February 3, 2010

Bulls-eye: Tech football coaching staff hits target with 2010 signees

Watson Brown's comments on 2010 signing
Watson Brown press conference - Part 1
Watson Brown press conference - Part 2

COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – Bulls-eye. Tennessee Tech football coach Watson Brown and his staff had a small target to aim toward this winter and the veteran coach feels like they’ve hit the bulls-eye.

“We feel like we have signed an outstanding group, one that really fills our needs,” Brown said. “This is a quality class.”

With a small senior graduating class and 60 signees in the past two years, Brown had only a handful of spots available when searching for the 2010 Golden Eagle recruits, and he is pleased about the 14 young men who submitted their paperwork Wednesday, the first day of the NCAA’s national signing period

“We’ve improved the quality every year and we’ve met our needs,” Brown said. “We needed offensive linemen and defensive linemen because we were down in numbers, and we got them. We needed some in the defensive secondary, and we wanted to add a quarterback.

“We did all of those things, and we got some other things, as well,” he said.

Of the 14 players sending in their signed paperwork Wednesday morning, nine are listed as either offensive linemen or defensive linemen as the Golden Eagles worked to secure the trenches. The group also includes two runningbacks, two defensive backs and one quarterback.

In addition to the 14 high school freshmen who will enroll at Tech in the fall, Brown also announced the addition of one transfer who is already enrolled at TTU. Runningback Jocques Crawford from Memphis is a transfer from Kansas who will become eligible this fall.

The quality of the signing class is evident in their long list of honors. Of the 15 additions to the roster, 11 were named high school All-State players.

The following are brief capsules of Tech’s 2010 signees:

DaJuan Brown – DL, 6-4, 255, Smyrna, Tenn./Blackman HS
DaJuan Brown earned three letters while playing on both sides of scrimmage for coach Phillip Shadowens at Blackman High School, in addition to a couple of letters on the basketball court. A three-year starter in the defensive line as well as tight end, Brown was named all-region and all-county, and was voted the team’s Most Valuable Lineman. As a senior, he finished the year with 58 total tackles including six quarterback sacks and five tackles-for-loss as the Blaze posted a 9-1 regular season record and captured the District 7AAA championship. Blackman finished the year with a 10-2 mark, reaching the second round of the TSSAA playoffs, and were ranked No. 3 in the state.

Nathan Bush – OL/DL, 6-5, 270, Morristown, Tenn./Hamblen-West HS
A strong two-way player for Hamblen-West High School and coaches Don Woods and Lamar Brown, Nathan anchored both the offensive and defensive lines for the Trojans. A four-year letterwinner, he also earned letters in basketball and swimming. He piled up 62 tackles, 12 tackles-for-loss and four sacks as a senior and was named to the Toyota East-West Tennessee All-Star game and the Kentucky-Tennessee National Guard Border Bowl. Twice a first-team all-conference pick, he was a second-team All-State selection as a junior. For his career, Bush had 151 total tackles, 12 quarterback sacks and 30 tackles-for-loss.

Christian Cantrell – DB, 5-11, 175, Piedmont, Ala./Piedmont HS

A two-sport, seven-time letterwinner at Piedmont (Ala.) High School, Christian Cantrell was a standout in both football and basketball for the Bulldogs. A highly effective cornerback, few opponents dared throw the ball in Cantrell’s direction. He was also a dangerous offensive weapon, scoring four touchdowns in Piedmont’s 35-28 Class 3A state championship game overtime win, the school’s first state title. Cantrell was named All-State, all-region and all-county, and earned his team’s MVP award while helping claim the region and state championships, rushing for 2,100 yards and 24 touchdowns. He earned three letters while playing cornerback and runningback under coach Steve Smith, in addition to four letters on the hardwood.

Aaron Cary – OL, 6-4, 265, Troy, Tenn./Obion County HS
An offensive lineman who was a key four-year letterwinner for coach Shawn Jackson’s Obion County High School Rebels. Cary was named first-team Class 4A All-District 13 and second-team All-West Tennessee, helping the team reach the first round of the TSSAA state playoffs. The winner of the Obion County Iron Man Award, he was also named to the Jackson Sun Dream Team after grading out above 90 percent for the season with 53 pancake blocks. He also played in the defensive line and made 31 tackles, 11 tackles-for-loss and four quarterback sacks. He will major in education.

*Jocques Crawford – RB, 6-1, 238, Memphis, Tenn./Cordova HS/University of Kansas
Originally recruited out of Cordova High School in Memphis by Texas Tech, Jocques Crawford wound up playing two seasons at Cisco (Texas) Junior College where he was named the National Junior College Player of the Year under coach John Parchman. A strong and explosive runningback, he then played one season at the University of Kansas in 2008 before transferring to Tech and sitting out the 2009 season. Crawford, who helped coach Leonard Crutchfield’s Cordova team to three consecutive TSSAA playoffs, will have one season of eligibility remaining for the Golden Eagles. As a high school junior, he rushed for 1,400 yards and 19 touchdowns and was named All-State. He was ranked as the 13th best runningback in the nation as a prep senior. At Cisco, Crawford was the top Juco rusher in the nation with 1,935 yards and 19 touchdowns, the most yards by a JC runningback in seven years. He had 1,069 yards and eight TDs as a freshman. At Kansas, he played in 13 games for the Jayhawks, rushing for 232 yards and four touchdowns. He also had 46 receiving yards and 126 on kick returns for coach Mark Mangino’s squad. He is enrolled in speech communications.

Cody Forbes – RB/DB, 5-11, 195, Elizabethton, Tenn./Elizabethton HS
Named TSWA all-state as a kick returner and conference Offensive Player of the Year as a senior, Cody Forbes is a four-year letterwinner under coach Shawn Witten at Elizabethton (Tenn.) High School. He helped his team win the conference title and reach the TSAA state semi-finals in 2009, finishing with an 11-3 mark. A versatile player, Forbes played runningback and receiver, returned kicks and punts, and also played safety and outside linebacker. He was chosen captain of the Tennessee-Kentucky All-Star game. During his career, he averaged nearly six yards per carry on the way to 1,585 rushing yards and 21 touchdowns. He also piled up 674 punt and kick return yards and four touchdowns, and finished with 29 career TDs. As a senior, he had 859 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns, 208 receiving yards and three scores. A real speedster, Forbes was also the TSSAA state champion in the triple jump. He will major in business.

Jordan Johnson – DL, 5-11, 270, Miami, Fla./Carol City HS
A second-team Florida All-State selection and a two-sport standout at Carol City High School, Jordan Johnson was an effective defensive lineman for the Chiefs and coach Harold Barnwell. He posted 56 total tackles as a senior, including 16 tackles-for-loss and eight quarterback sacks, on his way to earning selections to two all-star games, including The USA vs. The World All-Star game in Ft. Lauderdale, where he helped claim a 17-0 victory and registered 1.5 tackles-for-loss. Named the Defensive Lineman of the Year for his team, he was a four-year letterwinner in both football and track & field. He plans to study criminal justice.

Midoho Okpokowuruk – DL, 6-2, 230, Charlotte, N.C./The McCallie School
A four-year letterwinner as a defensive end under coach Rick Whitt at The McCallie School in Chattanooga, Midoho Okpokowuruk was the league leader in tackles-for-loss and ranked second in the conference in quarterback sacks. A versatile athlete, he also lettered four years in track & field, combining his speed with his strength while competing in the sprints, shot put and discus. He was also a three-year letterman on the basketball squad for the Blue Tornado. He plans to major in engineering.

James Normand – OL, 6-2, 285, Oak Ridge, Tenn./Oak Ridge HS
Named All-State as a lineman, James Normand also earned a spot on the National Guard Academic All-State team during his outstanding four-year career at Oak Ridge (Tenn.) High School. The first lineman to letter all four years at his high school, Normand was an effective offensive lineman, not allowing a single quarterback sack his final two seasons while splitting his playing time between center and tackle. He was the District 3A Lineman of the Year and was picked for both the Tennessee-Kentucky Border Bowl and the Tennessee East-West All-Star Game. Twice picked as team captain, he also played two seasons of basketball and three on the baseball team, setting the school’s home run record as a senior. He will major in accounting.

Doug Page – RB/TE, 6-2, 225, Franklin, Tenn./Franklin Road Academy
A versatile athlete out of Franklin Road Academy, Doug Page will join the Golden Eagle roster as a runningback/tight end after piling up more than 4,500 yards of offense and 41 touchdowns as a ball carrier, passer and receiver. He played his sophomore season at St. Thomas High School in Houston, Texas, before finishing up his final two years at FRA. He helped Franklin Road to the second round of the TSSAA playoffs as a senior, the first appearance for the school in the state tournament in 14 years. As a senior, Page rushed for 1,508 yards and 16 touchdowns and passed for 447 yards and four TDs. His junior season netted 667 rushing, 755 passing and 151 receiving yards. At St. Thomas, he had over 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns in just five games. He was a first-team All-State pick and the Region Player of the Year on his way to playing in the Toyota East-West Tennessee All-Star Game. He plans to major in engineering.

Randall Reeves – OL, 6-2, 290, McAdory, Ala./McAdory HS
A two-time Birmingham All-Metro selection and an honorable mention Alabama All-State player, Randall Reeves was a three-year starter at center for coach David Powell’s McAdory High School squad. Voted permanent team captain, Reeves graded out at 90 percent of better in every game and had 62 pancake blocks as a senior. He also earned three letters on the McAdory baseball team. An outstanding student, he was Birmingham News Scholar-Athlete of the Week and a member of the Math Honor Society.

Wesley Sherrill – OL, 6-4, 290, Antioch, Tenn./Brentwood Academy
A four-year letterwinner and a three-year starter in both sides of the line of scrimmage for coach Ralph Potter at Brentwood Academy, Wesley Sherrill comes to the Golden Eagles to play on the offensive line. Starting more than 30 career games for the Eagles, he helped post an 8-4 record in his senior season on his way to earning first-team all-Mid State honors from The Tennessean and All-State selection from TSWA. With Sherrill anchoring the lines, Brentwood Academy was the state Division II runnerup in both his sophomore and junior seasons and reached the semi-finals as a senior. He graded out at 90 percent for the season and had 36 pancake blocks. He plans to major in civil engineering.

Matthew Smith – DL, 6-4, 285, Jonesboro, Ga./North Clayton HS

A four-year letterwinner on the football field at North Clayton (Ga.) High School for coach Rodney Hackney, Matthew Smith is a defensive lineman who was putting up big numbers for the Eagles through the first five games of his senior season before a knee injury cut his prep career short. He helped the team go 4-1 through the early part of the schedule before finishing 10-3 and going three rounds into the state 4-AAAA playoffs. Smith accounted for 46 total tackles and five tackles for loss in his five contests. He plans to major in mechanical engineering.

Darian Stone – QB, 6-0, 185, Clinton, Tenn./Cinton HS

A game-breaking quarterback and a two-time All-State selection under coach Andy Shattuck at Clinton (Tenn.) High School, Darian Stone amassed more than 7,500 yards of total offense in his three seasons at the controls of the Dragons. He took Clinton to a 10-0 regular season record as a senior, passing for 2,093 yards and 23 touchdowns with only two interceptions. He also rushed for 725 yards and 10 scores on his way to first-team All-State laurels. A Mr. Football finalist, he finished his career with 5,734 yards and 59 touchdowns passing, along with 1,864 yards and 22 touchdowns on the ground. He plans to major in criminal justice.

Jermaine Williams – DB, 6-4, 186, Chattanoog, Tenn./Brainerd HS

A two-sport standout at Chattanooga’s Brainerd High School, Jermaine played wide receiver on offense and strong safety on defense under coach Marvin Jones. In his final two seasons, he had more than 2,000 receiving yards and 15 touchdowns. On the basketball court, he helped the team post a 30-4 record and win district and regional crowns before falling in the state finals. He was named 6-AA second-team all-conference on both offense and defense. He will study business.

Tennessee Tech's 2010 Football Signees

Name Pos. Ht. Wt. Hometown/High School
DaJuan Brown DL 6-4 255 Smyrna, Tenn./Blackman HS
Nathan Bush OL/DL 6-5 270 Morristown, Tenn./Hamblen-West HS
Christsian Cantrell DB 5-11 175 Piedmont, Ala./Piedmont HS
Aaron Cary OL 6-4 265 Troy, Tenn./Obion County HS
*Jocques Crawford RB 6-1 238 Memphis, Tenn./Cordova HS/Kansas
Cody Forbes RB/DB 5-11 195 Elizabethton, Tenn./Elizabethton HS
Jordan Johnson DL 5-11 270 Miami, Fla./Carol City HS
Midoho Okpokowuruk DL 6-2 230 Charlotte, N.C./The McCallie School
James Normand OL 6-2 285 Oak Ridge, Tenn./Oak Ridge HS
Doug Page RB/TE 6-2 225 Franklin, Tenn./Franklin Road Academy
Randall Reeves OL 6-2 290 McAdory, Ala./McAdory HS
Wesley Sherrill OL 6-4 290 Antioch, Tenn./Brentwood Academy
Matthew Smith DL 6-4 285 Jonesboro, Ga./North Clayton HS
Darian Stone QB 6-0 185 Clinton, Tenn./Clinton HS
Jermaine Williams DB 6-4 186 Chattanooga, Tenn./Brainerd HS

* indicates transfer from Kansas and already enrolled at Tech in 2009-2010