Mitchell County OL/DL Grover Stewart, center, signs on the dotted line with Albany State on Wednesday in Camilla. Stewart joined another local product, Bainbridge QB Quincy Fortson (not pictured) as part of ASU's nine signees it inked on National Signing Day (firstname.lastname@example.org)
ALBANY — Albany State signed nine promising recruits on Wednesday, including Bainbridge’s Quincy Fortson and Mitchell County’s Grover Stewart.
But if you think head coach Mike White and the ASU coaching staff is done adding to next season’s roster, think again.
“No way are we done,” White said. “No way, no way. We have a lot of work to do. As a matter of fact, we are just getting started.”
And if Wednesday’s signing class is any indication of what is to come, the Rams could have a fruitful offseason after finishing 8-4 in 2011 and qualifying for the NCAA Division II playoffs for the eighth straight year.
Along with Fortson and Stewart, the Rams signed Malcom Simpson (DL, Sequoyah High School, Canton), Cedric Ashe (DB, Shaw High School, Columbus), Gerald Farms (OL, Warner Robins High School), Trey Hamilton (RB, Charlton County High School, Folkston), Jabri Menefee (WR, Columbia High School, Decatur) Mials Woodberry (WR, Columbia High School) and Javoris Wilburn (DL, Warren County High School, Warrenton).
“They are some pretty good players,” said White, who will be entering his 13th year as head coach of the Rams. “They are definitely needs that we had. We hope to add more to that number. We were hoping to sign about 13 (Wednesday) afternoon. A few got away, but we are pleased with the guys we got.”
The new class specifically addresses issues at the line of scrimmage, where four of those big-body recruits will help the Rams strengthen both the offensive and defensive lines.
Wilburn and Stewart are a pair of 6-foot-5 defensive linemen weighing in at around 290 pounds, while Simpson is a 6-4, 235-pound defensive lineman.
Farms is the biggest of them all at 6-5 and 320 pounds.
“I like the size and the height of these lineman,” said White, a former NFL defensive lineman. “They are athletic and ready to compete. That’s probably the big thing I like about this group.”
Stewart, who started both ways the last two years for Mitchell County, could have an immediate impact on ASU’s defensive line.
“We were looking at some big guys, and Grover was probably the best looking one,” White said. “We think he will be a really good player for us, 6-5, 290 (pounds) says it all. And he wears it well. He’s a good athlete, and I think he will be a great student-athlete at Albany State.”
Stewart also thinks he will fit in well at ASU.
“When I met with coach White, he talked to me about everything and really made me feel good about going there,” Stewart said. “I really liked him.”
ASU ranked toward the bottom of the conference in passing defense all season, so the additions of Ashe and Fortson are also key. Fortson is a defensive back by trade but was forced into the quarterback position last season at Bainbridge when Steven Bench darted to Cairo. While Fortson will be competing for a spot in the ASU secondary, White is also looking forward to using his diversity in other spots on the field.
“We are leaning to putting Quincy at corner even though he played a lot of different positions,” White said. “He was even a good returner. He’s one of the athletes we are looking to help us in a lot of different positions.”
As White does year after year, he will continue to recruit throughout the offseason, targeting players whose recruitments with FBS or FCS teams don’t work out.
“Division II recruiting is a little different than recruiting in Division I,” White said. “On our level, you are always seeking and looking for the next student athlete who can play for you. You can’t put a time limit on that. During the off season you are very flexible.”