JONESBORO — Wednesday marked the beginning of college football’s first early signing period, but Arkansas State University Coach Blake Anderson said it mostly helped his program catch up on lost time.
Anderson, who just finished his fourth season at ASU, said the football program is still recovering from a stretch of five coaches in five seasons from 2010 to 2014 that left the team with 54 scholarship players, 31 shy of what the NCAA permits in the Football Bowl Subdivision.
The Red Wolves had 72 scholarship players this season, but Anderson said the team was “decimated with graduation last year,” having lost 28 seniors, 14 combined offensive and defensive starters. That led to more immediate help from junior college transfers in which the Red Wolves had 10 starters this season from the junior college ranks.
Five players contributed this season as blue shirts, which are signees whose scholarships count toward the next signing class. One of those signees was Ray Guy semifinalist punter Cody Grace.
The blue shirts, combined with 11 high school signees, three junior college transfers and three FBS transfers made up the ASU 2018 early commitment class that Anderson announced Wednesday.
“We have a tremendous amount of talent coming back and we’re adding some key components,” Anderson said. “I would like to think that gradually, throughout the next 3-5 years, we can start seeing [the program] stabilize. Less transfers. Less blue shirts. More traditional recruiting. But, at the same time, we want to be competitive every year, and we don’t ever want to pass on a guy that will allow us to do that.”
Anderson mentioned red-shirt junior wide receiver Dahu Green — who sat out the 2017 season after transferring from Oklahoma in August — as someone who will be one of the “significant impact players for us in the spring and next fall.”
He said it’s a “give and take” between signing transfer players who can fill needs immediately or signing high school players who require years of development.
“I don’t know when it’s completely stable,” Anderson said. “Maybe it takes longer than we want. But we want to be able to win and be competitive and continue to go to bowl games and play for championships and win championships. And I think that’s what we had to do in the immediate time frame to be competitive. The other route would have taken too long.”
Anderson said ASU “held off Kansas State” to sign 6-2, 311-pound defensive tackle Ryan Taylor, who is a 3-star recruit, according to 247Sports, and also had offers from Wake Forest, Florida Atlantic and Troy.
High school running backs Donovan Marshall and Marcel Murray, according to Anderson, “both physically have the ability to come in and compete Day One.” Anderson said Marshall was an “energetic guy” who “took it upon himself” to become the de facto student recruiter of the class.
The 2018 class, which Anderson said is “95 percent done,” filled the needs of running backs, defensive backs and defensive tackle. He said the Red Wolves are “still actively recruiting a [defensive end],” but “we could be done” and “could still be competitive with what we have.”
ASU’s 2018 early signing class
Tukua Ahoia;6-0;310;So.;DL;Mountain View, Calif.;College of San Mateo*
Triston Anderson;6-0;167;Fr.;CB;Rockwall, Texas;Rockwall HS
Derrick Bean;6-2;195;Fr.;LB;Pinson, Ala.;Clay-Chalkville HS
Antonio Fletcher;6-0;183;Fr.;S;Lithonia, Ga.;Martin Luther King HS
Cody Grace;6-2;223;R-Jr.;P;Perth, Western Australia;Warwick Senior***
Dahu Green;6-5;193;R-Jr.;WR;Oklahoma City;Oklahoma**
Detravion Green;6-0;175;Fr.;S;Ashdown;Ashdown HS
Jaden Harris;6-2;190;Fr.;DB;Monroe, La.;Ouachita Parish HS
Christian Howard;6-2;281;R-Sr.;DL;Indianapolis;Independence (Kan.) CC***
Christian Hoz;6-5;308;Fr.;OL;Covington, La.;Archbishop Hannan HS
Jevon Jones;6-0;160;Fr.;CB;Allen, Texas;Allen HS
Donovan Mitchell;5-11;179;Fr.;RB;St. Louis;Lutheran North HS
Demari Medley;5-10;175;So.;S;Gainesville, Fla.;Gainesville HS***
Hunter Moreton;6-1;293;So.;DL;Fort Smith;Southside HS***
Marcel Murray;5-10;200;Fr.;RB;Hiram, Ga.;Hiram HS
Bubba Ogbebor;6-0;189;R-So.;WR;Frisco, Texas;Boise State**
Ross Painter;6-4;225;Jr.;TE;Hernando, Miss.;Northeast Mississippi CC
Kevin Powers;6-0;213;R-Jr.;LB;Sacramento, Calif.;College of San Mateo (Calif.)***
Ryan Taylor;6-2;311;Fr.;DL;Loganville, Ga.;Grayson HS
Kevin Thurmon;6-3;288;R-Jr.;DL;Chicago;Ball State**
Thomas Toki;6-1;290;So.;DL;Mountain View, Calif.;College of San Mateo (Calif.)*
Reed Tyler;6-3;236;Fr.;TE;Brandon, Miss.;Brandon HS*
*Mid-year signee available for spring camp
**Already enrolled and sat out 2017 season due to NCAA transferring rules
***Enrolled fall 2017 and participated in the 2017 season, but counted toward the 2018 signing class