GVSU football signs 24 on NSD
Lakers add a number of linemen, wide receivers
There weren’t any surprises or excess drama for the Grand Valley State football team on National Signing Day. Unlike the frenzy happening at the Division I level, head coach Matt Mitchell unveiled GVSU’s recruits Wednesday morning via Twitter even before the scheduled two-hour “Signing Day Central” broadcast.
A total of 24 high school athletes signed a national letter of intent on Feb. 3 to play GVSU football next fall with commitments coming from across the Midwest.
The 2016 recruiting class is slightly smaller than usual, but still packs a lot of potential. The 24-member list features one quarterback, one running back, five wide receivers, one tight end, six offensive linemen, five defensive linemen, one linebacker and four defensive backs.
“It’s not a really big class and we knew that heading into it,” Mitchell said. “But I felt like we got some really good quality players, especially up front with the O-line and D-line. Kind of the wildcard position was the wide receivers.
“I’m not sure we were aiming to sign that many (receivers), but man, too many good ones to pass up.”
Mike Robb, 6-foot-6-inch receiver from Midland, Michigan, relieved the last of the stress that comes with National Signing Day when he verbally committed to the Lakers on Monday night following an official visit to Illinois State over the weekend.
“(Robb) had some MAC offers, things didn’t work out and he was a fit,” Mitchell said. “Legitimate Division I offers and interests, so for us to get him is pretty exciting.”
Receiver Luke Delong also comes from Midland, Michigan while the other wideouts are from out-of-state, including speedster Kareem Muhammad from Burr Ridge, Illinois, 6-foot-3-inch Zach Smith from Toledo, Ohio and Brandon Wadley from South Bend, Indiana.
One of the more well-known recruits is local prospect Tyler Bradfield from Rockford, Michigan. Bradfield is versatile, all-around player who is listed as defensive back, but played offense and lined up on special teams for Rockford High School. His sister, Erika Bradfield, was a redshirt sophomore on the GVSU soccer team last season.
Nearly half of the class was dedicated on winning the war in the trenches with the addition of 11 linemen.
“Between (Matt) Judon being a senior (this past season) and next year we have three guys that are going to be seniors, it was important to get some young defensive linemen in.” Mitchell said. “I don’t think you can ever recruit enough quality offensive linemen, that’s just the nature of things. We are losing (Brandon) Revenberg and (Jim) Walsh. It’s really hard to play as a true freshman on the line of scrimmage at a high level in Division II.”
On the offensive side of the ball, 6-foot-4-inch Ethan Culberson out of Utica High School and 315-pound Mat French from Thornville, Ohio have the physical attributes to be solid blockers. Headlining the defense is hard-hitting Chaz Westfall. At 6-foot-3-inches, 250-pounds, Westfall was named AP All-Ohio Division II Defensive Player of the Year.
The potential future anchor of the defensive line, Dennis Johnson from Blacklick, Ohio, wasn’t on the recruiting radar until he caught Mitchell’s attention on social media.
“I saw this kid follow me on Twitter and any time somebody does that, you click on his highlights to see if he is any good,” Mitchell said on the televised broadcast. “So, I clicked on his highlights and was watching on my phone and I was like ‘yeah, this kid is pretty good for being as big as he is.’ And so I followed him back and we DMed (direct messaged).”
The handful of other linemen and even those mentioned above might not see the field right away.
“I think it’s going to be difficult for any of these guys specifically to fill some of those holes,” Mitchell said. “We got some mid-year transfers that I think will be better equipped to do that.”
Not to be forgotten within all these new signings are the four transfer players who are currently enrolled at GVSU this spring. Offensive lineman Jacob Bass from Western Michigan, offensive lineman Jordan VanDort from Hope, receiver Zach Walker from Robert Morris and kicker Avery Echols from Liberty University all transferred to GVSU.
National Signing Day, whether it’s worth of the hype or not, does provide excitement for what the future might hold. While the odds are against many of these recruits to make an immediate impact next season, anything can happen – much like the recruiting process and how they ended up at GVSU.
“We had two freshmen who played this year, and I won’t have thought that if a year ago today you would have asked me if they would have been the guys playing,” Mitchell said. “We go through training camp and give them a bunch of opportunities to go out and fight for jobs. If they can earn significant playing time, then we are going to go ahead with them.”