If the stunning 2016 opener against Toledo taught the Red Wolves anything, it was that you can’t coach size. On that fateful night, the Rockets, who weighed heavy on the offensive line, surrendered only six tackles for a loss and zero sacks to a defensive squad that would eventually rank 6th in the nation with 43 quarterback dumps. Size mattered. And the Red Wolves staff took note.
On National Letter of Intent Signing Day, Arkansas State and Head Coach Blake Anderson piled up seven offensive linemen and three defensive lineman, all towering behemoths and nearly all weighing in excess of 300lbs.
“I don’t know how this class is going to rank, I just know it’s going to meet needs,” said Anderson on 95.3 NEA Sports Talk Radio on Wednesday morning. “We wanted to get big and you can see that we’ve done that.” Anderson also stated that the lines got even bigger than the recruiting services are reporting. “I’ve seen the (scale) numbers put out and it’s not even accurate. We’ve got guys in the 330s and 340s.”
Red Wolves Offensive and Defensive Line Signees
OL/DL February 1 National Signing Day, 2017
- Dwayne Fisher 6’5″ 295 OL Marrero, LA
- Andre Harris Jr 6’4″ 330 OL from Putnam City, OK
- Justin Dutton 6’4″ 305 OL from Guthrie, OK
- Marvis Brown 6’4″ 310 OL JUCO from Tyler, TX
- Nour-Eddine Seidnaly 6’5″ 320 OL JUCO from Brooklyn, NY
- Josh Curry 6’2″ 306 DT JUCO from Yuma, AZ
- Hunter Moreton 6’0″ 275 DT from Fort Smith, AR (projected to Blue Shirt)
OL/DL Early signees
- Chase Johnson 6’4″ 280 OL JUCO from Senatobia, MS
- Tony Adams 6’1″ 335 DT JUCO from Ellisville, MS
- Jaypee Philbert Jr., 6’6″ 305 OT from Iowa State
OL/DL Preferred Walk Ons
- Jennings Stanley, OL, 6’3″ 310 from Jonesboro, AR
- Nick Andrews, OL/DE 6’2″ 255 from Marked Tree, AR
“Blue Shirt” OL/DL recruits that counted against this year’s recruiting:
- Alex Novack, OL, 6′”3 293 blue shirt transfer from Southwestern Mississippi
- Lanard Bonner, OL, 6’5″ 330 blue shirt Shade Valley High School
The Rest of the 2017 Recruiting Class
Coming a close second to adding depth and size to the offensive line: rebuilding the secondary. After losing Chris Brown and Money Hunter to graduation, DC Joe Cauthen gained three immediate contributors on Wednesday with Jefferie Gibson, Michael Johnson, and Darreon Jackson – all exceeding 200 pounds and 6’1″+. Jackson is a surprise signee with immense talent but also some baggage. The Red Wolves have rolled the dice on troubled athletes in the past (see Brandon Joiner and Kendall Sanders) and it paid big for both the program and the student. During his radio interview, Anderson stated that the signing was vetted and approved by both athletic director Terry Mohajir and system president Chuck Welch.
- Darreon Jackson 6’1″ 200 DB Coffeyville, KS*
- Jefferie Gibson 6’4″ 205 DB, JUCO from AZ (Early Signee)
- A.J. Cayetano 5’10” 181 DB Atlanta, GA
- Jay Adams 6’4″ 196 ATH Jonesboro, AR
- Michael Johnson 6’2″ 190 DB San Antonio, TX (JUCO)
- Aldon Clark 6’2″ 180 QB New Orleans, LA
- Zach Thomas, 6’2″ 200lb ATH/QB Reform AL*
- Antwon Turnage 6’3″ 205 LB Dodge City, KS (JUCO)
- Caleb Bonner 6’2″ 171 DB Nortpport, AL
- Chad Gooden 6’2″ 180 ATH Douglasville, GA
- Larry Wooden 6’0″ 187 RB Spain Park, AL
- Ronheen Bingham 6’2″ 220 LB, KS (JUCO Early Signee)
- Jake Middlebrook 6’5″ 232 DE, Jonesboro, AR (Preferred Walk On)
- Alex Roberts 5’8″ 180 RB Cabot, AR (Preferred Walk On)
*Signing Day Surprise
Transfer Spotlight: Kendrick Edwards, 6’5″ 212 WR from Arkansas (3 years)
Not to be forgotten in the mix is the high-profile transfer that Red Wolves fans have come to expect from Blake Anderson’s staff: wide receiver Kendrick Edwards, formerly of the Arkansas Razorbacks. Edwards transferred to the other side of the state last year. “(Edwards) and Beliema kinda bumped heads,” said Anderson, “and (Beliema) told me he just needed a fresh start.” Anderson sounded enthusiastic about Edwards’ speed and size. “Our scout team can’t cover him.”
Observation from the Cheap Seats
As Anderson hinted, this isn’t going to go down as the highest rated Red Wolves recruiting class. It might be the heaviest, though. More pragmatic than flashy, this class fills a lot of gaping needs that should enable star veterans to shine in 2017. But that’s not to say the class is without swagger.
- The staff feels that wide receiver Jay Adams, a high school superstar from Jonesboro, might be Arkansas’ most athletic athlete in the entire 2017 college class. Anderson is even open to the 6’4″ guard joining Grant McCasland’s basketball roster.
- Aldon Clark, the only Red Wolves signee to transmit his NLI by fax, is the class’ only QB. Clark made the Louisiana Sports Writers Association Class 4-A All-State Team in 2016 and was selected its most outstanding offensive player, throwing for nearly 3500 yards and 44 touchdowns.
- Jaypee Philbert is a former 3-star and graduate transfer from Iowa State who lends to the offensive line the two things it needs most: size and experience.
- Blake Anderson is excited about Dwayne Fisher, who was recruited by Arkansas to play on the defensive line. But the 330lb Fisher wanted to play the offensive line and he stuck with the Red Wolves.