Feb. 2, 2011
NOTE: FOR MORE IN-DEPTH COVERAGE OF FSU'S SIGNING DAY, GO HERE.
FAYETTEVILLE, NC -- Typically, Fayetteville State head coach Kenny Phillips doesn't revel in the collegiate chaos that surrounds National Signing Day.
"National Signing Day is more for the upper levels school; they're on ESPN and all those places and we're down here at Division II," he says. "We just go about our business and try to get about 10-15 guys on Signing Day."
But this day, Phillips admits with a chuckle, has been different.
"It's a great day for us," he says. "We did a very good job, and we've been able to get a couple of local kids to stay home and play football, which is always a challenge for us. But that just goes to show you how things have changed around here with our facilities. A lot of our local kids here in the city didn't realize what we had over here at Fayetteville State, but we have some very nice facilities."
The Broncos, who have won three CIAA Championships in the last decade, signed 15 players to national letters of intent on Tuesday, and several of them could bring an immediate impact on the gridiron in 2011.
Among the heavyweights Fayetteville State signed is John Brown, the 6-foot-2, 225-pound linebacker from nearby Seventy-First High School. Brown, who drew interest from Division-1 programs, was the stalwart on a stingy Falcons' defense that limited opponents to about 10 points per game under legendary coach Bob Paroli. Brown was a four-year starter at Seventy-First and was the Defensive MVP when the Falcons won the 2008 4-A state championship.
Brown is exactly the kind of player Phillips, who doubles as a demanding linebackers coach at FSU, craves.
"Brown fits the type of what I look for in linebackers," Phillips says. "He's a tall, rangy kid that can run. He's played for a legend in coach Bob Paroli, and Coach Paroli and I go way back. I know that when I get one of his kids, one thing I know (about that player) is that he's going to be tough. Toughness overcomes a lot of things, and we know that from the way he was coached in high school, he won't have a hard time adjusting to the way we coach in college. He was one of the guys I put my thumb on and said, 'We need this guy here.'"
Brown said FSU was the perfect fit for him, and that he is looking forward to playing under Phillips.
"Fayetteville State was interested in me from the start, and I really appreciated that," says Brown. "It's the right fit because it's right at home, it's a great program, a winning program, and I feel like I can come in and make a difference."
Another standout recruit for the Broncos is Cary free safety Donte Johnson, an athletic 6-1, 180-pound player known for his coverage and crisp tackling techniques as well as his dangerous speed in the open field. Johnson, who had 68 tackles and five interceptions as a prep senior in 2011, also returned five kicks for touchdowns this season, and could benefit the Broncos in a number of areas.
Phillips is excited to have Johnson in the program and expects him to contribute right away.
"I think Donte can be an impact player for us at the free safety spot," Phillips says. "That was a position where we struggled at a little bit last year, and we knew we had to go out and try to find somebody with a little more physical attribute than what we had. After watching Donte on film, I didn't think we had shot at him after watching he did as a kick returner and after watching what he did as a free safety in high school. He's tall, he's rangy and he covers the field. I really didn't think we had a shot at him."
Cary head coach Ben Kolstead thinks the Broncos found a gem in Johnson.
"FSU is getting a good one in Donte," says Kolstead. "His ability to continue to grow once he gets into a college program is great. Overall, he's a really good athlete and can do a lot of things.
"He's a really gifted returner. It got to a point this year where teams stopped kicking it to him. And defensively, he's very rangy. He can cover sideline-to-sideline, but he also has the ability to run downhill and make tackles in the open field."
And the Broncos scored another big recruit when Carrboro quarterback Derek Bryant signed. Bryant, the face of the Carrboro program in its rise from a new program to a 10-win season in 2010, passed for 2,650 yards and 24 touchdowns in 2010 while leading the Jaguars to the third round of the playoffs.
"Derek is an extremely mature and polished quarterback," says FSU recruiting coordinator David Bowser. "He's a very smart young man who comes from a great family. We're excited to have him here."
The class has a decidedly hometown feel. Along with Brown, his Seventy First teammate Tyrel Bryant-Dove comes to Fayetteville State as a wide receiver. Also, E.E. Smith linemen Rodney Avery (6-1, 302) and Demetrius Briggs (6-3, 321) join Jack Britt center Judd Moreno (6-1, 260) as Fayetteville natives joining the Broncos.
The Broncos also inked outstanding athletes in a pair of teammates from Monroe High School, Jalen Sowell (5-11, 175) and Ricardo White (5-11, 185). Sowell threw for 23 touchdowns at quarterback and averaged 8.7 yards per carry while White rushed for 1,071 yards and recorded 85 total tackles.
Kwamere Bailey (6-2, 180) also gives the Broncos more speed in the secondary. As a safety for Manteo High School, Bailey led the team with a staggering 134 tackles, 84 of which were unassisted. He also led the team with four interceptions. Bailey will join his brother, running back Colon Bailey, Jr., on the Broncos' roster.
Fayetteville State added depth on the line of scrimmage with the emerging Terry Currie, a 6-2, 300-pound lineman from St. Pauls High School. Also, Bertie teammates Corbin Rascoe (5-10, 170) and Darius Moody (5-7, 151) are expected to bring their speed - both ran 10.5s in the 100-yard dash - to the Broncos' offense, whether in the backfield or on the edges.
And quarterback Michael Bridgeman (6-2, 185) of nearby Cape Fear High School also signed with FSU. Bridgeman brings smarts and a strong arm to the program.
The recruiting work isn't done for FSU. Phillips says the team will continue to track players who have yet to sign or are in the junior college ranks. Phillips also stresses that plenty of opportunities are still available at Fayetteville State.
"We keep a few to the side, because there are still good football players out there who won't sign today," Phillips says. "And when they become available, we want to recruit them."
FSU recruits who signed on Wednesday
John Brown, Fayetteville, NC Seventy-First High School 6-2 225 LB
Derek Bryant, Carrboro, NC Carrboro High School 6-3 227 QB
Kwamere Bailey, Manteo, NC Manteo High School 6-2 180 S
Donte Johnson, Cary NC Cary High School 6-1 180 DB
Tyrel Bryant-Dove, Fayetteville, NC Seventy-First High School 6-1 190 ATH
Rodney Avery, Fayetteville, NC E.E. Smith High School 6-1 302 OL
Demetrius Briggs, Fayetteville, NC E.E. Smith High School 6-3 321 OL
Judd Moreno, Fayetteville, NC Jack Britt High School 6-1 260 C
Corbin Rascoe, Windsor, NC Bertie High School 6-2 175 WR
Darius Moody, Windsor, NC Bertie High School 5-6 150 WR
Jalen Sowell, Monroe, NC Monroe High School 5-11 175 ATH
Ricardo White, Monroe, NC Monroe High School 5-11 185 ATH
Terry Currie, St. Pauls, NC St. Paul's High School 6-2, 300 OL/DL
Michael Bridgeman, Fayetteville, NC Cape Fear High School 6-2 185 QB/ATH
Jeff Sims, Greensboro, NC Ben L. Smith High School 6-5 185 QB