Rams coach Mike White is happy with the players he signed this week, but he says he expects even more to commit in the coming weeks.
ALBANY — Out of all the highlight films that Albany State football coach Mike White looked through this offseason, none quite compared to Screven County running back Jeremy Johnson’s.
“It blows you away,” White said Friday.
Johnson, the 5-foot-10, 250-pound star rusher, ran for 1,625 yards and 33 touchdowns last season to lead the Gamecocks to a perfect 6-0 Region 3-AA record and into the second round of the state playoffs. He was one of nine players to sign national letters-of-intent this week for Albany State.
White believes the powerful running back can be a force immediately in the ASU backfield, which lost starter Nathan Hoyte to graduation.
“When I saw his highlight film, I got excited,” White said. “I think he will really help our run game, especially in the third-down and short-yardage situations. A back like that will help us be a lot more powerful in our run game.”
Other players who committed to ASU were Terrell Flowers (TE, Heritage), Niles Hamilton (TE, South Cobb), Zavondric Shingleton (DB, Jenkins County), Malik Broughton (WR, Veterans), Jalen Sneed (DL, Thomas County Central), Stefan Whitehead (K, Langston Hughes High), Bo Bailey (LB, Central Macon) and Josh Ingram (OL, Jackson County).
It’s a 2013 signing class that will continue to expand as the offseason continues, but so far it’s one that doesn’t exactly fill ASU’s two biggest needs — defensive line and quarterback.
The Rams, who finished 6-4 last season and missed the Division II playoffs for the first time since 2004, lost top defensive linemen Justin Blash and Troy Morgan and quarterbacks Keenan Grissett and David Kooi from last year’s team, and White said filling those voids is imperative this offseason.
White all but ruled out the return of QB Blaize Schaeffer, who backed up former conference MVP Stanley Jennings in 2011 but was academically ineligible last season. That forced the Rams to scramble and sign Kooi and Grissett. White said Friday he extended offers to two other QBs recently.
“One of them went to another school, and the other one we are still trying to work out,” said White, who wouldn’t elaborate on either quarterback. “That’s a position we need to get solved.”
Sneed is the lone defensive lineman to commit to ASU, but White said the 6-2, 270-pounder is a good start to a position that’s vital to ASU’s success.
“That’s a group that we knew we really have to land some guys,” White said. “We need some more numbers there because of all the guys we lost last year. We have to really rebuild.”
The Rams also have to rebuild at the receiver position after top wideouts Ronnie Tubbs, an HBCU All-American, and Julian Bellinger graduated.
White said Broughton, a 6-4, 215-pounder who was initially leaning to Valdosta State, will compete for a starting job his freshman season.
“That’s the plan,” White said. “We think Malik can come in and compete right now. He is a big-time kid. He had a better junior year than senior year, and I think if he would have had a better senior year than we might not have been able to get him. He is a receiver who can stretch the field, catch the deep ball and keep defenses honest.”
White expects to be able to announce more signings in the coming weeks as players — whose initial recruitments with FBS or FCS teams didn’t work out — start to look at Division II options.
“We just have to be selective with the guys we sign,” White said. “But we aren’t done yet.”