Social media and persistent recruiting helped The Citadel land a couple of running backs Wednesday that are ranked among the top 100 in the nation by ESPN, Bulldogs coach Brent Thompson said Wednesday
Three-star running backs Clay Harris of Atlanta and Emeka Nwanze of Johns Creek, Ga., were among the 17 players in the 2018 recruiting class announced by The Citadel on National Signing Day.
The Citadel also added a quarterback when Javonte Middleton of Jenkins High School in Savannah, Ga., signed his letter of intent Wednesday afternoon. Middleton (6-0, 165) is rated a two-star prospect by 24/7 Sports and reportedly had offers from Army and Savannah State.
Middleton was named the top player in Chatham County after leading his team to a 12-1 record. He passed for 2,098 yards with 17 touchdowns, and rushed for 550 yards and 11 scores.
"The Citadel felt like home to me," Middleton told reporters at his signing day ceremony. "My biggest thing was not about the athletic program, because every school that offered me had a good athletics program and football team. I wanted to go to a place that had a degree that would be respected in the workplace once I graduate."
Harris (6-0, 203) is ranked No. 48 by ESPN among high school senior running backs, with Nwanze (6-0, 215) at No. 91. Both had early offers from FBS schools, including some in the ACC, SEC and Big Ten.
But when those plans didn't work out, The Citadel emerged as a viable option because Bulldog coaches had never stopped recruiting them, Thompson said.
"It was persistence that landed them both," Thompson said. "It was similar stories, really, two highly touted running backs and for one reason or another, things didn't pan out the way they thought they might.
"We just tracked their progress, and these days Twitter allows you to do that. Probably in years past, we might have moved on because they had a bunch of FBS offers. But Coach (Blake) Harrell did a great job of minding both those guys, and we just stayed with them."
Assistant coach Charles Hopkins also helped recruit both players, and Thompson paid each an in-home visit.
"I took a home visit with both of them on a Sunday right after an official visit," Thompson said. "I was not sure we'd still be in the mix. But we found out in mid-January they were still available, and we took a hard run at them. I'm just happy to get them, and that nobody plucked them from us."
For comparison's sake, the running backs ranked just above and below Harris signed with Louisville and Oregon State; the backs just above and below Nwanze signed with Temple and North Carolina State.
A two-time all-county pick at Norcross High School, Harris ran for 504 yards and seven touchdowns on 118 carries as a senior. He could play fullback or slotback in The Citadel's triple option, Thompson said.
"He's versatile and can play both positions depending on our needs," Thompson said. "He starts and stops and explodes with great acceleration. He can do some great things for us."
Nwanze ran for 1,257 yards and eight touchdowns on 216 carries as a senior, averaging 104.8 yards per game over 12 games.
The Citadel's class included only one player from South Carolina, defensive back Von Ramsey of Greenwood. Last year, the Bulldogs signed nine in-state players.
"We took a couple of cuts on in-state players and didn't get them," Thompson said. "Sometimes that happens. It's a little bit of a concern for me, but The Citadel is not an easy decision to make.
"When you take as many cuts as we did, you are going to get turned down sometimes, and that's okay. But we have five coaches committed to recruiting in the state, and we put out a bunch of offers."
The Bulldogs' class includes a pair of rangy defensive ends in Mason Kinsey (6-2, 228) of Arlington, Texas, and Marquise Blount (6-3, 223) of Charlotte. There are five defensive backs, two linebackers, four running backs, two offensive linemen and kicker/punter Matt Campbell of Dacula, Ga.
West Ashley defensive lineman Jay Smith, an All-Lowcountry pick, will walk-on at The Citadel, according to Wildcats coach Bobby Marion.
THE CITADEL SIGNINGS
DB Jaylan Adams (5-10, 165), Science Hill HS, Johnson City, Tenn.
Four-year standout at quarterback/cornerback at Science Hill High School in Johnson City, Tenn...Earned Tri-Cities Elite 11 Player of the year honors after accounted for over 3,000 all-purpose yards his senior season, leading Science Hill to a 7-3 mark and a 6A playoff berth…Played defense for one snap against Hardin Valley, coming up with a game-saving interception…Was went 103-of-169 passing 1,630 yards with 12 touchdowns and five interceptions his senior season…He was also the team's leading rusher with 170 carries for 1,431 yards with an average of 8.4 yards per carry and 22 touchdowns…Was a three-time all-conference selection and was named WJHL Player of the Week three times…Played four different sports during his high school career with three years of basketball, a year of baseball, and two years of track & field…Son of Gary and Carol Adams…Born April 7, 2000…Father, Gary, played for the Montreal Expos.
DB Chris Beverly (5-11, 181), Wakulla HS, Tallhassee, Fla.
Three-time All-State selection at Wakulla High School in Tallahassee, Fla…Named All-State, All-Big Bend, and Team MVP after racking up 19 receptions for 353 yards and four TDs as a senior, averaging 29 yards per catch…Also had nine carries for 111 yards as a senior…Finished his career with over 1,260 all-purpose yards…Defensively, a standout defensive back with 125 career stops and six interceptions…Had 35 solo tackles and 10 assists as a senior…Dangerous return man with a 25.7-yard kickoff return average and a 15.7 punt return average…Also a basketball standout, averaging 16.2 points and five assists per game…Son of Sharon Beverly and Gus Beverly…Born October 16, 1999.
DE Marquise Blount (6-3, 223), Vance HS, Charlotte
Standout defensive end at Vance High School in Charlotte…Earned All-Charlotte Area and All-Conference honors as a senior…Piled up 60 tackles, 12 sacks, and 20 tackles for loss during his senior season…Named Team Defensive MVP following senior season…Team went 24-6 during high school career with three State Semifinal appearances…Also a member of the track team in high school…Son of Shavon Arrington…Born in New York, N.Y.
DB Joshua Bowers (5-10, 172) East Lake HS, New Port Richey, Fla.
Extremely successful program at East Lake including reaching the state semifinals twice and finishing as state runner-up with 15 wins over Bowers' four years…Versatile athlete that returned kicks, punts, played wide receiver, and cornerback at East Lake…Had eight receptions for 234 yards and four touchdowns as a wide receiver...Also had a 76-yard reception…Accounted for 536 all-purpose yards…Had 46 career tackles at cornerback and two interceptions…Regional qualifier in the 100-meters with a 10.84...Four-year letterman in both football and track…Four-time honor roll student...Son of Arvel and Chendella Bowers…Born December 12, 1999.
K/P Matt Campbell (6-1, 227), Mill Creek HS, Dacula, Ga.
Two-year starter as placekicker and punter at Mill Creek High School in Dacula, Ga…Earned All-Region 6-7A and All-County honors as a punter and kicker…Punted 30 times with a 39.5-yard average with 13 punts downed inside the 20…Was 5-of-6 on field goal attempts with kicks made from 53 and 51 yards…Had an 88 percent touchback ration with 48 during his senior season…Earned his first letter in football with a 38.0 yard average punting as a junior in helping Mill Creek to a 2016 Region Championship…Also a three-year letterman in soccer and an honor student in high school…Son of Greg and Susan Campbell…Born November 12, 1999…Father played soccer at Young Harris.
LB Caleb Deveaux (6-1, 213), Marvin Ridge HS, Waxhaw, N.C.
Standout linebacker and running back at Marvin Creek High School…Expected to play linebacker at The Citadel…All-Big 22 selection in the Charlotte area as a senior and earned All-Conference honors…Finished his senior season with 54 tackles, 6.0 TFLs, five QB hurries, and two forced fumbles on defense…Had 856 yards rushing on 128 carries and 13 TDs as a running back…Also played both ways as a junior, with 200 carries for 1,233 yards and 19 TDs to go with 26 tackles and two sacks…Rushed for over 3,400 yards in high school and 47 TDs as a running back…Played varsity as a freshman with eight tackles and a forced fumble…Also wrestled in high school…Son of Glenn and Songhai…Born March 2, 2000…Father Glenn played football at Pitt, while brother Elijah played at Duke…Three uncles played college football as well, while great uncle David Smith is a former Pittsburgh Steeler
OL Tyrell Earl (6-3, 295), Central Gwinett HS, Lawrenceville, Ga.
A four-year letterman and starter at Central Gwinnett High School in Lawrenceville, Ga…Led North Gwinnett in pancake blocks as a senior…Named All-County Scholar-Athlete of the Year following his senior year…Named to Gwinett County All-Star Team…As a junior, Earl was Team Captain and October Player of the Month in the Gwinnett area…Started for varsity as a freshman…Three-sport star at Central Gwinnett, also playing baseball and wrestling… Uncle played football at Jacksonville State…Son of Richelle Brown and Anthony Brown…Born January 19, 2000.
LB Kyler Estes (6-2, 220), N. Florida Christian, Tallahassee, Fla.
Standout linebacker at North Florida Christian, leading team to an 8-3 record his senior year…Finished his career with 192 total tackles, averaging 9.1 per game…Had 129 tackles his senior year with 84 solo, notching 11.7 per game…Had 13.0 tackles for loss, two sacks, and a safety as a senior in 11 games…Earned Defensive Player of the Week honors in Week 5 with 15 tackles and a sack in a win.
RB Clay Harris (6-0, 203), Norcross HS, Atlanta
Rated a three-star prospect at running back according to 247Sports…A two-time All-County selection…Rushed for 504 yards and seven touchdowns as a senior on only 118 carries…Finished his career with 12 touchdowns…Strong receiver out of the backfield with 18 catches for 129 yards on the year…Had 131 yards receiving as a junior…Helped lead his team to an 11-1 record as a junior…Son of Clay Harris and Caylor Young…Born June 29, 2000.
DE Mason Kinsey (6-2, 228), Mansfield Legacy HS, Arlington, Texas
Standout defensive end at Mansfield Legacy High School in Arlington, Texas…Named Defensive Lineman of the Year for Mansfield Legacy, which reached the State Semifinals…All-time sack leader at MLHS with 17…A First Team All-District selection…Had nine sack and 13 tackles for loss as a senior…Finished his senior season with 31 tackles – 26 solo – and an interception…As a junior, a strong year with 65 tackles, six sacks, an interception, and a forced fumble…Son Arlando and Lisa Kinsey…Born February 11, 2000.
DB Destin Mack (6-0, 190), Tattnall Square Academy, Macon, Ga.
Versatile athlete at Tattnall Square Academy in Warner Robbins, Ga…An All-Region selection with 985 rushing yards and 16 touchdowns as a senior…Rushed for almost 1,600 yards during his career with 25 TDs…Named Macon Touchdown Club's Running Back of the Week for his performance against Stratford Academy, rushing 22 times for 192 yards and a touchdown and had six tackles…Had 137 yards receiving and two touchdowns during his career…Played linebacker on defense, amassing 60 tackles as a senior…Averaged 7.5 tackles per game…Played quarterback as a sophomore…Played three sports in high school including four years of football and baseball in addition to three years of basketball…Played three sports in high school including four years of football and baseball in addition to three years of basketball…Son of Cornelius and Florida Mercer…Born Feb. 1, 2000
QB Javonte Middleton (6-0, 165), Jenkins HS, Savannah, Ga.
Four-year starter at quarterback at H.V. Jenkins High School…Named Savannah Morning New Player of the Year after finishing with 2,648 yards of offense and 28 TDs as a senior…Earned All-Region honors and Honorable Mention 3A All-State…Named ESPNCoastal.com Offensive Player of the Year and earned the Michael Finocchio Memorial Award…As a junior, accounted for 2,148 yards of offense and 22 TDs at quarterback…Named First Team All-Greater Savannah and First Team All-Region 3A…Lettered and started during both his sophomore and freshmen seasons, piling up almost 2,700 yards of offense and accounting for 28 total touchdowns…A first team All-Region selection as an outfielder for the baseball team and a three-time slection as team captain…Also a standout on the basketball team and Senior Class Vice President at H.V. Jenkins…Son of Deidre Middleton…Born October 19, 1999.
RB Nkem Njoku (5-10, 195), St. Pius X, Hampton, Ga.
Standout at running back and linebacker for a successful St. Pius program in the Atlanta area…Missed senior season due to injury…Team reached the state semifinals three times and was state runner-up during high school career, going 10-3 during sophomore season…Was a second team all-region linebacker as a junior with 78 tackles…Had 220 yards rushing on 15 carries as a sophomore…Scored five TDs, four rushing and one on punt return, and averaged 8.5 yards per carry as a sophomore…Earned three football letters and four track letters at St. Pius…Son of Maureen Njoku…Born December 22, 1999…Plans to major in finance at The Citadel.
RB Emeka Nwanze (6-0, 215), Centennial HS, Johns Creek, Ga.
Rated a three-star prospect at running back/athlete by 247Sports…Earned All-Region honors from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution in Region 7-6A…Rushed for 1,257 yards on 216 carries and eight touchdowns as a senior…Had six games with 100+ yards and averaged 104.8 yards per game over 12 games…Also caught 16 passes for 8.6 yards per reception average…Team was 7-1 in region play and 8-4 overall..Rushed for over 150 yards four times during the season and eclipsed 175 yards three times..Born October 9, 1998…Son of Patrick and Elizabeth Nwanze.
DB Von Ramsey (5-11, 190), Greenwood HS, Hodges, S.C.
Standout cornerback at Greenwood High School in Greenwood, S.C…Versatile athlete that played wide receiver in high school…An All-Region selection and All-Lakelands as a senior at GHS…Had 123 carries for a 7.6 yard average and 10 touchdowns…Also had six receptions…Also played some linebacker with seven tackles, two assists, three pass breakups and an interception…Had 27 solo tackles, 50 total stops, five tackles for loss, an interception, and five pass break ups as an All-Region selection at linebacker as a junior…Son of Angela Jackson and Sylvester Ramsey…Born January 31, 2000.
OL Johnathan Toole (6-1, 287) Klein Collins HS, Spring, Texas
Standout offensive lineman for one of the top programs in the State of Texas….A unanimous 15-6A First Team All-District selection on the offensive line…Helped pave the way for team to average just under 250 yards per game on the ground and 41 rushing TDs, en route to an 11-1 record…Team averaged over six yards per carry for the season and averaged over 400 yards of offense per game…Team finished ranked in the Top 50 nationally by MaxPreps in his junior and senior season…Team was a state semifinalist in football in 6A Region Two…Also threw discus and shot put for track in high school….An honor student at Klein Collins and a three-year member of the football team's leadership council…Son of Chris Toole and Virginia Allen…Born in Panama on November 30, 1999.
RB Keefe White (5-11, 190), Montgomery (Ala.) Academy
Standout running back at Montgomery Academy in Montgomery, Ala…Rushed for 1,550 yards and 19 touchdowns as a senior at Montgomery Academy…Also had 10 catches for 99 yards and two TDs receptions in his final season…Finished his career with 2,373 rushing yards and an 8.3 yards per carry average and 25 TDs…Showed his explosive with touchdown runs of 78 and 80 yards during his career…Named Male Athlete of the Year by the Montgomery QB Club as a junior…Also named Team MVP and Most Outstanding Offensive Back…Also participated in track, earning Most Outstanding Runner honors…Last week, captured the Alabama State Championship in the 60 meters and 60 meter hurdles…Son of Penny Lucas-White and Mark White…Born January 11, 1999…Mother is the Head Volleyball Coach at Alabama State.