Success on field helps Bucs bring in strong recruiting class

Charleston Southern football coach Jamey Chadwell signed 20 players on Wednesday. (Shane Roper/Special to The Post and Courier/File)

Charleston Southern’s football program has won 18 games in the last two seasons, earning mention among the nation’s top 20 at the FCS level.

Head coach Jamey Chadwell and his staff have successfully sold the rising program to prospects around the Southeast and introduced a strong class of 2015 signings on Wednesday.

Chadwell, beginning his third season as head coach, said defense was the focus with this class.

“Our immediate needs were on the defensive line and that was our first priority,” said Chadwell. “We feel really good about the players we signed up front. We feel like we met some of our other needs on the defensive side of the ball, bringing in some depth at linebacker. This class puts us one class closer to being a team with depth at all positions.

“With all of that said, what is most important to me is the guys we signed all wanted to be here. They rallied around the family dynamic here and they want to be a part of this University.”

One key addition to the depleted defensive line is former Goose Creek High star Gerald Turner, a 6-2, 250-pound defensive end. Turner signed with South Carolina two years ago, redshirting in 2013 before moving to fullback in 2014. He will have three seasons to play at CSU.

“Getting Gerald in here mid-term is a big plus,” said Chadwell. “We certainly feel like he can come in and contribute right away. He’s been here working and we feel like he has the ability and talent level to compete at a high level.”

Staying with a plan that focuses on recruiting players within a six-hour radius of its campus, CSU added eight players from South Carolina, eight from Georgia, and two from Florida. Two mid-year junior college enrollees are from North Carolina and California.

Chadwell says CSU’s program has a higher visibility in the Southeast, which is making recruiting a less difficult challenge than it was when he took over as head coach.

“The perception of our program has changed for sure,” Chadwell said. “I think the high school coaches are seeing our success and a lot of people are seeing the program that we are building. People are more receptive to our coaches when they go into high schools. We’re able to go in and not have to spend an hour explaining who we are. There are a lot of positive vibes around the program, especially within the state.”

Of the more notable signees in this year’s class are Chapin High offensive lineman Stephen Haralambis, a Shrine Bowl and all-state selection in 2014. Hanahan High defensive lineman Jacob Garibay was a three-year starter for the Hawks and played in the North-South all-star game.

Swansea linebacker Craig Johnson earned all-state honors as a two-way player and Marlboro County quarterback London Johnson accounted for more than 7,000 yards in total offense during his career.

Linebacker J.D. Sosebee of Gainesville, Ga., may compete for immediate playing time. The first-team all-stater tallied more than 500 career tackles.

Running back Chanin Hamilton may also compete for early playing time, along with Coffeyville Junior College transfer Alan Barnwell, who played at Charlotte in 2013.

“Getting young men that played in winning programs is really important for us,” said Chadwell. “We also want guys that were productive players. Maybe some are a little lighter or a little shorter but they make plays and they have a toughness about them. We really tried to focus on finding tough, hard-nosed football players who play the game with passion.”

With signing day behind them, the Bucs are ready to hit the practice field. CSU opens spring practice on Thursday, the earliest start of any program in the country. CSU’s spring game is Feb. 28.

“It’s something different but we feel like there are some benefits to doing it early,” said Chadwell. “We wanted to get it all in before spring break. It allows us to start the off-season program a lot earlier, which should benefit us. And, to be honest, our expectations here are to be playing football in December, when it’s cold.”

CSU SIGNINGS

Saire Davis WR 6-2 170 Byron, Ga.

Jarrod Downer OL 6-3 265 Swainsboro, Ga.

Kelan Fraise RB 5-7 170 Dacula, Ga.

Jacob Garibay DL 6-1 230 Hanahan HS

Chanin Hamilton RB 5-10 180 Vienna, Ga.

Stephen Haralambis OL 6-3 270 Chapin HS

Ronnie Harris RB 5-10 205 Richmond, Ga.

Travay Hatten TE 6-4 220 Central HS

Craig Johnson LB 6-2 205 Swansea HS

London Johnson QB 6-0 185 Marlboro Co. HS

Johnny Robinson DL 6-1 260 Apopka, Fla.

Kameron Brown WR 6-3 200 Midland Valley HS

Demetri Royer DB 6-0 195 Clearwater, Fla.

Qua’vonn Scott TE 6-1 230 Athens, Ga.

Brackin Smith DL 6-3 220 Bogart, Ga.

J.D. Sosebee LB 6-1 220 Gainesville, Ga.

B.J. Lane DB 5-10 160 Byrnes HS

Austin Eubanks LB 6-1 200 Dorman HS

Christian Merritt WR 5-10 175 Wren HS

Logan Robinson P 6-2 190 Dorman HS

Kyle Reighard K 6-2 185 Salem, Va.

Alan Barnwell RB 5-10 180 Burlington, N.C.*

Gerald Turner DL 6-2 250 Goose Creek HS/USC*

Zack Evans OL 6-2 280 South Florence HS*

Blake Wilson LB 6-2 225 San Diego, Calif.*

*early enrollee