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Alabama State, Tennessee State top HBCU recruiting

For the seventh time in eight years FROM THE PRESS BOX TO PRESS ROW has ranked the top 10 HBCU FCS recruiting classes. The rankings are based on the talent that was brought in and research that we did based upon school releases, local newspaper articles and recruiting boards. This is not an exact science, but an opinion.

A special thanks goes out to the various beat writers at respective newspapers for their input.

When analyzing, researching and trying to break the tie between Alabama State and Tennessee State for the top recruiting class in HBCU Football, it was difficult to pick one over the other.  Both filled needs, both have multiple three-star players, etc.  It’s not a cop out.

Read and tell us why one should be above the other.  To do that or for your feed back which is greatly appreciated, email us at


1. tie  Alabama State
Winning on offense means winning in the trenches.  Alabama State head coach Reggie Barlow and his staff took that to heart.  The Hornets brought in one of the bigger classes, signing 27 players to national letters of intent.  This could be the most talented recruiting class in head coach Reggie Barlow’s tenure.  When Barlow announced former University of Georgia freshman All-American Isaiah Crowell would play at ASU back in June, offensive linemen in the high school ranks began to look at ASU as a destination.  When there’s talent on the offensive line and needs to fill including the loss of a four-time All-SWAC performer, Boxtorow All-American, and NFL hopeful Terren Jones, prospects see the opportunity. The Hornets started by signing a total of nine offensive linemen including three-star prospects Edmend Banks (Stone Mountain, GA/Stephenson), Tanner Crow (Panama City Beach, FL/Arnold High), who received an offer from Louisville, Patrick Dalton (Fayetteville, Ga. (Whitewater High) and Deandre Wise (Cumming, GA/Alpharetta High), and two-star prospect Jordan Harris (Hampton, GA/Dutchtown High). They also signed Jaypee Philbert (Grayson, GA/Archer High), rated one of the top 60 offense linemen in Georgia, and Frank Warren (Phenix City, Ala. (Glenwood High), who like Jones has great size at 6-5, 330.  With quarterback Greg Jenkins lost to graduation, the Hornets added two-star recruit Quinterris Toppings from Mobile’s Blount.  Toppings passed for nearly 3,000 yards, 33 touchdowns with just seven interceptions.  They also added to the passing attack with tight end Wyndell Archie a two-star recruit that Scout rated the 90th best tight end in the country.  Wide receiver Rod Boykin (Elmore, AL/Edgewood High) is a small guy (5-9, 145) but can really fly and caught 70 passes for 1,529 yards (21.8 avg.) and 21 touchdowns and rushed for 175 yards on 15 carries and four touchdowns. The Hornets also did well defensively adding three-star recruit Marcus Adams (Atlanta, GA/Tri-City High), two-star linebackers Blake Worthy (Gadsden, AL/Gadsden), James Graves (Bassfield, MS/Bassfield High) and Marquis Parker (Lithonia, GA/Martin Luther King High), and two-star cornerback Trey Jenkins (Daphne, AL/Daphne).  Defensive end Malik Reid (Atlanta, GA/Maynard Jackson) was not heavily recruited, but could be another gem for the Hornets having recorded 19 sacks as a senior.  The Hornets also signed 10 mid-year transfers, including LSU transfer safety Sam Gibson, a former three star player.  Gibson is the only player that will count as part of this year’s class.  The Hornets will begin play fulltime this year in their new $62 million stadium and football complex.  Build it and they will come.

1. tie Tennessee  State
Tennessee State already had tradition and a top notch facility (they play their home games at LP Field home of the Tennessee Titans) as big reasons why they’ve been successful in recruiting.  The tradition includes the likes of former TSU greats Pro Football Hall of Famer Richard Dent, Ed Too Tall Jones, Claude Humphrey, Joe Gilliam, and Coach John Merritt to name a very few.  They even renovated their on-campus facility Hale Stadium, where the aforementioned legends played.  They played two games in the “Hole” as it’s known this past year.  The Tigers also added an indoor football facility on campus, one of the very few, if any, on the FCS level.  The Tigers were last year’s No. 1 and head coach Rod Reed thinks this class is better than last year’s class.  It just shows what facilities can do for a program.  Of the 23 signees, twelve are two-star recruits.  The Tigers got deeper in the receiver category signing ESPN three-star wide receiver Chris Sanders-McCollum,the 122nd ranked player in Georgia who received offers from Auburn, Cincinnati, Tulane, and Pittsburgh amongst other FBS schools.  TSU also signed two-star receiversDantwaun O’Neal(Deland, FL/Deland) and speedy Aaron Piper (Dallas, TX/Duncanville).  Defensively is where the Tigers needed to get better, especially up front having generated only 21 sacks last year.  They added defensive tackle Rodney Edwards (Gadsden, AL/Gadasen City) defensive end Roc-m Nesbitt (Atlanta, GA/Carver) (love the name), and defensive tackle Baron Poole (Decatur, GA/Southwest DeKalb, all two-star recruits.  The Tigers really bolstered the secondary signing Florida transfer cornerback De’Ante “Pop” Saunders who played in 20 games, making 16 starts for the Gators in two seasons.  He could come in right away and play opposite All-American Steven Godbolt.  An intriguing signing is that of ESPN three-star recruit Patrick Smith (Memphis, TN/Whitehaven) who played quarterback in high school.  He will get a look at quarterback but is such a great athlete, and with Michael German holding down the position, could play another position.  He spurned offers from Memphis and Mississippi State.

3.  South Carolina State

Head coach Buddy Pough and his staff typically signs most of their players in state, but this year of the 17 signees only four are from the Palmetto State.  The Bulldogs loaded up on both sides of the ball.  Offensively, running back has been a staple for the program; look at MEAC all-time leading rusher in Will Ford from tiny Traveler’s Rest as an example.  Two years ago Pough recruited three three-star running backs.  Harold Atkinson (Myrtle Beach, SC Carolina Forest) is one of those who decided to stay home and is the latest three-star running back to commit, shunning offers from East Carolina, N.C. State and Kentucky amongst other FBS schools.  Running the football was certainly an issue for SCSU last year.  Pough is high on Blythewood quarterback Kylen Binn and thinks he has an opportunity to play sooner rather than later.  He is 6-5, 210 and can run.  Last year’s starter Richard Cue’s status for returning is up in the air as he will graduate in the spring.  The Bulldogs also lost quite a bit at the receiver position, but add three two-star recruits all from Georgia in wide outs Chris Trimmings (Brunswick, GA/Brunswick) and Bernard Morrison (Stone Mountain, GA/South Gwinnett), and tight end Zane Fields (Jonesboro, GA/Lovejoy).  The line is typically a strong unit and one that the Bulldogs recruit heavily, generally pulling two and three-star players.  Last year the unit was beset by injuries and this year lose starters Gideon Scott and Sam Hammond.  Because of his injuries, Scott’s backup got plenty of playing time.  The Bulldogs added depth and looked to the future by signing three-star recruit Justin Evans (Florence, SC/Wilson).  Defensively the Bulldogs placed an emphasis on the line signing five, including two-star recruit Tray Watkins from Chase in Forest City, NC.  Highly touted LB/DB Michael Wamer (St. George, SC/Woodland) will look for playing time immediately.  Of note Bamberg-Ehrhardt (SC) running back Demetrius Odom, a consensus two-star player who verbally committed to SCSU, decided not to sign and to weigh his options after receiving interest from other schools.  Odom will retake the ACT and according to the Times and Democrat now has other schools looking at him.  SCSU has now filled its allotment of available scholarships.


4.  Morgan State

In November, an email sent from the Morgan State athletic director’s office indicating plans for the dismissal of head coach Donald Hill-Eley, an email Hill-Eley accidentally received.  From November 27 to around January 3, Hill-Eley was reporting for work, but was to have no contact with the football program, thus wasn’t part of the recruiting process in its vital months.  Fast forward to now and Hill-Eley is still the head coach of Bears and he and his staff signed his best class in his 11 years.  Of the 29 Bears signed, only two are from the Washington/Baltimore area.  While MSU hasn’t recruited the area as well during Hill-Eley’s tenure, because of the climate surrounding his “situation”, area recruits went elsewhere.  With just two other coaches hitting the road, Hill-Eley pulled 14 players from one of the best high school football states in the country – Texas. Two of those players are offensive linemen and could help the Bears right away in two-star players Brian Williams (Dallas, TX/South Oak Cliff) and Dominique Woods (Dallas, TX/Skyline).  Both quarterbacks are also from Texas including Ricky Fisk (Port Arthur, Texas/ Port Arthur Memorial) who was the Port Arthur News Super Team MVP, threw for 2,025 yards and 20 touchdowns last year and rushed for another 897 yards and 12 touchdowns.  He will compete for time at the position but has the opportunity to receive some playing time at receiver.  One of the best players in the class for the Bears is running back Orlando Johnson (Memphis, TN/Ridgeway) who rushed for 2,018 yards.  As well as the Bears did on offense, they did equally well on defense signing six two-star players including: defensive backs Darez Diggs (Washington, DC/Friendship), Isaiah Lewis (Cedar Hill, TX/ Cedar Hill, and Jaquatin Victrum (Miami, FL/Northwestern); defensive linemen George Ramos (Lancaster, TX/Lancaster) and JUCO transfer Brad Sanchez (East Los Angeles College); and linebacker Adam Collins (Memphis, TN/Whitehaven).


5.  Southern
The fact that Dawson Odums wasn’t officially named the head football coach at Southern until December, did not stop him from actively recruiting as if the interim tag had already been removed.  Odums took over for Stump Mitchell two games into the season and turned what was destined to be another disappointing season on the Bluff into a solid season and great expectation for the upcoming season.  Southern University responded in-kind signing Odums to a two-year deal with an option for year three.  Odums and his staff inked 27 recruits, 17 from Louisiana. Dray Joseph is arguably the best quarterback in the SWAC, but will need some help in the receiving department with the losses of Charles Hawkins and Michael Berry. Help is on the way immediately with the signing of ESPN four-star receiver and No. 205 prospect in the nation Chuck Baker (Slidell, LA/Salmen) who may be the highest rated player signed by an HBCU.  He was originally offered by LSU.  The Jaguars also signed two-star receiver Dontrell Brown (Morgan City, LA/Central Catholic) who also received an offer from Memphis.  The Jaguars recruited well on both sides of the ball adding depth and perhaps pushing current starters, which total 16 (8 offense, 8 defense).  Watch for Southern Lab recruit Deonte Shorts to be the future after passing for 2,315 yards and rushing for 675 as a senior.  Other two-star recruits include defensive back Blake Monroe (Waldorf, Md., NC/Jireh Prep), and QB/ATH Francis Kennah (Robbinsdale, MN/Robbinsdale Cooper).  The Jaguars also added transfers that could come in and help right away including LSU offensive lineman Corey White and South Alabama defensive back Dionte McDuffy.


6.  Bethune-Cookman
Brian Jenkins and his staff had a solid recruiting class.  The Wildcats signed 23; four of those players had previous college experience at JUCOs.  The Wildcats placed a major emphasis on offense signing 19.  Quarterback Larry Brihm (Delray Beach, FL/Village Academy) is a two-star recruit and is one of three quarterbacks that signed, potentially giving the Wildcats a total of five quarterbacks when summer camp opens.  Former Mr. Football in Florida Quentin Williams ultimately became the starter for the Wildcats last year, but Jenkins is very impatient with and demanding of his quarterbacks, sometimes playing all three in games last year.  All-MEAC performer Isidore Jackson returns while Rodney Scott is lost to graduation prompting the Wildcats to add a pair of two-star backs in Dre’Sean Nelson (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla./Dillard) and Nathaniel Pryor (Sebastian, FL/Sebastian River).  Jenkins and staff also placed an emphasis on the offensive line signing six, highlighted by two-star recruit Dazzie Morris (Apopka, FL/Apopka), as well as wide receiver signing four including two-star recruit Devonte Washington (Jacksonville, Fla./Raines).  Defensive lineman Anthony Green was the Wildcats highest rated recruit with three stars and could play immediately.  He was offered by Cincinnati and Western Kentucky.  The Wildcats signed only one player from the Daytona Beach area which is rare.


7.  Florida A&M
FAMU son Earl Holmes, who took over for the legendary Joe Taylor, who abruptly retired with two games remaining in the 2012 season, took on the same philosophy as Taylor to recruit in the home State of Florida.  Each year, Taylor and his coaches visited every school in the state.  Holmes, who had the interim tag removed last month, stuck with that philosophy of recruiting Florida, signing 13 of 20 from the Sunshine State, including five from Tallahassee schools.  Speaking of Tallahassee, three of the Rattlers two-star recruits are Tallahassee products including linebacker Luke Helms (Godby), who turned down 10 offers including from Memphis and Western Michigan to stay at home, offensive lineman Chole Sims (Lincoln) and defensive back Craig Mackey (Rickards).  Linebacker Curtis Alexander (Quincy, FL/East Gadsden) wasn’t highly recruited, but put up some big numbers last year with 76 tackles, 9 tackles for loss and 21.5 sacks.  The Rattlers should get some immediate help at running back with Arizona JC transfer, Lemond Buice who originally signed with Clemson as a two-time finalist for Mr. Football in the State of Alabama and the No. 40 running back in the nation.  Offensive lineman Keonte Cash (Miami, FL/Belen Jesuit Prep) was a first team All-Area performer in Miami and at 6-1, 300 the two-star recruit has the ability to play fullback.   In all the Rattlers signed eight offensive players, 10 defensive players and two athletes.

8.  Alcorn State

Head coach Jay Hopson had the decked stacked against him a bit coming into last season.  He was trying to turn around a traditionally proud Alcorn State program that has fallen on hard times.  The problem was he wasn’t hired until May.  The Braves showed some promise last year and for his first recruiting class Hopson signed 26 players, 16 from the State of Mississippi.  The prized recruit has to be two-star quarterback Khadarel Hodge (Mendenhall, MS/Mendenhall).  Because of his athleticism, other schools wanted him to play other positions.  But Hodge will have a chance to compete for the starting job.  Hodge says the late Steve McNair is his cousin and he wants to break his records at ASU.  There will be a battle at the position in the summer as the Braves signed another quarterback in Lenorris Footman (Monticello, FL/Jefferson County) who is also a two-star recruit and also brings tremendous athleticism to the position.  Footman was first team All-State in the Tallahassee area.  Linebacker Stacey Garner (Brooklyn, MS/Forrest County) is another two-star recruit and one who could come in and have an immediate impact.  Also highlighting the Braves signings are two big offensive linemen from Hinds Community College in Ronald Perry (6-5, 290) and Jeremy Toines (6-5, 300).

9.  Jackson State

There were some gems in Rick Comegy and his staff’s class.  The Tigers are high on linebacker Stacy Noble (Ft. Pierce, FL/Ft. Pierce Central), who they feel can come in and play right away.  The Tigers have had some good linebackers over the years (2008 Boxtorow Defensive Player of the Year Marcellus Speaks comes to mind) but none with the speed the two-star recruit possesses.  The Tigers added another linebacker in Marquis Parker (Lithonia, GA/Martin Luther King) another two-star recruit.   Another player that Comegy and his staff really like is ATH Jarious Moore (Terry, MS/ Terry) who played quarterback but will move to another position – at least from the onset.  Linebacker Javancy Jones (Macon, MS/Noxubee County HS), a two-star prospect, was a first team All-State selection and is also one that could have an immediate impact.


10.  Delaware State

DSU head football coach Kermit Blount signed just seven players but filled needs.  The most glaring need was at the quarterback position where MEAC Offensive Player of the Year Nick Elko is lost to graduation.  The Hornets staff signed two quarterbacks including Garrison Duncan (Kernersville, NC/East Forsyth), a two-star performer who passed for 1,505 yards and 17 TDs and rushed for 1,410 yards and 18 scores and Emmett Hunt of Coatesville, PA who completed 157 of 247 passes (63.6 percent) for 3,123 yards and 44 touchdowns.  Elko also played as a true freshman and one of these guys will be the quarterback of the future for the Hornets.  DSU also signed a receiver in Marquel Knight a two-time Delaware All-State selection at Indian River High School. Knight tallied 73 receptions for nearly 1,200 yards in 2012 for the Indians. He also rushed for 1,800 yards and 30 touchdowns during his senior season.  Hopefully Knight can play right away and try and fill one of the voids left by Travis Tarpley and Justin Wilson.  Running back was a need also and Jamaal Jackson was a former three-star recruit at Hodgson and 16 touchdowns and transferred from Nassau Community College.