At one point during the recruiting cycle, one player was headed for Army West Point and the other to Navy.
But on national signing day, both play-making prospects signed their letters of intent with The Citadel.
Coach Brent Thompson hauled in former Army commitment Javonte Graves-Billips and one-time Navy commitment Varney Farhnbullah as part of an 11-man class on Wednesday. That group joins the 10-man class signed in December to give the Bulldogs 21 new players coming in next fall, along with some walk-on signees.
Graves-Billips, a 5-11, 185-pounder from Mobile, Ala., will start out at slotback for the Bulldogs in their triple-option offense. Fahrnbullah, a 6-1, 191-pounder from Concord, N.C., was signed as a quarterback.
Fahrnbullah, who passed for 2,670 yards and 27 touchdowns, and ran for 458 yards and five more scores as a junior at Cox Mill High School, had committed to Navy last August.
"We had offered Varney last summer," Thompson said. "We built a relationship over that time and we stayed in touch after he committed to Navy. (Defensive coordinator) Tony Grantham recruited him, and developing that relationship helped out."
Fahrnbullah eventually reached back out to see if The Citadel still was interested, and the Bulldogs offered him again about three weeks ago.
"Varney is very detailed and had done a lot of research on us," Thompson said. "I think he's going to be a great leader here, and he's really done his homework on The Citadel."
Fahrnbullah is the second quarterback signed by The Citadel in this cycle. Ahmad Green of May River High School in Bluffton, a finalist for the state's Mr. Football Award, signed in December.
Graves-Billips had originally accepted an appointment to Army before committing to Alabama-Birmingham in mid-January. On the night before signing day, he announced his commitment to The Citadel. Cornerbacks coach Orlando Mitjans Jr. handles the Mobile area for The Citadel.
"Jay's coach called us and told us that he had been committed to Army, but might be more interested in what you have to offer," Thompson said. "We're a little closer to home, and his dad was stationed in Charleston at one time and understands The Citadel.
"We were not going to take an A-back in this class, but this was a great opportunity for us and a relationship that Coach Mitjans had fostered, and it really paid off for us."
Graves-Billips, 5-10 and 185 pounds, rushed for 1,475 yards and 16 touchdowns as a senior at St. Paul’s Episcopal. He also caught 41 passes for 531 yards and three touchdowns as his team won a state title in Alabama.
"It's good to have those two positions covered in this class," Thompson said.
The February class includes four in-state players in lineman Cole England (6-4, 245) of Laurens, linebacker Miles Scott (6-1, 205) of Eastside HS in Greenville, lineman Davis Sutherland (6-2, 320) of Abbeville, and tight end Dylan Snyder of West Florence HS.
Another player who announced his signing with The Citadel was Colton Mason , an all-state fullback from Gilbert High School. Mason, 6-0 and 208 pounds, ran for 1,731 yards last season as Gilbert went 8-1 and made the Class AAA Lower State title game. In a game against Brookland-Cayce, he ran for 314 yards and four scores.
Receivers Will Ramey of Philip Simmons High and Sevaughn Washington of First Baptist also announced their signings with The Citadel. First Baptist linebacker Mikey Blandin signed with The Citadel in December.
Citadel, CSU add games
The Citadel and Charleston Southern have agreed to a pair of home-and-home football games in 2024 and 2026.
The Bulldogs will visit the Bucs on Aug. 31, 2024, and CSU will play at The Citadel on Sept. 5, 2026. Ten of the 12 previous meetings have been held at The Citadel, and the final game in a four-game agreement is set for fall 2021 at the Bulldogs' Johnson Hagood Stadium.
“We are looking forward to playing Charleston Southern and having them on our future schedule,” said The Citadel athletic director Mike Capaccio. “Scheduling games is very difficult and has a lot of moving parts. We have a great relationship and rivalry with them so it is important that we continue to play.”
“I’m happy that we could work out the football series with The Citadel,” CSU athletic director Jeff Barber said. “I believe this is a great rivalry game for both institutions and will benefit everyone involved, as well as the entire Lowcountry area.”
The Citadel signees
Mike Bartilucci, OL, 6-1, 280, Jacksonville, Fla. (Fletcher)
Phillip Collins, DL, 6-0, 270, Aiken HS
Cole England, OL, 6-4, 245, Laurens HS
Varney Farhnbullah, QB, 6-1, 192, Concord, N.C. (Cox Mill)
Jay Graves-Phillips, QB, 5-11, 185, Mobile, Ala. (St. Paul's Episcopal)
Andrew Oliver, DB, 6-0, 210, Lake Oswego, Ore. (Lakeridge)
Je'Mazin Roberts, LB, 6-2, 240, Milledgeville, Ga. (John Milledge Academy)
Miles Scott, LB, 6-1, 205, Greenville (Eastside)
Dylan Snider, TE, 6-4, 235, Florence (West Florence)
Davis Sutherland, OL, 6-2, 320, Abbeville HS
A.J. Traylor, DB, 6-2, 175, LaGrange (HS), Ga.
Ian Adams OL 6-3 285 Hendersonville, N.C. Christ School; Mikey Blandin LB 6-2 220 North Charleston, S.C. First Baptist; Mason Floyd OL 6-0 260 Chapin, S.C. Ben Lippen; Ahmad Green QB 5-10 175 Bluffton, S.C. May River; John Hewlett DL 6-0 260 Ridgeland, S.C. Thomas Heyward Academy; Chris Iverson DL 6-0 285 Chesterfield, Va. Life Christian Academy; Jordan Marks DL 5-10 280 Alpharetta, Ga. Centennial; Landon Owens WR 6-2 195 Monroe, Ga. Prince Avenue Christian School; Bryson Peppers OL 6-1 250 Greenwood, S.C. Greenwood; Melvin Ravenel DB 6-3 175 Goose Creek, S.C. Goose Creek.
Signing day bios
Cole England, OL, 6-4, 245, Laurens, South Carolina (Laurens)
Played for head coach Daryl Smith at Laurens High School…earned first-team all-state, all-region and all-county honors as a senior…received team offensive lineman award…invited to the EPIC84 Senior Game…garnered all-county honors as a junior…member of the National Honor Society…named Student Council senior Class President…AP Scholar.
Varney Farhnbullah, QB, 6-1, 192, Concord, North Carolina (Cox Mill)
Plays for head coach Shawn Baker at Cox Mill High School…currently playing senior season…earned second-team all-state honors as a junior after going 161-of-280 for 2,670 yards and 27 touchdowns…added 458 yards and five touchdowns on the ground…also garnered all-county accolades in helping the Chargers to the South Piedmont Conference championship.
Jay Graves-Billips, A-BACK, 5-11, 185, Mobile, Alabama (St. Paul’s Episcopal)
Played for head coach Steve Mask at St. Paul’s Episcopal High School…helped the Saints to a 15-0 record and a state championship as a senior…named a finalist for Mr. Football in the state of Alabama…named all-state as a senior after rushing for 1,475 yards and 16 touchdowns, while also catching 41 passes for 531 yards and three scores…selected as the AL.com Coastal Alabama Co-Player of the Year…honorable mention all-state selection as a sophomore and junior.
Andrew Oliver, DB, 6-0, 210, Lake Oswego, Oregon (Lakeridge)
Plays for head coach Spencer Phillips at Lakeridge High School…currently playing senior season…rated a 2-star athlete by 247Sports…earned all-league honors after recording 53 tackles and six interceptions as a junior…helped the Pacers to the 6A state championship as a sophomore…member of the National Honor Society…four-year member of the honor roll. Great American Rivalry Series Scholar-Athlete…father, Steve, played hockey at Minnesota State-Mankato.
Je’Mazin Roberts, LB, 6-2, 240, Milledgeville, Georgia (John Milledge Academy)
Played for head coach J.T. Wall at John Milledge Academy…earned all-state honors as a senior after posting 75 tackles, 12 tackles-for-loss and three sacks in leading the Trojans to their second-straight state championship…two-time all-region and all-county selection…garnered all-state accolades after registering 123 tackles, 9.0 tackles-for-loss and seven sacks as a junior…also an all-region performer in track and field.
Miles Scott, LB, 6-1, 205, Greenville, South Carolina (Eastside)
Played for head coach Andre Woolcock at Eastside High School…earned honorable mention state honors after posting 75 tackles, 24 tackles-for-loss, 8.0 sacks and 13 quarterback hurries as a senior… participated in the High School Blitz Senior Game…finished junior season with 100 tackles, 13 tackles-for-loss and 40 sacks as a junior…added 33 stops as a sophomore…also a state qualifier in wrestling…placed third in the state as a sophomore and second as a junior.
Dylan Snyder, TE, 6-4, 235, Florence, South Carolina (West Florence)
Played for head coach Jody Jenerette at West Florence High School…earned all-state, all-region and all-zone honors after recording 23 catches for 310 yards during a shortened senior season…garnered all-region honors as a sophomore and junior…posted 28 catches for 340 yards as a junior…added 35 catches for 450 yards as a sophomore…also an all-region selection in baseball…member of the National Honor Society.
Davis Sutherland, OL, 6-2, 320, Abbeville, South Carolina (Abbeville)
Played for head coach Jamie Nickles at Abbeville High School…earned all-state and all-region honors in helping the Panthers to the state championship as a senior…selected to participate in the Shrine Bowl…garnered all-region accolades as a junior…team also captured state championship during sophomore year...member of the Beta Club.
A.J. Traylor, DB, 6-2, 175, LaGrange, Georgia, (LaGrange)
Played for head coach Matt Napier at LaGrange High School…earned all-region honors after finishing senior season with 39 tackles and one interception…helped the Grangers to an 8-2 record in the region…also a member of the basketball and track teams…member of the A/B Honor Roll.