The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Sports

February 5, 2014

Juco players dominate MSSU recruiting class

The Missouri Southern football team certainly doesn’t confine itself to any regional limitations when it comes to recruiting.

The Lions’ signing class of 2014 includes 30 recruits who hail from 13 different states — from New Jersey to California and 11 in between.

“We went nationwide,” Missouri Southern coach Daryl Daye said. “If we find a player who can help us win, it doesn’t matter if he’s on the moon. We’ll bring him here. So many of them just fell in love with Joplin and wanted to stay. That’s nothing but positive for the future.”

The Lions, who are coming off a 7-3 season, signed 26 junior college transfers and four high school players.

“These are guys who can immediately play,” Daye said. “We’re not signing junior college players to add depth to our team. They should come in and compete for starting jobs. It’s going to do nothing but make us better.”

Missouri Southern focused on defense after graduating the likes of all-MIAA linebacker Gatlin Ridgway, defensive end Paco Varol, strong safety Demon Haire and defensive back Elijah Swen. The Lions’ recruiting class includes seven defensive linemen, eight linebackers and five defensive backs.

Razean Prather (6-foot, 240 pounds), a defensive end from Northeast Mississippi Community College, was named the defensive MVP of the Mississippi Association of Community and Junior Colleges All-Star Game. O’Shea Williams (6-0, 300), a defensive lineman from Blinn College (Texas), was a two-time all-conference selection and was named a top 150 pick by Rivals.com out of Cypress Lakes (Texas) High School.

“I thought we had some need areas filled,” Daye said. “That was critical for us. We needed to improve the D-line. When you see the number of defensive tackles and defensive ends we’ve signed, I think we did that. We were able to sign a ton of linebackers, which was a focus as well after losing Gatlin Ridgway and Demon Haire.”

Offensively, the Lions returned all of their starters at the skill positions. However, they did graduate offensive tackle Julian Young, who helped direct the Lions to a school-record 3,684 rushing yards.

Missouri Southern signed seven offensive linemen, including Hayden Chandler (6-3, 300), Lars Lindquist (6-2, 290) and Jarrell Jackson (6-4, 255). Chandler was an all-conference lineman for Coffeyville Community College. Lindquist was a two-year starter at Santa Rosa Junior College. Jackson was an all-state selection from Higgins High School in Louisiana, running the same offense as Missouri Southern.

“(Chandler’s) a potential impact player right off the bat,” Daye said. “There are several others. That linebacker corps and those D-ends we signed are going to make it to where a lot of guys are going to be competing for starting jobs.”

The Lions didn’t sign any quarterbacks or receivers but did bring in two running backs, which adds to an area that already has been a strength. Missouri Southern is slated to return All-American running back Chris Barnwell, fullback Giresse Forchu and wingbacks Terrance Allen, Michael Nelson and Ejay Johnson. Barnwell, Forchu, Allen and Nelson each ran for at least 300 yards last season.

Justin Lord (5-10, 195) transfers from Fort Scott Community College after originally signing with Division I Savannah State. Elliott Hawkins (5-10, 200) rushed for 1,568 yards in his two seasons at Northeastern Oklahoma A&M.

“Justin Lord and Elliott Hawkins are two outstanding young backs,” Daye said. “Justin’s running track already and he’s running sub-7-second 60-yard dashes, so he’s a kid who’s got a lot of speed. Elliott is a kid who could play inside or out. He’s much like Barnwell. He’s a very physical back who could play our fullback and our slotback positions.”

Lord, Hawkins, Williams, as well as defensive backs Martice Buckley, Marquez Cohen, Deon Price and Ryan Solomon, offensive linemen Spencer Gatewood and Marcos Gutierres and long snapper Austin Minor, are midseason transfers and already are attending Missouri Southern.

“They’ll get spring ball,” Daye said. “That’s the key. They’ll learn the offense and defense and be ready to go. Come August, they’ll have a full understanding of what we’re doing on both sides of the ball and special teams. That’s a huge positive when you’re able to bring those guys in.”

MSSU’s recruiting class does include a couple of players with area ties. Gatewood (6-4, 310), a Fort Scott Community College transfer, was an all-state selection at Labette County High School. Minor (5-9, 200), a Coffeyville Community College transfer, was an all-conference performer at Baxter Springs High School.

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