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February 2, 2011

Versatility key in Golden Eagle 2011 football signing class

To view Coach Brown's comments click here

COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – Tennessee Tech football coach Watson Brown and his staff have added another outstanding group of recruits to the Golden Eagle roster, announcing the addition of 18 signees Wednesday. 

The 2011 signing class includes nine players from Tennessee high schools, five from Alabama, and two each from Ohio and Georgia.

"Our recruiting classes have gotten better every year," Brown said. "This one is not as deep because of the numbers, but I think it is a really good class."

With another small senior class departing and 75 signees in the past three years, Brown had only a handful of spots available when searching for the 2011 Golden Eagle recruits. He is pleased about the 18 young men who submitted their paperwork Wednesday, the first day of the NCAA's national signing period.

"The main thing we had to do was get outside speed, and we did that. We found speed at corner, at receiver, and returners. It was important to get some skills guys who can go, and we were able to do that on both sides of the ball," Brown said. "This was much more of a 'skill' year for us.

"We also signed the best kicker in the state," Brown added about Maryville's Zach Sharpe.

Versatility within the signing class will also be a plus for the Golden Eagles.

"We have a lot of guys who can do many things," Brown said. "There are a lot of two-way guys who played on offense and defense, and some three-way guys on returns. We have guys who rushed for a lot of yards, guys who caught passes for a lot of yards.

"This class is a group of good athletes with good speed and playmaking ability," he said. "The impressive thing is that they really don't care where they play. There's a whole lot who played two positions, some three, and we can place them as we go."

Four of the signees have already gained experience playing in Tucker Stadium, seeing action in December when their teams competed in the TSSAA state championship games.

"I think hosting those games helps us all-around," Brown said. "Four of them actually played in the stadium, but hosting the games helps us in more ways than just signing those kids. It's a big plus for us across the state, with all the high schools fighting to get to Cookeville, to get to Tennessee Tech."

Addressing the needs within the team was the focus of this signing class, and Brown said the Golden Eagle staff achieved the result they aimed toward. 

"We've improved the quality every year and we've met our needs," Brown said. "We had three primary needs and not a lot of scholarships. We knew this was going to be a DB year, a receiver year and a few defensive linemen. I thought those were our needs."

Of the players sending in their signed paperwork Wednesday morning, the group includes seven defensive backs, seven receivers and three defensive linemen. Because so many played in more than one position, the group also includes four who are runningbacks, three quarterbacks, one offensive lineman and one kicker.

The following are brief capsules of Tech's 2011 signees:

Eric Barr (5-9, 185, RB/WR) was a four-year starter on a Buford High School team that won four consecutive Georgia state championships. A two-way player, he was selected to play in both the Gwinnett County All-Star game and the Georgia North-South All-Star game. On offense, he was an explosive ball carrier, averaging 10.7 yards per carry and scoring five touchdowns. As a receiver, he averaged 12 yards per catch and scored one touchdown. On defense, he finished the year with 38 total tackles, two interceptions and one quarterback sack. He broke up five passes and caused two fumbles. He was also a threat on special teams, returning kicks and punts. He averaged nearly 20 yards per kickoff return. 

Steven Bush (5-11, 185, RB) was a three-year standout at Cookeville High School, serving as team captain as a senior on his way to being named District 6 Class 6A Most Valuable Player. An Honor student, he was named to the Herald-Citizen All-Upper Cumberland first-team, and was voted by his team as the Most Valuable Offensive Player. He also received the prestigious Cav Award. As a senior, he rushed for 1,292 yards and 13 touchdowns, averaging 6.5 yards per try. He also has 202 receiving yards and two touchdowns, 16 punt returns for 205 yards and 15 kick returns for 238 yards. On defense, he had 36 total tackles and three interceptions.

Tommy Campbell (6-2, 250, DT) received numerous honors following his senior season at Wyoming High School, including first-team Ohio all-state. The Cincinnati Hills League Defensive Player of the Year and first-team all-conference pick, he earned first-team all-city from the Cincinnati Enquirer and was all-region, first-team All-Southwest and first-team by Tristatefootball.com. Named the Anthony Munoz Division 3 Defensive Lineman of the Year, he finished the season with 116 total tackles and 15 quarterback sacks. He also had one interception and forced four fumbles.  

Jamel Cook (5-11,1 75, DB) was a decorated player during his career at Birmingham's Spain Park High School, including Birmingham News All-State selection. He was named to the Pat Patrick Best in Football Team, and was chosen Best Overall Defensive Back at the Arian Pro Football Camp. Voted the team's Most Valuable Defensive Back, he had 82 total tackles as a senior, blocked two punts and blocked two field goals. He also broke up 18 pass attempts.

Stephon Davis-Boyd (6-3, 250, DE) ranked among the top defensive players in West Tennessee as a senior at Mitchell High School in Memphis. He was a first-team All-Metro selection and second-team 16-AAA all-district winner after making 54 tackles, including 14 tackles-for-loss and six quarterback sacks. He broke up three passes, had 15 quarterback hurries and returned a fumble 85 yards for a touchdown.

Ron Durbin (6-0, 190, RB/WR) piled up 2,156 all-purpose yards and 22 touchdowns during his career at Gatlinburg-Pittman High School, culminating in all-state honors among his many post-season awards. He had 53 catches for a school-record 853 yards, including 12 for touchdowns for another school mark. He also had 652 rushing yards on 70 carries, 173 yards and one touchdown in nine punt returns and 453 yards in kickoff returns. Twice named all-county and all-district, he was a Tennessee All-State selection and was voted the East Tennessee Player of the Year.

Neil Gannaway (6-4, 190, WR) was a three-sport athlete, an Honor student and a two-year starter on the football team at Vestavia Hills High School. As a senior, he was named to the Birmingham News All-South/Hoover Football Team when he tied for the team lead with 12 touchdown catches for 1,088 receiving yards, averaging 21 yards per catch. He was a 2010 Regions Athlete of the Year nominee and was a Thompson Reynolds Scholar-Athlete. 

Tra'Darius Goff (5-11, 225, RB/LB) is an Honor student at Columbia Central High School, and was a standout on both sides of scrimmage for the Lions. In the Class 5-A state championship game in Tucker Stadium, he was named both the Offensive and Defensive Player of the Game. The middle Tennessee Player of the Year, Goff is a two-time all-state selection, setting the school's all-time records for both scoring and tackles. As a junior he had 28 rushing touchdowns and more than 170 tackles, and as a senior he had more than 200 tackles and rushed for 26 touchdowns. 

Justin Ivory (6-6, 340, OL) received accolades for his play in the offensive line at Vestavia Hills High School, including back-to-back selection on the All-Over the Mountain Team. He was twice named to the Pat Patrick Best of High School Football Best of the Rest, and as a senior earned a spot on the Birmingham News All-Metro Team and the All-South/HooverTeam. The Scott Mitchell Waggoner Memorial Award winner, he was his team's Most Improved Player in 2009.

Connor Maitland (6-0, 175, WR/QB) was a three-year starter for Franklin Road Academy, and earned TSWA Division 2 All-State honors following an 8-4 senior season. As a senior, he accounted for 1,530 yards of offense, rushing for 890 yards, passing for 421, and adding another 210 as a receiver. He scored 16 touchdowns. On defense, he made 35 total tackles and intercepted three passes. The 2010 East-Middle Region Division 2 MVP, he was a two-time all-region selection and was selected to play in the 2010 Toyota East vs. West Tennessee All-Star Classic.

Joshua Pleasant (5-10, 175, DB/WR) was a four-year starter and two-way standout at Brentwood Academy, earning the opportunity to play in the 2010 Toyota East vs. West All-Star Classic. In that showcase, he piled up more the 200 all-purpose yards and was voted the Offensive MVP for the West team. A versatile player, he found four different ways to score, reaching the end zone as a receiver, tailback, and returning both punts and kickoffs. A speedster, he grabbed 50 passes for more than 1,000 yards and rushed 52 times for more than 500 yards. He also had more than 1,000 yards in kick and punt returns. He led the team to the TSSAA state semifinals as a sophomore and the title game the past two seasons.

Patrick Prewitt (6-1, 180, DB/WR) was a two-way starter at Vestavia Hills High School, posting impressive credentials as both a defensive back and receiver. Named to the 2008 All-Metro South team, he earned a spot on the 2009 All-Over the Mountain Team and was chosen the Pat Patrick Best in High School Football Defensive Player of the Year. As a sophomore he had six touchdown receptions and intercepted four passes. As a junior, he had five TD catches for the offense, and on defense made 46 tackles, three interceptions and defended five passes. In his career, he had 12 scoring catches and rushed for two touchdowns, and also picked off two passes.

Avery Rollins (6-3, 230, DE) was a two-way starter at Gadsden City High School, as well as handling the long snapper duties for the Titans. On defense, he made 90 total tackles including 12 tackles-for-loss and five quarterback sacks. He caused two fumbles, broke up five pass attempts and had one interception. He helped his team roll to a 10-4 overall record and play to the third round of the Alabama Class 6A playoffs after going 6-1 in conference play.

Zachary Sharp (6-2, 195, PK/PU) proved a valuable member of the team at Maryville High School as the team's placekicker. A first-team all-state selection, he was named Tennessee Mr. Football on Special Teams. In his solid senior year, he was 10-for-13 on field goal tries with a long of 50 yards. He was 66-for-67 in PAT kicks. Sharp was the starting kicker for Maryville for four seasons, beginning her career with a Class 4A state championship victory in 2007. He capped it in December in Tucker Stadium with his team's 6A title win over Smyrna. He set a state record by making 111 consecutive PAT kicks, and many of his kickoffs sailed for touchbacks.

Austin Tallant (5-10, 190, QB/DB) was a three-year starter for seven-time state champion Alcoa High School, capping his final season with all-state honors. A two-time all-Blount County pick, he was all-district in 2010, helping post a 15-0 record and capture the Class 3A state crown in Tucker Stadium. In the 2010 East vs. West High School All-Star game, he was chosen the Defensive MVP after making 19 total tackles, including 10 solo stops, breaking up two passes and intercepting a pass. During the regular season, playing on defense in seven games he had 22 total tackles, four passes defended and one interception, in addition to returning a punt for a touchdown. During the TSSAA playoffs, he added 10 tackles, an interception and three passes defended.  

Cory Webber (6-1, 185, DB) was the Defensive Player of the Year at Winton Woods High School in Cincinnati, setting the school record with 14 career interceptions. A team captain, he was chosen first-team all-conference, first-team All-City, first-team All-Southwest and first-team Ohio All-State.

Steve Wilson (6-3, 195, QB/WR) was a multi-dimensional threat at Smyrna High School, helping the Bulldogs reach the TSSAA Class 5-A quarterfinals in 2008 and place as the 2010 Class 6-A runnerup. The team posted a 13-2 record last season. Twice named all-District 7-AAA, he was also an all-region pick. He completed 60 percent of his career pass attempts for 3,470 yards and 36 touchdowns with just 10 interceptions. He also rushed for 850 yards and four touchdowns. In his senior campaign, he was 128-for-212 for 1,650 yards and 13 touchdowns with six picks. He rushed for 600 yards in his senior season.

Luke Woodason (5-11, 180, DB) posted some outstanding credentials as a two-year starter on the football team at Northwest Whitfield High School in Atlanta, in addition to earning all-state honors in the pole vault. As a junior, he made 75 tackles in 10 games, forced a fumble and added an interception on his way to earning second-team Northwest Georgia All-Area honors. Last season, playing in seven games, he made 61 tackles, forced a fumble and picked off a pass. He was a NW Georgia All-Area first-team pick, and was named Chattanooga All-Area second-team.

Tennessee Tech's 2011 signing class:

PLAYER Pos Ht Wt Hometown High School
Eric Barr RB/WR 5-9 185 Buford, Ga. Buford HS
Steven Bush RB 5-11 185 Cookeville, Tenn. Cookeville HS
Tommy Campbell DT 6-2 250 Cincinnati, Ohio Wyoming HS
Jamel Cook DB
5-11
175
Birmingham, Ala.
Spain Park HS
Stephon Davis-Boyd
DE
6-3
250
Memphis, Tenn.
Mitchell HS
Ron Durbin
RB/WR
6-0
190
Gatlinburg, Tenn.
Gatlinburg-Pittman HS
Neil Gannaway
WR
6-4
190
Vestavia, Ala.
Vestavia Hills HS
Tra'Darius Goff
RB/LB
5-11
225
Columbia, Tenn. 
Columbia Central HS
Justin Ivory
OL
6-6
340
Vestavia, Ala.
Vestavia Hills HS
Connor Maitland
WR/QB
6-0
175
Nashville, Tenn.
Franklin Road Academy
Joshua Pleasant
DB/WR
5-10
 175 Brentwood, Tenn.
Breentwood Academy
Patrick Prewitt
DB/WR
6-1
180
Vestavia, Ala.
Vestavia Hills HS
Avery Rollins DE
6-3
230
Gadsden, Ala.
Gadsden City HS
Zachary Sharp PK/PU
6-2
195
Maryville, Tenn.
Maryville HS
Austin Tallant
QB/DB
5-10
190
Alcoa, Tenn.
Alcoa HS
Cory Webber
DB
6-1
185
Cincinnati, Ohio
Winton Woods HS
Steve Wilson
QB/WR
6-3
195
Smyrna, Tenn.
Smyrna HS
Luke Woodason
DB
5-11
180
Atlanta, Ga.
Northwest Whitfield HS