Bowling Green, Ky. — Western Kentucky University head football coach David Elson announced Wednesday that 16 high school seniors have inked National Letters-of-Intent and will enroll in school in the fall.
The group will join a program entering its second — and final — season transitioning to the NCAA Division I-A (Football Bowl Subdivision) level, after finishing 7-5 last fall. The Hilltoppers will be eligible for the Sun Belt Conference championship and a bowl berth in 2009.
“Led by [assistant coach and recruiting coordinator] Mike Chism, our coaching staff and players did a great job of putting this class together,” said Elson, who will be in his sixth season at the helm of the program when the Toppers open preseason camp in August. “Our focus was on linemen, and we feel like we addressed those needs while adding some great athletes at linebacker, safety and quarterback. I believe we are bringing in an excellent combination of young men with strong character that truly understand the value of a college education, have the type of talent that will help us compete for a Sun Belt Conference championship and are all excited about being a part of this special time in the history of our program.
“We can’t wait to get them to campus and begin to blend them with our current team.”
The group includes six players who either won or played for state championships during their careers, five all-state performers and four individuals who were also recognized for their work in the classroom.
On the line, the Hilltoppers are adding three individuals on offense and six on defense.
Rammell Lewis and Quanteras Smith were teammates at Grayson High in Loganville, Ga., where they both participated in the Gwinnett County All-Star Game after helping the Rams to a 10-3 finish and a berth in the quarterfinals of the state 5A tournament. Lewis, who is 6-foot-2 and 250 pounds, was credited with 60 total tackles, eight sacks and 15 quarterback hurries, while the 6-foot-5, 220-pound Smith collected 50 stops, 11 sacks and 18 pressures.
Jared Clendenin also hails from the Peach State, joining the WKU program from Stephenson HS. The 6-foot-3, 230-pound Stone Mountain resident posted 64 tackles, which included nine for loss with four sacks, two interceptions, a pair of forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries in being named first-team all-region.
The other three defensive linemen come to the Hill from Florida. Jamarcus Allen, a 6-foot, 265-pound native of Orlando, was first-team all-state, all-Central Florida and all-county as well as the Orlando Metro Defensive Player of the Year after helping Boone High to a 14-1 record his senior season. The Braves advanced to the championship game of the state 6A playoffs as he collected 138 total tackles including eight sacks. A 6-foot, 265-pound Ocoee resident, Kenny Martin was voted the Most Valuable Player and first-team all-county last year at Ocoee HS. The school’s first ever Division I signee, he recorded 69 tackles, including 12 behind the line of scrimmage, to go along with 19 quarterback pressures and four forced fumbles as a senior. Brandon Whitty was selected first-team all-St. John’s Athletic Conference and all-district in the fall after lettering three years at St. Augustine High. The 6-foot-2, 250-pounder also qualified for the 2006 state weightlifting championships.
The trio of offensive linemen all are Tennessee natives. A 6-foot-5, 290-pound resident of Murfreesboro, Adam Smith was a two-time all-region pick who participated in the state’s East-West All-Star Game following his career at Blackman HS. Luke Stansfield was named the region’s Offensive Lineman of the Year, and was chosen first-team all-region and all-county as a senior. The 6-foot-3, 275-pound Franklin native helped lead Ravenwood High to the 2005 state 1A championship as well as the title game a year later. Seth White was part of a Donelson Christian Academy squad that finished 12-2 in 2007 while advancing to the state 1A title contest. White — who is 6-foot-5, 265 pounds and hails from Nashville — was twice selected first-team all-state while also earning first-team all-region accolades each of the last two years.
Four quarterbacks are also a part of this year’s signing class. A 6-foot-4, 190-pound Folkston, Ga., resident, Dexter Haynes was selected honorable mention all-region following his senior campaign at Charlton County High. In addition to helping the Indians advance to the quarterfinals of the state 2A playoffs en route to an 11-1 finish last fall, Haynes was part of a team that claimed the three previous state championships. Kawaun Jakes was a teammate of Whitty at St. Augustine HS, earning first-team all-district and all-league honors after throwing for more than 2,200 yards and accounting for 24 touchdowns. Jakes, who is 6-foot-3 and 190 pounds, helped guide the Yellow Jackets to a 13-2 mark and a berth in the state 3A title game. Anthony Sheppard — a 6-foot-1, 170-pound Pahokee resident — led Pahokee High to the state 2B championship in each of his final two seasons as the Blue Devils finished 14-0 each year. As a senior, Sheppard was chosen first-team all-state after completing 122-of-199 passes for 2,457 yards and 28 touchdowns, while he was the Most Valuable Player of the state title contest each of the last two years. A 6-foot-2, 190-pound Chula Vista, Calif, native, Marcus Vasquez was chosen his league’s Most Valuable Player and Offensive Player of the Year while also earning all-conference honors at Otay Ranch HS.
Tyran Golden and Sergio Joyner are both linebackers, while Corey Shields is a defensive back. Golden, a 6-foot-3, 210-pound Lithonia, Ga., resident, was selected honorable mention all-state and first-team all-region following his senior season after posting 56 total tackles — which included 11 for loss with a sack — two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery. His efforts helped Martin Luther King HS to a 12-1 record, as the Lions advanced to the quarterfinals of the state 5A playoffs. A 6-foot-2, 200-pound native of Tampa, Fla., Joyner was credited with 14 stops including eight sacks last fall for Armwood High, earning first-team all-district, all-Suncoast, all-county and all-conference accolades. Shields, who is 6-foot-3, 190 pounds and hails from Conyers, Ga., was an all-state, all-area and all-region selection after recording 65 total tackles and recovering two fumbles, one which he returned 55 yards for a score, for Salem High. He helped lead the Seminoles to a 9-2 finish and the region championship last season.
Name (Ht., Wt., Cl.-Exp., Pos., Hometown, Previous School)
Jamarcus Allen (6-0, 265, Fr.-HS, DL, Orlando, Fla., Boone HS)
Jared Clendenin (6-3, 230, Fr.-HS, DL, Stone Mountain, Ga., Stephenson HS)
Tyran Golden (6-3, 210, Fr.-HS, LB, Lithonia, Ga., Martin Luther King HS)
Dexter Haynes (6-4, 190, Fr.-HS, QB, Folkston, Ga., Charlton County HS)
Kawaun Jakes (6-3, 190, Fr.-HS, QB, St. Augustine, Fla., St. Augustine HS)
Sergio Joyner (6-2, 200, Fr.-HS, LB, Tampa, Fla., Armwood HS)
Rammell Lewis (6-2, 250, Fr.-HS, DL, Loganville, Ga., Grayson HS)
Kenny Martin (6-0, 265, Fr.-HS, DL, Ocoee, Fla., Ocoee HS)
Anthony Sheppard (6-1, 170, Fr.-HS, QB, Pahokee, Fla., Pahokee HS)
Corey Shields (6-3, 190, Fr.-HS, DB, Conyers, Ga., Salem HS)
Adam Smith (6-5, 290, Fr.-HS, OL, Murfreesboro, Tenn., Blackman HS)
Quanterus Smith (6-5, 220, Fr.-HS, DL, Loganville, Ga., Grayson HS)
Luke Stansfield (6-3, 275, Fr.-HS, OL, Franklin, Tenn., Ravenwood HS)
Marcus Vasquez (6-2, 190, Fr.-HS, QB, Chula Vista, Calif., Otay Ranch HS)
Seth White (6-5, 265, Fr.-HS, OL, Nashville, Tenn., Donelson Christian Academy)
Brandon Whitty (6-2, 250, Fr.-HS, DL, St. Augustine, Fla., St. Augustine HS)