Trojans land 20 recruits on Signing Day

Published 10:29 pm Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Another year has gone by and with it, another new batch of players who have committed to the Troy Trojans, ready to help the Sun Belt champions reload and stay atop the conference standings.

On Wednesday, 20 new recruits signed letters of intent to play at Troy, with seven coming from junior colleges.

Eight of the players hail from Alabama, the most in from any state, while four are coming from Florida, three from Georgia, two from Louisiana and Mississippi and one from Tennessee.

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“We have been on the hunt since this time last year,” head coach Larry Blakeney said at the Trojans’ press conference Wednesday afternoon.

“It’s a never ending process, it’s really a year long thing. We are looking at thousands of tapes of different players across the region and really the United States, evaluating each one. But we hope now that we found the guys that we think fit some of the needs pretty readily and now gotten to the point where we have signed them. The next part of the process is to make sure we get them all here through the NCCA guidelines, legibility guidelines, which we predicted all of these guys will get here. Then, once we get them here, we have to see if we were right about them. Sometimes it takes a little time to do that, but we are pretty patient folks and we try to deal with them in such a manner that they are productive as soon as possible.”

Of the 20 new Trojans, nine play on the line, six on defense and three on offense.

Both Robert Freeman and Bartavis Whigham are semi-local, coming from Luverne High School and Northview High School, while DJ Johnson and Dre’Shon McGaster will be coming from Baker High School in Mobile and Foley High School.

Xavian Evans, Anthony Payne and Jeremy Pierce are the three JUCO transfer linemen.

“I think you’ll notice in the class that there are a lot of guys that play closest to the ball on offense and defense,” Blakeney said. “Which is where you always need to be strong.

“The neutral zone determines a lot of wins and losses in any football game. The guys that are going to hit somebody every snap, you better have you some good guys in those positions and I think we have signed a group of guys that will give us a chance to improve ourselves and fill in with the guys we already have here and hopefully be a good front team on both sides of the ball, which will enable us to be better on offense and defense.”

There were a number of skilled position recruits coming in as well, as Troy signed three wide receivers, two running backs and a quarterback.

Bryan Holmes, Hollis Moore and Chandler Worthy are the three receivers, each of who are coming from different states, Florida, Tennessee and Georgia.

Each of the receivers will be hoping to have the kind of career former Trojan receiver Jerrel Jernigan had, and while offensive coordinator Kenny Edenfield said that may be difficult to do, the new recruits will get a chance to prove themselves right away.

“You don’t find a Jerrel Jernigan,” Edenfield said. “We lost a lot of guys that have been a part of and contributing to this program for a very long time and they made a big difference for us this year.

“What we tried to do is find some good character guys, who are smart and that had skill and could come in immediately and help us and I think we did that. We got some speed, some size, a little bit of everything complemented by what we already have. And we got a group of skilled receivers that just need to grow up and I think they are ready for that challenge.”

The tallest of the recruits is the lone quarterback, Dallas Tidwell, who is coming from Gardendale High School.

The signal caller is 6-foot-7 and 200-pounds and before signing his National Letter of Intent, he took care of some other important business by asking his girlfriend to the prom while on TV.

“As long as he got the signing part done,” Blakeney laughed after being told of the story.

“He is a good kid and I look forward to have Dallas Tidwell being a part of our program.”

Of the two running backs signed, Montrell Conner was recruited by Mississippi State in 2009 before leaving in August of 2010 for Copiah-Lincoln Community College. “He is just a really good running back,” Edenfield said. “He is a big back that can run and can catch.

“He is physical and we felt like we had to take a chance on him, even though we didn’t really need another running back, we have plenty of depth at the position. He has three years left to play. We will let him compete and see what happens.”

The other running back is Daron White of First Coast High School. Overall, Blakeney said the 2011 group was a class that he and his staff were excited about and also one that filled some needs with the current group.

“I think it’s a good class,” the coach said.

“You never want to overburden a class with a bunch of pressure but I think our coaches are pretty proud of this class. I have spent time with these kids when they came on campus and been in some of their homes and schools. I think the process has worked for us, but the ultimate result for us is wins, and if they can help us win a conference title and games. I think this group is going to fit in well with the guys here. I didn’t see any real personality problems during the recruiting process.”

Even though the recruits may look good now, there is a long way to go before a true evaluation can be determined on the Class of 2011 both on and off the field, in the coach’s mind.

“The proofs in the pudding, and the puddings in those good things on Saturdays,” Blakeney said.

“Academics certainly rule. Every one of these guys are going to have to go through clearing house, they have to be a qualified student or they don’t play college football. We predict all of these guys are going to get here, but they are going to have to compete on a semester-by-semester basis to stay eligible to participate, and we predict they will.”