Charleston Southern head football coach Jamey Chadwell's second signing class has a heavy and distinct defensive flavor.
Chadwell announced his signing class of 26 players Wednesday and said he was pleased with how he and his coaching staff addressed the major needs of the program.
"We concentrated heavily on defense because we felt that's where our biggest needs were, either from a standpoint of having some guys come in and play key roles early, or finding some guys who could definitely fit into a backup role next year," said Chadwell. "If these guys are what we think they are, I believe some or most will push for early playing time. A few may be role players next year, but we anticipate having a lot of those guys on the field in some capacity next season."
Chadwell indicated when he was hired in December 2012 that he and his staff would focus on regional recruiting with an emphasis on Palmetto State and Lowcountry talent. The 2014 class includes 14 in-state players.
"We want to get the best kids from wherever we can, but we tried to focus within a six-hour radius," said Chadwell. "Our goal is to own this state FCS-wise, and people are going to see us recruit South Carolina very hard.
"We want to get the best fits for our university and for our football program. Some may not have been as highly recruited as others, but we were focused on finding kids who fit us. We wanted kids from winning programs that have learned the game and learned what it takes to compete at a high level."
The most prominent area signee was West Ashley linebacker Bobby Ruff, the son of former Citadel All-American Brian Ruff. Chadwell said the 6-2, 195-pound All-Lowcountry and All-State selection was a key catch for the Bucs.
"We think he can make an immediate impact. He committed to us early because he believed in our vision," said Chadwell. "He has totally bought into what we are doing, and he will come in and do whatever it takes to get on the field. Once he committed to us, a lot of other schools came in on him but he stayed committed to us. We think the sky is the limit for him."
The lone quarterback signee, D'Andre Belton of Fairfield Central High in Winnsboro, is a player that Chadwell targeted last spring. Belton led his team to a pair of state title games as a starter and topped 5,100 career yards as a dual-threat quarterback.
"D'Andre is someone we identified as our top guy last spring, and he would have broken a lot of hearts had he decided to go somewhere else," said Chadwell. "He understands how to win, he's a great competitor, and he has a lot of skills as a quarterback. We recruited him very hard and we feel like he's a tremendous addition to our program."
The class also includes Summerville placekicker David Kennedy, an All-Lowcountry selection in 2013, and Cross High running back Devontae Shepherd, who set a school record with 4,625 career rushing yards.
The Buccaneers, coming off a 10-3 season that ended with a national top 25 ranking, have added lights to CSU's stadium for the 2014 season. Other facility improvements are in the works, giving Chadwell and his staff a chance to show prospects that things are changing at the school.
"I think the season that we had and with the improvements we are making in terms of facilities, we have an opportunity to show kids what we are doing and have proof for them to see. People can realize that we're just not talking about stuff. We are getting things done and that is appealing to kids."
Charleston Southern signings
Player Pos. Ht. Wt. High school or hometown
Davion Anderson DB 6-1 200 Macon, Ga.
D'Andre Belton QB 5-11 185 Fairfield Central HS
Marshall Barnette OL 6-3 270 Fayetteville, N.C.
Gage Bostwick OL 6-2 270 Altamonte Springs, Fla.
Solomon Brown LB 6-1 200 Daniel HS
Ramel Crawford DL 6-0 255 Atlanta, Ga.
Zane Cruz LB 6-2 205 Jacksonville, Fla.
Tyrell Dukes CB 5-10 180 St. James HS
Tyrell Fleming LB 6-1 230 Daniel HS
Keegan Karim DB 6-2 180 Kennesaw, Ga.
David Kennedy PK 5-11 185 Summerville HS
Noah Oliver DL 6-3 255 Altamonte Springs, Fla.
JaJuan Perkins DB 5-10 180 Quincy, Fla.
Bobby Ruff LB 6-2 195 West Ashley HS
Nick Sands LB 6-1 235 Eastside HS
D.J. Shamlee DB 6-2 170 Ridge View HS
Devontae Shepherd RB 5-11 185 Cross HS
Michael Simmons LB 5-9 185 Stratford HS
Jonathan Slaton DB 5-10 180 Lithonia, Ga.
Kellen Snider LB 6-1 220 Fort White, Fla.
Kewaun Squirewell WR 5-10 175 Fairfield Central HS
Mike Taylor DL 6-3 235 Allendale-Fairfax HS
Nick Tononi OL 5-11 260 Fort Dorchester HS
Quan White DB 6-1 195 Christ Church HS
Patrick Woods PK/P 5-11 200 Fayetteville, N.C.