By Nathan Hutchinson
Register Sports Editor
When the EKU coaching staff hits the recruiting trail, they usually aren’t looking to fill immediate needs on the roster.
The focus is primarily on the future.
“You’ve got to look a year ahead,” EKU coach Dean Hood said.
In Hood’s five seasons at the school, almost every incoming freshman has been redshirted his first year on campus. That philosophy has allowed the Colonels to build depth at almost every position and has also had a huge influence on the staff’s recruiting style.
“When you look at next year, you are really looking at the guys you brought in last year who you redshirted,” Hood said.
The Colonels’ 2013 recruiting class definitely fills the needs the team will have heading into the 2014 season.
EKU signed 17 players on Wednesday, including nine from Kentucky. The class includes six defensive linemen, highlighted by Madison Central senior Bradon Parks.
The Colonels also signed two linebackers, two defensive backs, two tight ends, two offensive linemen and one wide receiver, one running back and one quarterback.
EKU signed at least one player at every position, but the focus was obviously on the defensive line.
“Even though we just lost two guys this year (on the defensive line), next year we lose five kids,” Hood said. “We knew we had to get a big class this year.”
This year’s class included one mid-year addition — Daryl Taylor, a 6-foot-4, 236 pound defensive lineman from Fork Union Military Academy.
Parks (6-foot-4, 250 pounds) may be one of the biggest additions to the 2013 class. The Central senior was the Defensive MVP of the Best of the Bluegrass Bowl and was drawing interest from Kentucky, Tennessee, Indiana, Louisville and Ball State.
“The thing about Brandon (that impresses me most) is his motor,” Hood said. “I saw him in spring practice and he went 100 miles an hour on every play. I went and saw him at the Bluegrass Bowl and he was 100 miles an hour on every play. He’s got one gear, period. That’s what we love about him. He’s got a great motor.”
The Colonels also signed defensive linemen Sheldon Fleming (Lehigh Acres, Fla.), Armond Jones (Indianapolis), Elijah Jones (Woodford County) and Lorenzo McWilliams (Roswell, Ga.).
Last year, a third of EKU’s recruiting class consisted of Kentucky players — nine of 27. This season, more than half of EKU’s signees are in-state players, including running back Kentayvus Hopkins (Bourbon County), linebacker Domonick Brown (John Hardin), linebacker Jeffery Canady (Knox Central), wide receiver Tranard Chester (Lafayette), quarterback Barton Mann (Russell County) tight end Tony Messer (Belfry) and offensive lineman Jason Smith (Lone Oak).
“Kentucky high school football has gotten better, so there are more kids that we wanted,” Hood said.
The Colonels also signed two big tight ends that should fit into the team’s offense and will certainly fill needs in a couple of years. In addition to Messer (6-foot-5, 235 pounds), EKU also landed Tyler Malone, a 6-foot-5, 240 pounds from Indianapolis.
“That’s looking ahead a little bit too,” Hood said of the tight ends. “We lost only one tight end last year, but we signed two because last year we lose Matt Lengel and Nathan Watts. We, wanted to get two and we got two really good ones.”
EKU’s 2013 recruiting class also features offensive lineman Chance Edwards (Sumterville, Fla.), defensive back Vincent Green (Cape Coral, Fla.) and defensive back Shawn Reynolds (Buford, Ga.)
Colonel fans are invited to Gillum’s Sports Lounge in the Richmond Mall for lunch at noon today to listen to Hood’s thoughts on the 2013 signing class. The event will include video highlights of all of the signees.