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Trojans get 19 commitments on signing day

Sports Editor

19 high school and junior college football players committed to play football for Troy State University on Wednesday and although head coach Larry Blakeney admits this 2002 class doesn’t fulfill all of the Trojans’ needs, it does go a long way

toward keeping TSU competitive at the 1-A level.

"I don’t think you’ll find a coach in America who won’t say he had a good recruiting class," said Blakeney on Wednesday via teleconference. "Of course we did have some heartbreakers along the way, but that’s what makes it so challenging."

Blakeney and his staff spent most of the recruiting season in areas where high school players were more likely to have an interest in the Trojans, namely Georgia, South Alabama and the Florida Panhandle. As a result, Troy State signed five players from Florida, four from Georgia and seven instate.

But for the first time in awhile, the Trojans were shut out of Mississippi.

"That’s the one glaring vacancy in this class, I guess you could say," said Blakeney. "Mississippi is one of the states we recruit hard in, but so far we haven’t signed anyone from there."

The closest the Trojans came to a player with Mississippi ties was Johnny Jackson. Jackson, a 6-6, 275 pound defensive end, is a junior college transfer from East Mississippi Community College, yet hails from Aliceville, Ala.

Wide receiver, as it did last season, makes up a bulk of the Trojans’ haul. Troy State signed six wide outs, a necessity in offensive coordinator John Shannon’s ‘Trojan Spread’ offense.

However, the biggest steal among the receiving corps isn’t even a freshmen. Drew Amerson (6-0, 170) transferred to TSU in the fall after Cal-State Northridge disbanded its football program. The Troy State coaching staff got a good look at Amerson and the rest of the Matadors last season at Memorial Stadium. TSU beat Cal-State, 44-31, on Oct. 20, 2001.

Amerson finished his career at Cal-State a school-record 97 catches for 1,244 yards and five touchdowns. He’ll be a senior in the fall with one-year of eligibility remaining.

"He’s one of the players that can step in and help us immediately," said Blakeney.

The Trojans also signed Birmingham News Super Senior Larry Brackins (6-5, 200) out of Dothan High School in Dothan. Brackins hauled in 32 passes for 643 yards in his senior year.

Toris Rutledge (6-3, 175), out of North Marion High School in Citra, Fla., and Frank Taylor (6-2, 190) are two other wide receivers Blakeney is high on.

"All of these kids are big and they can fly," he said.

Martin Teal (6-5, 210), from St. Petersburg, Fla., and Zsan Robinson (6-2, 180), from Rockledge, Fla., are the other two wide out signees.

Blakeney also got commitments from JUCO quarterback Matt Ray (6-3, 205) and freshmen Bragg Knott (6-4, 210), of Homewood. Knott was an All-Metro selection by the Birmingham News in both his junior and senior seasons. He threw for 1,015 yards and six touchdowns last season for the Patriots. Ray tossed 15 touchdowns and totalled 1,990 yards in one season at Butte College in Oroville, Ca.

"Bragg is just scratching the surface with what he can do," said Blakeney. "But both of these kids are smart players, who can run and throw. We’re trying to create some competition with our quarterback situation."

The Trojans lost four-year starter Brock Nutter to graduation. Sophomore Hansell Bearden saw limited action in most of the Trojans’ games last season.

Linebackers’ Jimmy McClain, Ben Waldrop and Corey Sears are gone as well, but Troy State signed three players at that position who Blakeney feels could rotate in for playing time as early as next year.

The best could be Torrence "Boo" Smith (6-1, 235), the lone signee out of North Carolina.

"He may be the best we’ve signed at linebacker since I’ve been here," said Blakeney.

Brenton Thomas (6-0, 185), of Mableton, Ga., was another high-profile recruit signed by Troy State. Thomas combined to rush for 3,142 yards and 48 touchdowns in his junior and senior campaigns. He was named to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Top 50 players in the state of Georgia.