with the Rattlers in Moezies Telfort, a 6-2, 225-pounder from University High School in Fort Lauderdale. Telfort had offers from a number of FBS schools including Syracuse, Georgia Tech, Missouri, and Kansas. Omari Fiffer from Jacksonville’s Ed White had offers from Boston College, Syracuse, UCF, and USF. Sticking with defense, FAMU also signed a former four-star safety in Markquese Bell, (6-3, 215) who transferred from Coffeyville CC. Bell received an offer from Nebraska. He was an Under Armor All-American who originally played at Maryland. Offensively, the Rattlers signed two-star running back Terrell Jennings (6-1, 216) from Jacksonville’s Mandarin, who received offers from a number of FBS programs including USF, and quarterback Cameron Sapp from Lee in Jacksonville.
The Wildcats are perennially in the top 10. Head coach Terry Sims and staff signed a record 29 players. The Wildcats focused on the defensive side of the football, signing 17, but also signed seven offensive linemen, led by Mainland’s Travis Robinson, who is listed at 6-5, 325 and is a three-star player who can play tackle or guard and had offers from Florida, Louisville, UCF and Missouri. Defensively, the Wildcats signed a highly touted pair of safeties in three-star prospect Gelique Williams from Jacksonville’s First Coast, who originally committed to USF, and Rashaud Pratt from Hallandale in Fort Lauderdale who is a two-star player and received offers from UCF, USF, Akron and Toledo. Cornerback Marquez Delafield transferred from Fort Scott, CC and is tall and rangy at 6-3 and could make an immediate impact. Two other JUCO transfers, defensive end Tony Bowman from Coahoma had 21.5 tackles for loss and 7.5 sacks in two seasons and linebacker Untareo Johnson from East Mississippi who played on back-to-back JUCO national championship teams and registered 113 tackles and 10.5 tackles for loss in two seasons.
3. Alcorn State
The defending SWAC champions were three points away from winning the HBCU national championship. Head coach Fred McNair and his staff signed 19 players. Surprisingly, only five were from Mississippi. That said, the Braves signed four, three-star players. The Braves were looking to 2020 and beyond when they signed Meridian quarterback Teyarrius Adams. Noah Johnson returns next year for his senior season, but Adams is in the mold of Johnson and past quarterbacks like Lenorris Footman. Adams is a three-star dual threat who was rated one of the top players in the state by Rivals. He had offers from Southern Miss, Tulane, and South Alabama. During his prep career, he threw for 4,817 yards and 40 touchdowns. He ran for 1,733 yards and 18 touchdowns. The Braves recruited a couple of three-star wide receivers in Kendrick Brown and Isaiah McKissic. Brown was a teammate of Adams and is a three-star recruit and a top 100 receiver in Mississippi. Brown had offers from Southern Miss, Army, Memphis, South Alabama and UAB. He caught 40 passes for 814 yards and nine touchdowns as a senior and holds a 4.7 GPA. McKissic is a top 100 receiver in Alabama. He held an offer from South Alabama. During his senior year he had 74 receptions for 1,211 yards and 14 touchdowns. He was First Team All-State and 2019 5A state champion high jumper, breaking Bo Jackson’s 37-year-old record in the event. The Braves continued their recruiting of three-star skill position players by signing Tampa’s Jefferson High School running back Niko Duffey. Duffey had 2,982 yards and 22 touchdowns and averaged over seven yards per carry. He had offers from Indiana, Utah State, Syracuse, Cincinnati, Army, and Air Force to name a few. The Braves excelled defensively last year and added to that by signing two-star linebacker Jordan Richo from Yulee High School is Fernandina Beach, Fla. and JUCO transfer defensive back Juwan Taylor from Northeast Mississippi Community College. Taylor had 149 tackles, 2.5 sacks, and 12.5 tackles for loss in two seasons at NEMCC.
2. North Carolina A&T
The defending HBCU national champions had an excellent recruiting class. This was head coach Sam Washington’s first full recruiting class. The Aggies signed a pair of three-star North Carolina running backs. Shemar Thompson from Walter M. Williams in Burlington was ranked the 94th running back in the country and the 60th best player in NC and received offers from App. State, Coastal Carolina and ECU. Cameron Hutchinson from Havelock High School was ranked the nation’s 169th best running back and also received offers from App. State, Coastal Carolina, ECU, and ODU. After the Aggies victory over ECU in 2018, the Aggies not only signed a couple of recruits that had offers from the Pirates, but also signed a now former Pirate in quarterback Kingsley Ifedi, a dual threat quarterback who redshirted in 2017 and played sparingly in 2018 and was on the sideline in the Aggies win over ECU. He’s a former three-star quarterback from Vance High School in Charlotte. Also in the mix at quarterback could be Northeast High School (Elizabeth City) product Aaron Harris. Harris had over 3,000 yards of total offense in leading Northeast to the state championship game in his only season as a quarterback. Wide receiver is the deepest position on the team and the Aggies got deeper, signing two-star prospect Prestige Edwards from East Mecklenburg in Charlotte who had an offer from Temple. The Aggies also added some depth on the offensive line signing South Mecklenburg tackle Jason Ivey who had offers from West Virginia and Charlotte. The Aggies made some headway defensively as well, signing three-star defensive end Kyle Stanback from Newbury Park High School in California. At 6-7, 250, Stanback has the type of frame that BOXTOROW Willie Davis Defensive Player of the Year Daryl Johnson had and could push to get playing time as a freshman. Johnson declared for the NFL Draft last month. Stanback had an offer from Arizona State. Inside linebacker Jacob Roberts from Charlotte’s Mallard Creek is a two-star recruit. The Aggies also signed a couple of players that can play on either side of the ball. Herbert Booker from Oak Ridge High School in Tennessee will most likely play in the defensive secondary and recorded nine interceptions and returned four for touchdowns as a senior. Korey Banks is a transfer from South Carolina who switched to defensive back after playing wide receiver where he was a three-star prep performer at Sandy Creek High School in Tyrone, Ga.
This is the best recruiting class for Dawson Odums who is entering his eighth season as head coach of the Jaguars. SU is finally out from under NCAA sanctions and the Jaguars were able to sign six, three-star players which is the most three-star players that any HBCU has signed in one year since BOXTOROW has been ranking the classes. Clearly, Southern is thinking about the future, only losing eight players from last year’s team that won the SWAC Western Division title. The Jags return nine starters on offense and eight on defense. The jewel of the class is Bertrand Carrell a 5-10, 180-pound safety who spurned 11 FBS programs including LSU, Arizona, and Missouri to stay in Baton Rouge. Carrell played at Madison Prep. The Jaguars placed a particular emphasis on the defensive backfield, signing another three-star safety from Baton Rouge in Anthony Shaffer from Central High. SU made safety a priority signing Joshua Tate of Southwest Dekalb, who had 10 offers including from Buffalo and South Alabama. Cornerback Tyruss Gayden from Louisiana’s West Jefferson was also a three-star recruit and received offers from Army and Harvard. Another three-star signee on defense was defensive end Jaylon Ned (6-6, 230) from Washington-Marion in Lake Charles, who had offers from Houston, Louisiana, ULM, Tulane and USTA. The three-star signees weren’t just relegated to the defensive side of the ball. Southern signed two on offense including wide receiver Kiaeem Green from Warren Easton in New Orleans who had offers from LaTech and Marshall, and wide receiver Corey Williams from Episcopal in Bellaire, TX. With Ladarius Skelton emerging as the Jaguars quarterback, Southern continued to look to the future by signing Harold Blood from Destrehan High School, a two-star prospect who completed 178 of 259 passes for 2,573 yards and 29 touchdowns with seven interceptions. He also ran 47 times for 252 yards and five touchdowns. Travien Benjamin (5-11, 185) from St. Martinsville in Louisiana was a two-time all-state player who rushed for 2,101 yards and 43 touchdowns last year. If that weren’t enough, the Jaguars also signed five FBS transfers, most notably Purdue transfer Chazmyn Turner (6-3, 265), who will have two seasons of eligibility. He had 62 tackles, 11 for loss, with four sacks in two seasons at Purdue.