By KEVIN WEAKS
Jason Simpson put together a recruiting class loaded with athletes. Good thing, too.
Needing immediate help at quarterback, receiver and linebacker while also looking to bolster the running back spots and line positions on both sides of the ball, the UT Martin football head coach has signed an athletic and versatile group of players. UTM landed 17 players on Wednesday, college football’s National Signing Day.
“Recruits are the lifeblood of any program,” Simpson said at Wednesday’s press conference introducing the new class. “We’ve won a lot of games here in seven years, but you’re only as good as your players. Recruiting is a year-long process, and in the last two months, you have to take every call. They’re all good kids. I’m excited, but I’ve been in this long enough to know that it’s a development process. You can’t worry about the one you don’t get. You just have to make sure the ones you get are good ones.”
One big area where UTM will need a good one is at quarterback, where the team must replace three-year starter and All-OVC pick Derek Carr.
In order to provide depth and competition for heir apparent Jerod Neal, the Skyhawks inked dual threat Khalid Hagens (6-3, 189) from Maplewood-Richmond Heights in Missouri.
Hagens threw for 6,222 yards and 35 touchdowns and rushed for 1,971 yards and 35 yards in three years as the starter.
“I like his mechanics a lot,” Simpson said. “He has a strong arm, and his highlights are fun to watch.”
Bigger, stronger and faster are the watch words for the incoming running backs, set to replace Jason McNair and Tevin Barksdale.
“We took two high school backs and JUCO back,” Simpson said. “It was important to get depth at tailback.”
Donte Harrell (6-0, 187) of Francis Howell in St. Charles, Mo., has all the tools and will likely bulk up to 200 pounds in college, giving the Skyhawks a strong ball-carrier who can wear down defenders.
Chauncey Ingram (5-11, 175) brings blazing speed to the team out of South Cobb in Austell, Ga., while Mt. Olive, Miss., native Reuben Duckworth provides experience out of Jones County Community College. Simpson is confident Duckworth can come in for summer workouts and be ready for the opening game Aug. 29 at UT Chattanooga.
Belleville, Ill., East product James Cotton (6-3, 223) and DJ Simmons (6-0, 200) of Lauderdale County, Ala., are long-armed linebackers who are strong and can cover a lot of ground, while Tae Martin (6-3, 187) of Seigel in Murfreesboro is a multi-talented athlete who will likely wind up at linebacker as well.
Memphis natives Caylon Weathers (6-4, 207) and Will Whitley (6-3, 187) — from Germantown and MUS, respectively — could be poised to replace All-American Quentin Sims at receiver.
The Skyhawks helped its pass defense with cornerback LaQuonte Bone (5-10, 175) of Madison County, Ala., and defensive backs Devontay Barnett (6-1, 198) out of Mississippi and Justin Jackson (5-10, 175) from Georgia.
The four linemen, three on offense, could be redshirted for future depth, and Mitch Mersman from Dickson County could step in and replace Cody Sandlin.
Published in The Messenger 2.7.13