Another year of football requires new team members.
On National Signing Day, Feb. 3, ETSU football coach Carl Torbush and his staff announced the 2016 signing class to the media. The team brought 23 commitments.
“Right now we needed to find out where we are, where we need to go, and I think we’ve done a great job,” Torbush said. “Great compliments to our coaching staff for what they’ve been able to do and where they’ve been able to put it.”
Nine athletes were recruited from Tennessee.
“I want to make sure that everyone understands that we’re always going to recruit home base first,” Torbush said.
The coach mentioned areas around the 200 mile radius, like East Tennessee, Western North Carolina, Southwest Virginia and others.
The nine players from Tennessee are offensive lineman Eddie Gajardo (Greeneville, Tenn.), linebacker JD Griffin (Kodak, Tenn.), linebacker Austin Howard (Knoxville, Tenn.), Elijah Mathes (Jonesborough, Tenn.), offensive lineman Lakin McCall (Maryville, Tenn.), defensive back Nick Payne (Greenville, Tenn.), defensive lineman Austin Rowan (Knoxville, Tenn.), linebacker Preston Whitehead (Elizabethton, Tenn.) and Caleb Woody (Maryville, Tenn.).
Four players committed from Ohio: defensive lineman/linebacker Blake Bockrath (Loveland, Ohio), linebacker Colton Lakes (Loveland, Ohio), defensive lineman Olajuwon Pinkelton (Cincinnati, Ohio) and defensive back Ja’Vonte Williams (Cincinnati, Ohio).
Wide receiver Keith Coffee (Linburn, Ga.) and Jeremy Lewis (Lawrenceville, Ga.) committed from Georgia.
Two players were recruited from North Carolina: offensive lineman Connor James (Kannapolis, N.C) and offensive lineman Cameron Parker (Ashville, N.C.).
One player committed from each of the following states: Alabama, Arizona, New York, Florida, Texas and Virginia. These players are defensive back Tony Mitchell (Robertsdale, Ala.), offensive lineman Alex Rios (Tuscon, Ariz.), defensive back Jevon Gooden (Jamaica Queens, N.Y.), running back Dontavius Monroe (Delray Beach, Fla.), defensive back Paul Hunter (Denton, Texas) and wide receiver Vincent Lowe (Chesapeake, Va.).
Eight students will be offensive players.
Offensive coordinator Mike O’Cain said there were two goals they looked at when recruiting players on offense.
“We needed, number one, an offensive line,” O’Cain said. “We needed to bring on some young guys that had the size and strength to play offensive tackle… Number two, we needed some good speed and recruit playmakers, guys who can put the ball in their hands and take it the distance.”
Twelve players were brought in on the defensive side of the field.
Defensive coordinator Billy Taylor says the main thing they wanted to do was to increase the team’s speed, players with experience and height.
Although three athletes are not decided on their position yet, 15 of the players have GPA’s over 3.0, 14 are all-state selections, 10 were multi-talented athletes and 10 are football state champions.
The team will begin spring practice in the next couple weeks.