Football team inks recruits

Steven Voicik

Head football coach Doug Martin discusses the signing of 25 high school student-athletes to national letters of intent. Martin said this class has more size than classes in the past.

Daniel Owen | Daily Kent Stater

Credit: Ron Soltys

With a fresh four-year contract extension, coach Doug Martin wants a new philosophy for Kent State football — a winning philosophy.

With hopes of furthering that philosophy, yesterday afternoon Martin and his coaching staff announced the signing of 25 high school student-athletes to national letters of intent as part of “National Signing Day,” the first official day high school athletes can sign with their prospective college teams.

Martin believes these new recruits will possess the same passion and winning attitude that helped Kent State turn things around last season.

The Kent State football team had the fourth-largest win turnaround in the nation last season, improving its record by five wins, a mark bettered only by Arkansas, Wake Forest and Rice, who each had six.

The Flashes ended the season with an overall record of 6-6, 5-3 Mid-American Conference, good for second place in the MAC East division.

With last year’s success, Kent State was able to expand its recruiting base, as they signed players from Pennsylvania, Georgia, North Carolina, Virginia, California, Tennessee and Washington. This year’s class nearly doubled last year’s total of 14 recruits.

“Schools are worried about us now,” Martin said. “They took notice after the success we had last season.”

The Flashes will return many familiar faces, losing only three starters on offense and four on defense. However, losses include standouts Daniel Muir at linebacker and Najah Pruden at wide receiver.

“We did a great job of filling our needs across the board,” Martin said. “This class has both size and speed.”

While the coaches were excited about all of the new recruits, they were especially high on Alan Vanderink, quarterback Giorgio Morgan and wide receiver Ryan Randolph.

Vanderink, a local product from Hiram, attended Crestwood High School. In three years of football, Vanderink gained 3,826 yards and scored 51 touchdowns. He holds Crestwood records for most yards in a season with 2,047 and touchdowns in a season with 26.

“Alan wanted to come to Kent State from the beginning,” Martin said. “He definitely fits the bill of a Golden Flash. He is a tough, smart and versatile player.”

In addition to playing football at Crestwood, Vanderink also lettered in basketball, baseball and track and field.

Martin compared one recruit, Morgan, to former Kent State quarterback Joshua Cribbs.

Martin praised Morgan’s ability as a passer and also compared him to David Garrard, currently the starting quarterback for the Jacksonville Jaguars. Martin coached Garrard in his tenure at East Carolina State.

“Giorgio is very mobile, and moves well in the pocket. Coming in, he will have time to learn the game and has the potential to become a great player for us,” Martin said.

Last season the Flashes improved on offense with the addition of quarterback Julian Eldelman and the running back tandem of Tony Howard and Eugene Jarvis.

This year’s recruiting class looks to find them more weapons at wide receiver.

“Our top four receivers, in terms of catches, were seniors on last year’s team. So we did a great job of filling that particular area of need,” Martin said.

The main recruit at receiver is Randolph. At 6-foot-3, 180 pounds, Martin believes Randolph has a good frame and the potential to become a playmaker on the perimeter. In addition to adding Randolph, the Flashes also signed Rashad Tukes, Aaron Robinson and Josiah Andrews at the position.

While the team fell short of obtaining a conference title last season, Martin hopes the winning attitudes his recruits developed in high school will transfer to the college game.

“We tried to recruit kids from winning backgrounds and winning programs,” Martin said. “Eventually we will have a team full of kids who only know winning.”

Contact sports correspondent Steve Voicik at [email protected].