The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

College Sports

February 8, 2014

Concord’s recruiting class focuses first on area talent

ATHENS — Even when your shelves are almost full, it’s foolish to cancel your future delivery contract.

That holds true for college football programs like Concord University.

The Mountain Lions won their league championship in 2012 and finished tied for second last fall. In 2014, they project that 19 of last season’s 22 starters, at one time or another, will return.

But the coaches were working the phones prior to the NCAA’s official signing day on Wednesday — and will still be looking for talented prospects who “fall through the cracks” between now and the start of school next August.

The 11 names announced on Wednesday are “a good starting point,” said Concord head coach Garin Justice. “We’re pretty excited about the guys we brought in.”

Devin Allen, a “grind-it-out” running back and receiver for the Princeton Tigers, and multi-sport athlete Christian Hedinger of Wyoming East are among the “first wave.” Alex Lee, a 6-foot-4 wide receiver from Mingo Central, was added on Thursday.

Hedinger and Lee are tentatively listed at wide receiver, while Allen’s position is yet to be determined.

“The thing about southern West Virginia kids is, they have a very strong work ethic,” Justice said. Area students, he said, “will take pride in the school, because their uncle went to the school, or maybe one of their parents came to the school, or they know that Mom and Dad are going to be in the stands every weekend to watch them play.

“You get a lot more production out of guys, it seems like, the closer they are (compared to being) further away. We’ve got some guys on the list that are further away, but we feel that those guys are special players that can make it here.”

“But I’m very careful about going outside of that (in-state area). I know a southern West Virginia kid, who may not have as much talent, can come in and do a lot better than, maybe, what someone from out of state would, because he will take pride in where he’s from, and really give it his all.”

Offensive coordinator Justin Ward said, “We always want to recruit West Virginia hard, ,,, A lot of guys from West Virginia love the game of football. We’re always looking for guys who’d fit at Concord.”

Two junior-college transfers, Californian Derrick Johnson and Cade Rogers of Nevada, are already taking classes on campus and will participate in spring drills, Justice said. Both “are going to compete for starting positions right now” in the defensive backfield, he said.

Defensive coordinator Paul Price said, “We initially wanted to find a couple of players for the secondary. (Johnson and Rogers) are older, more accomplished. They are likely to make a more immediate impact.”

They will be in the running with what Price called “young, talented and motivated players” already in the Concord program.

Darrell Beard, a 320-pound nose guard from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., “is going to help us next season,” Justice said. Price said, “He can run a little bit. His value is much more than just being big.”

Center Josh Smith played for Centreville High School, a northern Virginia school that went 15-0 and won a state championship last fall. He earned 6A all-state honors during his prep career.

Three prep players from Maryland have filed their letters of intent. Two potential CU linebackers attend Meade High School, the alma mater of Concord running back Calvinaugh Jones, who rushed for 1,031 yards in 2013.

Daniel Gilbert, a team captain at Meade, was team captain and an honor roll student who had 40 tackles as a senior. Classmate Robert Hogan made 60 solo tackles and three sacks in 2013.

David Garland, from the Baltimore area, was a tight end in high school who averaged 12.6 yards per reception. His brother Eric is a current Mountain Lion.

Lawrence Hunt, a 205-pound safety from Woodbridge, Va., earned all-state accolades in each of the last two seasons. As a senior, he made 80 tackles, forced three fumbles and had two fumble recoveries.

A 160-pound wide receiver from Benwood in northern West Virginia, Jared Yates, earned honorable mention in all-state balloting after playing for a Bishop Donahue team that finished 8-4.

Quarterback Tyler Kaminski, who passed for 1,430 yards and ran for 830 more, accounting for 26 touchdowns, comes to Concord from Palm Harbor, Fla.

Justice said about the continuing search for prospects, “We’re not going to say no to any special player that walks through the door. If we feel that someone’s a difference maker at their respective position, we’re going to take him.”

“But more than anything, we’re trying to develop a lot of depth for the future — guys that can probably come in and red-shirt, grow in the weight room a year, and a year or two from now, we’re talking about those guys making plays on a Saturday.”

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