By Jim Henry
Globe Sports Editor
Missouri Southern landed 26 players Wednesday on the first day of the NCAA’s signing period — 13 from high school, 13 from junior colleges.
“It just turned out that way,” Lions coach Daryl Daye said. “Hopefully we can redshirt as many of these freshmen as we can. If they can compete and help us win, they are playing. But if they are in a position where we don’t need them for depth reasons, we want to redshirt every freshman we possibly can.”
Among the 13 juco signees, all but two are already on campus and available to go through spring drills. The exceptions are wide receiver Courtney Ward from Fort Scott and safety Marquiz Edget from Holmes (Miss.) Community College.
“To get the mid-year transfers was extremely good for us,” Daye said. “I’ve been a part of this for many years, and I don’t think we’ve ever gotten more than five or six mid-year transfers. To get 11 ... it’s awesome. We had a hole in our junior class, and by getting those guys here, that kind of filled in the class.”
The offensive line was one recruiting priority. The Lions landed lineman Brandon Berg from tradition-rich Tulsa Union High School plus three juco linemen who tip the scales at 290 pounds or more. Two of them — Levi Freeman and Elbert Fulgham III — came to MSSU from Petal, Miss., by way of different jucos — Freeman from Pearl River (Miss.) and Fulgham from Dodge City.
“There were O-line concerns we addressed,” Daye said. “The junior college kids are immediate-help guys who are ready to go. We’re still going to take maybe one or two more high school offensive linemen that we’re looking at.”
Joplin’s Gabe Sachetta and Corey Moss from Thomaston, Ga., are the two quarterbacks who signed Wednesday.
Sachetta passed for 2,868 yards and 29 touchdowns during the last two seasons for the Eagles, and he rushed for 441 yards and seven TDs.
Moss rushed for 1,501 yards and 20 TDs and threw for 682 yards and 17 scores last season at Upson-Lee High School. He was named most valuable player in the Georgia vs. Florida All-Star Game.
“That all-star game usually tends to put out about nine or 10 Division I prospects,” Daye said. “He’s an outstanding athlete. He’s a high hurdler champion. He runs the 4x100 (relay). When he gets loose, a lot of people have a hard time catching him, and he has a good arm, too.”
The Lions also signed some wide receivers with good size.
“We’re not stuck in the mud, saying we’re only going to run the triple option,” Daye said. “We ran the triple option because that’s what we feel we had to do last year to win football games. This year we have a different dynamic at quarterback, and we have some different players that we can open it up some.
“But the bottom line is we’re still going to run the football.”
Among the freshmen recruits:
• safety Elliott Blankenship is rated a top-100 athlete in Louisiana;
• wide receiver Jocqui Davis had 22 touchdowns among 48 receptions at Lewisville, Texas;
• linebacker Ty McKenzie logged 117 and 148 tackles during the last two seasons at Owasso, Okla., playing for MSSU alum Bill Patterson.
The Lions signed two local players — Sachetta and Carl Junction running back Nick Thompson.
“There are some more who are committed to come and walk on to try and earn it,” Daye said. “There were a lot of kids who we went after that we were not able to get from local areas.
“We want to start from our home base and work out, but at the end of the day, I want to take the best football players who can give Missouri Southern the best chance to win. And that’s what we’ve done.”