PITTSBURG, Kan. — New Pittsburg State football coach Brian Wright wouldn’t list the players he ranks at the top of his first recruiting class.
“Every time I predict that, it’s usually one of the guys that I don’t predict who ends up being one of the top players,” he said. “That’s the fun of it. That’s why sometimes that (recruiting) star system, you can throw it out the window. Those guys will show up, and there will be certain guys who are going to grow, going to really develop, going to take all the coaching and do things that surprise everybody.
“I’m excited about our big people, our O-line and D-line. I really felt that’s where we needed to start here to get this going where we want it to go. We’re going to have to have those guys change the line of scrimmage.”
The class, announced on Wednesday afternoon, consists of 29 high school players and three transfers — wide receiver Jalen Martin from Iowa State and offensive linemen Kievan Myers from Illinois and Brandon Manis from Coffeyville Community College.
The Gorillas landed 12 players from Kansas, seven from Texas, six from Missouri, five from Oklahoma and one each from Michigan and Florida. Four were on state championship teams, two were on teams that reached the semifinals, and three have been selected for this summer’s Kansas Shrine Bowl.
Pittsburg State signed three players from Webb City’s state championship team — defensive lineman Trent Thompson, linebacker Gavin Surber and quarterback Kade Hicks, who’s expected to move to safety.
The Gorillas also landed Reese Vogel from Carl Junction, who is one of three punter-kickers in the class, and running backs Nick Sarwinski from Galena, Adam Albertini from St. Paul and Conor Haviland from Humboldt.
“I think it’s critical (to recruit area kids) because those kids give you everything you have,” Wright said. “They grew up here. They grew up watching Gorilla football. They’ve come with their family; their family now gets to come see them play. When you have a kid like that, he wants to make them proud and will give everything he has.”
The only quarterback in the class is Chad Dodson from Jacksonville, Florida. Coming off a knee injury his junior year, Dodson passed for 2,390 yards and 23 touchdowns his senior year while helping Bartram Trail High School to an 11-1 record.
“At Toledo we recruited nationally for quarterbacks,” Wright said. “I had a list of about seven or eight guys. We got one of the guys who was right at the top of the list when I was (still) at Toledo. Chad was just down the list a little bit for us, mainly due to height (5-foot-11). But he’s an excellent competitor, quick release, great player. He has the ‘it’ factor. He’s smart, he’s tough. He’s a purpose-driven kid (with) high goals, high expectations. He can put the ball in places very quickly, very accurately. I’m excited to work with him.”
The class also includes defensive back Hezekiah Newman, whose uncle, Terence Newman, played 15 years at cornerback in the NFL — the first nine with the Dallas Cowboys.
There were changes that Wright had to make while recruiting at the NCAA Division II level instead of Toledo.
“There was a big adjustment,” Wright said. “There are some different rules. There are some different things we can do at this level that we couldn’t do at that level that I thought were beneficial. We have a little bit more time. We’re allowed out on the road at this level. But it still comes down to forming relationships with the players and their families and their high school coaches.”
Pittsburg State football signees
Adam Albertini, RB, 5-9, 165, St. Paul, Kan.
Queintin Bunten, DT, 6-0, 280 Southlake, Texas
Jake Bogdon, ath, 5-10, 180, Little Elm, Texas
Thomas Cook, LB, 6-1, 215, Blue Valley West HS
Riley Cummings, TE, 6-1, 215, Blue Valley West HS
Chad Dodson, QB, 5-11, 185, Jacksonville, Fla.
Sergio Garcia, OL, 6-5, 300, Shawnee, Okla.
K’Von Hamilton, DL, 6-1, 230, Plano (Texas) East HS
Conor Haviland, RB, 6-0, 185, Humboldt, Kan.
Kade Hicks, DB, 6-0, 180, Webb City
Dedryc Hutchins, DB, 5-11, 180, Grand Prairie, Texas
Jabin Johnson, DB, 5-10, 170, St. Louis Chaminade HS
Mario Kirby, TE, 6-1, 240, Owasso, Okla.
Caleb Lewis, RB, 5-11, 180, Burleson, Texas
Ryan Lutz, OL, 6-1, 275, Lawrence Free State HS
Hezekiah Newman, DB, 6-1, 175, Olathe East HS
Joseph Nichols, DB, 5-10, 180, Tulsa Union HS
Matthew Pierce, OL, 6-4, 300, Beggs, Okla.
Shane Rance, OL, 6-6, 280, Liberty North HS
Tanner Rockers, LB, 6-0, 185, Garden Plain, Kan.
Cole Sample, DT, 6-3, 280, Tonganoxie, Kan.
Nick Sarwinski, RB, 5-11, 185, Galena, Kan.
Jaden Snyder, K-P, 6-7, 160, Wagoner, Okla.
Dominik Stadlman, P-K, 6-1, 175, Blue Valley Southwest HS
Brandon Stegall, LB, 6-2, 215, Carrolton, Texas
Gavin Surber, LB, 6-1, 195, Webb City
Evan Taylor, OL, 6-1, 260, Blue Valley HS
Trent Thompson, DL, 6-3, 240, Webb City
Reese Vogel, K-P, 6-0, 185, Carl Junction
Brandon Manis, OL, 6-4, 315, Coffeyville CC
Jalen Martin, WR, 6-3, 215, Detroit (transfer from Iowa State)
Kievan Myers, OL, 6-5, 330, Dallas (transfer from Illinois)