MAC Football Signing Day Takeaways

Even though most college football teams took care of most of their classes during the early signing period in December, there were still some more players that were still available.

The busiest program on Wednesday was Kent State, whose 15 signees is the most signed by a Mid-American Conference team during the regular signing period. A lot of this was with Sean Lewis being hired as Kent State’s head coach just seven weeks ago. Of the 20 total signees, only one is considered a recruit from the Paul Haynes era.

Toledo stockpiled on defensive talent with three junior college transfers and three more high-rated defensive high school players. Kent State added a guy with offers from schools that have been in the College Football Playoff. Western Michigan inked a promising dual-threat quarterback out of Florida. Eastern Michigan added 12 players Wednesday after announcing 16 additions in December. Miami, Buffalo, Ohio, Ball State each added two players and Central Michigan added one.

There’s so much to unpack here. Let’s just dive right in.

Kent State, we hear you

The new, young coach is really good at recruiting. That’s not something uncommon in college football, let alone the MAC. It worked at Toledo with Matt Campbell. It worked at Western Michigan with P.J. Fleck. In just seven weeks, Sean Lewis and his staff has gotten Kent State’s signing class went from ranked last in the MAC up to No. 5 including a number of guys that’ll be immediate impacts for their team. It’ll be fun to see what this new, young coach can continue to do to improve the football in Dix Stadium.

Here are some notable signees from Kent State’s signing class. (Read the full list of players here).

  • S Jeremiah Salaam — This Frostproof, Fla. safety held offers from Ohio State, Ole Miss, Oklahoma, Notre Dame, Missouri, North Carolina, Arizona, Indiana, Memphis, West Virginia, Rutgers and others. This isn’t something that normally happens at Kent State, if ever.
  • DE Connor Parks — Also from Florida, Parks was once committed to Purdue.
  • OG Julian Sams — Sams is a former Old Domminion commit.
  • DT Elijah Ratliff — Ratliff is a flip from Marshall.
  • QB Marquez Glover — The dual-threat QB from Ocala, Fla. is the second-highest rated recruit in Kent State’s signing class behind Woody Barrett, the junior college QB who’s already on campus and will likely be the starting QB this year.
  • RB Jo-El Shaw — This running back is tough, was a kid that Lewis had eyed from his chair in Syracuse. Shaw went the JUCO route and will have three years to play, like Barrett.

Along with Salaam in the secondary are cornerbacks Capone Blue and Montre Miller.

“The coaches believed in me and what I can do to make the transition,” said Miller, the three-star prospect from South Carolina that Kent State signed as a cornerback. Miller’s more highly regarded as a receiver, but he said playing cornerback will give him a better opportunity to play. “I want to go out there and help win a MAC championship.”

The fact that Lewis was able to snag eight three-star recruits in such a short amount of time is encouraging for the fanbase. Sure, it’s only been a couple months, but things are definitely leaping in the right direction.

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Wyatt Rector turns his negative into a positive

At six months, he back running on the track. Seven months, he finally started making cuts. The month after that, Wyatt Rector was back on the field doing drills, just in time to get ready for his senior season.

But Rector wasn’t expected to be practicing with his team at this time. Torn anterior cruciate ligaments normally take a year to recover from, and Rector had his injury during his junior season.

Nursing the injury, Rector would do his school work from home, go see a physical trainer, go home and do some more knee exercises. “Everything was going right in my recruiting path, getting looked at by the bigger schools. It humbled me,” Rector said.

Looking back on it doesn’t hurt Rector. If anything, having to rehab through this toughened him up.

“Basically, all the Florida schools were going to offer (including Florida State and Miami-FL), … then I tore my ACL, they stopped talking to me, then the northern schools came in and talked to me,” Rector said. “One of the first schools that was a Power 5 to offer me was Virginia.” Rector also added that Virginia offer would go so far as to him still receiving a full-ride education at Virginia if he were to suffer a career-ending ACL injury.

He was committed with Virginia for a few months, but in late November, he made it known that it just wasn’t the right fit for him, and he’s looking to see what other schools were willing to take him in.

Rector noted that he didn’t feel like the communication between him and the coaches wasn’t as strong as it was when he was the second player to commit.

Two new schools came in to play in December: Western Michigan and Kent State, and he visited both.

“I had a blast at both places, but at Western Michigan, I just felt at home there,” Rector said. “I know it’s cold and everything, but if I want to make it to the next level, you’ve got to learn how to play in the cold,” which is just another task he’s looking forward to taking on to toughen him up some more.

“When you go to college, you want to play. I want to go in and learn and adapt to the (Division-I) level. Obviously, college is a lot faster than high school. I just want to learn, compete, grind, … learn the playbook, meet a whole bunch of new people, make a lot of friends and get to know my (offensive) linemen because they’re going to be the ones blocking for me,” Rector said.

Rector knows that there’s another quarterback in this signing class that’s already on campus learning the playbook, Kaleb Eleby (not to mention the rest of the quarterbacks). If that means he has to take a redshirt year  his first year in Kalamazoo, so be it. It’s not like that’s a setback.

“Granted,” Rector having to do two-a-days for ACL rehab training “hurt all the time, but it was totally worth it.”

JUCO defense premium at Toledo

While Toledo does a great job of getting defensive talent out of high school, three junior college transfers were added to the Rocket roster today. That’s a total of four new JUCO defenders that’ll be playing at Toledo at this year.

The three new additions on Wednesday were Melvin Johnson, Jordan Hendy and Evander Craft.

Johnson is a defensive tackle from Las Vegas that signed with Arkansas last year. Johnson didn’t qualify in time for the 2017 season, so he joined Riverside City College where he earned All-American recognition from the California media.

Hendy is a well-regarded cornerback from College of San Mateo. Hendy’s 6-foot-1 and has a lot of speed.

Craft is an outside linebacker from the College of DuPage. He tore his MCL in the middle of his sophmore season, but he’s fine now. Craft was a Purdue commit at the time, but the vibe started to change after the injury, so he re-opened his recruitment.

Toledo was quick to show interest in Craft, he tells MAC Prospectus, and it’s a good situation that’s not too far from his home in Glen Ellyn, Ill.

“Going JUCO was another chance to redeem myself and become a Division-I athlete,” Craft said. “Nothing was given to me at my junior college. I came in as the fourth-string outside linebacker and I worked my way up to first string, attended a bunch of camps and I was able to showcase myself there.”

Craft is an outside linebacker that played more of a STAR role at DuPage, but says he’s going to shift more into a WILL role and stay in the box more, but still play a part as a coverage linebacker.

Those three plus Jake Hudson, the defensive end from Saddleback CC who’s already on campus at Toledo, are going to be vying for staring spots at their positions on defense right away. If that happens, then there may or may not be some language barriers amongst the new teammates. If they can prepare responsibly in a short amount of time, then Toledo will still be headed in the right direction.

“I feel like there might be missed communication here and there, but I believe in the coaching staff … to teach everyone the concepts of the defense,” Craft said.

Abraham Alce huge for Akron’s class

Akron’s signing class is as much as 17, but it was the signature of Abraham Alce that gave this class some excitement in February.

Alce is a running back from Immokalee, Fla. that’s listed at 6-foot and 224 pounds. Akron was one of the first schools to offer the thick back and was able to build the strongest relationships with him. Alce picked Akron over Wisconsin, Miami-FL, Kentucky, Boston College, Pittsburgh, Bowling Green, Kent State, Appalachian State, South Alabama and South Florida.

“Akron has a good program with a family that shows communication and growth for a young man to develop and be great while getting a great education,” Alce told MAC Prospectus. “I have to know a school is going to take care of me, not just for that first year, but my career, for those years attending the school and after my career.

“I can trust Akron because ever since spring when coach (Eric) Hickson first had interest in me, he stuck by my side and was always very good on his communication with me, which those (Power 5) schools don’t do.”

Last year, Akron was last in the MAC with 105.4 rushing yards per game. Now, Alce and Keyondre White are being added to the Zips’ rushing attack, which should be huge for that offense in the years to come.

EMU gets California JUCO receivers

A total of nine JUCO players are coming to Eastern Michigan, including wide receivers Arthur Jackson III and Michael Thompson who signed on Wednesday.

This on top of Line Latu who signed in December makes for three JUCO receivers from California — Jackson from American River CC, Thompson from Modesto City College and Latu from College of San Mateo.

Jackson and Thompson buddied up during the recruiting process since both Hawaii and Eastern Michigan offered the two.

“It took us being over by Hawaii to get in touch with each other,” Jackson told MAC Prospectus. “He (direct messaged) me (on Twitter) about being excited about taking a trip to visit and going to the same college because we’re both good receivers.”

Jackson added that the two visited EMU, met the coaching staff and the program “felt like a home; it didn’t feel like it was for show.”

In junior college, Jackson had 54 catches for 872 yards and 16 touchdowns in 21 games, Thompson had 79 grabs for 1,631 yards and 17 touchdowns.

Two years ago, EMU went after the JUCO receivers and came away with Sergio Bailey, Antoine Porter and Johnnie Niupalau, who were all invaluable to the Eagle offense. Jackson mentioned he doesn’t plan on using the redshirt year he still has since JUCO ball gave him the opportunity to grow physically.

“The only thing that I will have is actual college experience. Even though it’s junior college football, there’s a lot of D-I athletes that are there playing ball. I can’t imagine it being a big speed (adjustment) when I go up.”

Miami’s only gets two, but two really solid players

I didn’t think Miami-OH would have only 15 new faced to add to the program at this point, but there’s obviously still time to add on to that. But on Wednesday, two were officially announced to be add-ons to the RedHawk roster.

The big name is Alex Malzone, the quarterback who transferred out of Michigan and will be a graduate transfer for the RedHawks this year. Miami lost Billy Bahl who transferred out of the program, but still has the starter Gus Ragland returning for his senior season. Watching how head coach Chuck Martin and his staff use the two this year on Martin’s contract year at Miami will be an interesting thing to watch going forward.

The other big name is out of high school and should play well for the RedHawks. Maleak Bryant is a 6-foot-6, 225 pound tight end that signed with the program on Wednesday, and is the highest-rated player in Miami’s signing class according to 247sports.com (0.8464). Bryant was a long-time Maryland commit before he backed off his decision to go to the Big Ten program.

Class rankings by 247sports

This is a needless debate, but now that at least 24 hours have passed since the start of the regular signing period, let’s look at how teams stack up in the 247sports.com class rankings.

The ranks are based on points, which is additive. Every player is “worth” a set number of points which is based on their composite scores. This is 247sports.com’s way of smoothing out class size and average rating of player talent, essentially.

  1. Toledo, 173.63 points (23 three-star guys, average rating of 82.67)
  2. Western Michigan, 163.69 (19 three-stars, 82.88)
  3. Bowling Green, 142.67 (13 three-stars, 81.09)
  4. Northern Illinois, 141.69 (14 three-stars, 80.59)
  5. Kent State, 126.34 (8 three-stars, 79.50)
  6. Eastern Michigan, 121.03 (8 three-stars, 79.37)
  7. Ball State, 112.00 (8 three-stars, 78.05)
  8. Ohio, 110.94 (5 three-stars, 78.63)
  9. Central Michigan, 109.20 (4 three-stars, 79.20)
  10. Akron, 103.53 (5 three-stars, 79.21)
  11. Miami-OH, 98.09 (6 three-stars, 79.18)
  12. Buffalo, 67.32 (3 three-stars, 78.32)

Now, let’s take these rankings with a grain of salt, as you always should. Starting from the bottom, Buffalo’s listed with nine total players on the website, but there are actually 16 players in UB’s class. Nine of the players have composite scores available, four players listed on Buffalo’s 247sports page don’t have scores ready and it’s missing three players.

Miami’s missing somebody from their total, Akron’s page is missing people, EMU’s got a few players missing, but the website isn’t missing out on a bunch of players. This will be worth revisiting in a month or so, but until then, it’s a good, quick reference point to see where teams are at.

Kent State is clearly the huge surprise in all of this. In under two months, the class went from last in the MAC (only four signees before Wednesday) to fifth in the conference with some really talented players that could play right away.

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