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Gamble pleased by UAPB's early class

by Erick Taylor | December 16, 2021 at 2:13 a.m.

CL.;POS.;NAME;HT;WT;HOMETOWN

So.;DT;R.J. Evans;6-0;279;High Point, N.C.

Fr.;LB;Rodney Wallis;6-2;225;New Orleans

Fr.;DB;Tyler Shaw;6-2;173;Memphis

So.;QB;Mekhi Hagans;6-3;200;St. Louis

Fr;OL;Samuel Young III;6-5;290;Bloomington, Ind.

Fr.;OL;Jaylen Francis;6-7;325;Hazel Park, Mich.

So.;WR;Javien Clemmer;6-0;175;Cedar Hill, Texas

The University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff took a major step in ensuring the 2022 season won't end up like 2021 by locking down a signing class that Coach Doc Gamble said he believes will increase significantly by the time the early signing period ends.

Gamble got national letters of intent from seven players during Wednesday's opening day of the signing period, with all of them fitting a need.

"And we've still got several teetering," he said. "It's recruiting so we know it's going to come down to the wire with them. The ones we have, we've got them locked in, and by the end of [Wednesday], we should have at least 10.

"The guys we've been on, some other people have gotten in on them late, and are trying to flip them. But that's part of the territory."

The signing period ends Friday, but for now, UAPB has a group that could help immediately, especially after what transpired this season.

After advancing to the Southwestern Athletic Conference title game and finishing with a 4-1 record during the spring, the Golden Lions went 2-9 in the fall. UAPB lost nine of its last 10 games, including seven in a row at one point.

UAPB did land what he called a "surprise" when they signed linebacker Rodney Wallis from Livingston Collegiate Academy in New Orleans. The 6-2, 225-pounder also spent time at defensive end for the Wolves.

"I think he's going to be really special," Gamble said. "Just through a relationship, we were able to get him. He's going to be a good one. And he'll hit you."

Gamble said he was also high on Tyler Shaw, a 6-2, 173-pound defensive back from PURE Academy in Memphis. The speedster, who can also play wide receiver, was one of five players from that school to sign with Division I programs. For Gamble, getting a commitment from Shaw will boost UAPB secondary that struggled at times.

"That position is the biggest area that we wanted to hit," Gamble said. "During the season, we even had to move some wideouts over on that side just to create some depth. We were forced to play some young guys because of all of the injuries.

"Shoot, we played our last three games without a starting DB. We had to throw those youngins into the deep water, and they had to learn how to swim. We really didn't want to play them that soon because some of them weren't ready, but they had to play."

UAPB also signed defensive tackle R.J. Evans from Navarro (Texas) Junior College to help shore up the interior. Offensively, the Golden Lions got wide receiver Javien Clemmer, a transfer from New Mexico State, and offensive linemen Samuel Young III from Bloomington (Ind.) North and Jaylen Frances from Hazel Park, Mich., as well as quarterback Mekhi Hagens from Cisco (Texas) Community College.

"We're excited," he said. "We think we'll have a really solid group when it's all said and done that'll help us get better."

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