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February 1, 2012

Tech signing class of 24 features 18 Tennessee preps; Linemen a major focus

 COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – Offensive and defensive linemen, as well as Tennessee high school standouts, were the primary ingredients among the 24 signees announced Wednesday by Tennessee Tech football head coach Watson Brown.

The defending Ohio Valley Conference champions listed six defensive linemen and five offensive linemen among the 24 signees, while 18 of the group hail from in-state schools. The group also included three players from Georgia and one each from Alabama, California and Ohio.

In addition to the 11 linemen, the signing class includes three receivers, two safeties, two quarterbacks, two linebackers, two runningbacks, one cornerback and one punter/kicker.

"We're excited about this group," said Brown, who led Tech to the 2011 OVC championship and Football Championship Subdivision playoffs. "Each class gets a little stronger, and this is the best one we've had. We were able to meet the immediate needs that we went after."

Brown said his staff focused on the offensive and defensive line positions because the Golden Eagles had several holes to fill.

"We feel very good about the entire class," Brown said. "We had a lot of linemen, but we also have a lot of exciting skill plays on the offensive side in this class.
 
"This was a big year for offensive linemen for us, and we think we hit all the positions that we needed to fill. We have five very good players coming in and they will be our future. We knew we had to have depth in the offensive line, and we accomplished that.

"It's the same thing on the other side with the defensive line," Brown added. "We lost so many last year and this year, and we'll lose some more next year, so we needed to bring some in for the defensive line."

"Overall, we hit our needs and we're excited about the opportunity to have so many in-state kids. This was a good year in the state of Tennessee," Brown said.

The list includes 23 current high school seniors and one junior college signee.

Several of the signees this year, as well as those of the past two years, have experience playing at Tennessee Tech having led their teams to TSSAA state championship appearances in Tucker Stadium.

Here is a brief bio on each of the 24 signees announced

Radir Annoor, RB, 5-10, 195, Nashville, Tenn., Brentwood Academy
An outstanding two-sport competitor at Brentwood Academy, Radir had just completed an award-winning junior season on the football field and on the track when a summer injury forced him to the sidelines for his senior football season for the Eagles. As a junior for coach Ralph Potter, Radir was a scoring machine from his runningback position, scoring 21 touchdowns for a team-leading 126 total points. He rushed for 1,044 yards on 154 carries and added five catches for 54 yards. Following his football season, he used his speed to help the Brentwood Academy track & field team capture the TSSAA state championship. He was named all-state in both track and football, and has numerous All-America laurels in track from AAU and USATF. He is the son of Radir and Tamala Annoor.

Colton Belew, DB, 6-2, 180. Columbia, Tenn., Columbia Central HS
A three-sport letterman at Columbia Central High School, Colton was a three-year starter for coach Vance Belew on the football team in addition to playing baseball and running track. A two-time 8AAA All-District selection, he helped the Lions capture two district crowns and the 2010 TSSAA Class 5A state championship in Tucker Stadium after a runnerup finish in 2009. As a two-way senior starter, he had 22 catches for 373 yards and two touchdowns as a wide receiver and made 51 total tackles including three sacks and added four interceptions from his safety spot on the defense. He is the son of Philip and Tammy Belew and plans to major in secondary education.  

Eric Belew, WR, 6-2, 180, Columbia, Tenn., Columbia Central HS
A three-year starter for the Lions at Columbia Central High School, Eric spent his prep career playing for his father, head coach Vance Belew and helped the Lions capture the 2010 TSSAA Class 5A state championship. As a wide receiver, free safety and return specialist, Belew visited the end zone 25 times in his career, including 18 touchdown catches. He finished his career with 96 catches for 1,959 yards. On defense, he made 144 total tackles and 12 interceptions in three seasons. He also returned two punts, one kickoff and two interceptions for scores. Following the 2011 season he was named all-state and all Mid-State and the Defensive MVP of District 8AAA. The son of Vance and Paula Belew, he plans to study secondary education. He was also a key member of the CCHS track team in sprints and relays.

Karl Buchanan, DT, 6-2, 280, Los Angeles, Calif., Santa Monica College
The product of Hamilton High School in Los Angeles, Karl has spent two seasons at Santa Monica College where he was a standout on defense and earned a handful of post-season honors for the Corsairs. He helped the team cap off an historic season by winning its first American Pacific Conference championship in 20 years, finishing the regular season with an 8-2 record, a 6-0 conference mark and an invitation to the All-American Bowl. Buchanan had 35 solo tackles and 57 total tackles in 2011, and led the team with 12 tackles-for-loss. He also forced a fumble, recovered a fumble, broke up two passes and added five quarterback sacks on his way to all-conference honors. The son of Winston and Belle Rose Buchanan, Karl was all-conference and all-city coming out of high school.

Krys Cates, WR, 6-2, 190, Newport, Tenn., Cocke County HS
Krys Cates was the Most Valuable Player and team captain for the Cocke County High School football squad where he lettered four years under head coach Greg Hacker. A versatile athlete, he has also lettered four years on the basketball team and three times in track, and was conference champion in both the long jump and the high jump. On the gridiron, he played eight different positions, and was a threat every time he touched the ball. As a quarterback, runningback, receiver and return specialist, he piled up 14 total touchdowns in 2011 including seven on punt and kick returns. In all, he gained 1,680 all-purpose yards as a senior, and was a first-team all-state selection. He was invited to participate in two all-star games, and played in the East-West All-Star contest. He is the son of Denae Cates.

Logan Cavender, LB, 6-2, 215, Fairview, Tenn., Fairview HS
A four-year letter winner at Fairview High School, Logan was team captain for the most successful senior class in school history. A linebacker with uncanny vision and quickness, he is the son of Tony and Melissa Cavender and Valerie Coddington. As a senior, he led the team with 125 total tackles including 15 quarterback sacks and 16 tackles-for-loss. On the offensive side, he rushed for 215 yards and three touchdowns on 41 carries, and caught six passes for 25 yards. As a junior, he earned two different first-team all-state selections, was the team's Defensive Player of the Year and made the Super All-Region team. As a senior, he repeated his Super All-Region, Defensive Player of the Year and TSWA first-team all-state honors. He was inducted into his school's Hall of Champions this year.

William Chatmon, OL, 6-4, 255, Kennesaw, Ga., North Cobb HS
William was a standout offensive lineman for North Cobb High School, helping the Warriors to their first Georgia State High School playoff appearance in four years. Averaging 5.5 pancake blocks per game, he allowed just two quarterback sacks throughout the past two years at right tackle and wrapped up his senior season grading out highest on the offensive line. The son of Tonya and William Chatmon, he played his high school football for head coach Shane Queen, an all-OVC defensive lineman at Tennessee Tech from 1990-93. William was also selected and played in the 2012 Cobb All-Star game.

Jared Davis, QB, 6-3, 190, Tullahoma, Tenn., Tullahoma HS
Jared comes to the Golden Eagles with an impressive list of credentials, both on the field and in the classroom. The son of Jerry and Gwen Davis, he will major in engineering. A versatile athlete, he lettered three seasons as quarterback for the Wildcat football team, and also started three seasons on the basketball team and one year each in baseball as a sophomore and tennis as a junior. He helped Tullahoma to the District 8AAA District championship as a junior and quarterfinals of the TSSAA class 5A playoffs. He was named the District 8AAA Offensive MVP and the team's Offensive MVP, and two outlets named him the Player of the Year in his region. He finished his career as the all-time winningest starting quarterback, leading the team to 21 wins in 30 games during his three seasons. A delegate to American Legion Boys State who spent a week on the Tech campus in 2011, Jared competed 54.8 percent of his career passes and threw for 4,485 yards and 38 touchdowns. He also rushed for 7,894 yards and 17 touchdowns.

Brett Dillard, OL, 6-3, 280, Mt. Juliet, Tenn., Mt. Juliet HS
An offensive tackle for the Mt. Juliet Golden Bears, Brett was a three-year starter for coach Roger Perry and was named the District 9AAA Most Valuable Offensive Lineman. A two-time all-district selection, he was part of an offensive unit that rushed for 3,857 yards in 2011. A starter in 36 consecutive games, Dillard graded out at 91 percent as a senior and 85 percent for his career. He didn't allow a single quarterback sack in 2011, and had 52 pancake blocks on his way to 97 career pancake blocks. He was an all-state and All-Mid-State selection and a Mr. Football Finalist. A three-time Offensive Player of the Week pick, he was received the F&N Bank Character Award and was named a Mt. Juliet Scholar-Athlete. He is the son of Amanda and Randy Dillard.

Demario Donnell, CB, 5-9, 165, Nashville, Tenn., Pearl-Cohn HS
A speedster in the secondary for coach Tony Brunetti at Pearl-Cohn High School, Demario is a three-year letterwinner for the Firebirds while attending Martin Luther King Jr. Magnet School in Nashville. The son of Tamieka Donell, Demario was a two-time all-district selection as a junior and senior, and added all-city and All-Mid-State honors as a senior. He finished his final prep campaign with 63 total tackles and seven interceptions to lead Pearl-Cohn.

Chris Harris, K/P, 6-0, 190, Columbia, Tenn., Columbia Central HS
The 2010 and 2011 District 8AAA Kicker of the Year, Chris is a punter and placekicker who had an outstanding career at Columbia Central High School for coach Vance Belew. He helped the Lions win the 2010 TSSAA Class 5A state title in Tucker Stadium after a second place finish in 2009. Named first-team All-Mid-State, Chris was a four-year letterwinner on the football team and also added three lettered in soccer and one on the baseball team. As a senior, he was 7-for-8 in field goal tries and was 55-for-56 on PAT attempts. He averaged 37 yards per punt, and knocked 58 of his 72 kickoffs into the end zone for touchbacks. He wrapped up his career going 15-for-21 on field goals and 139 for 145 in PATs, with a 38.5 punting average. He is the son of Gaylon Elaine Harris, Chris plans to major in mechanical engineering.   

Kyron Hart, DE, 6-3, 250, Lebanon, Tenn., Lebanon HS
A defensive end who covered a lot of turf, Kyron was a three-year starter for coach Tory Crane at Lebanon High School. As a junior, he had 34 total tackles with seven tackles-for-loss and 3.5 quarterback sacks. In his senior season, he raised those numbers to impressive heights, finishing with 83 total tackles including 39 solo stops, with 16 tackles-for-loss and 9.5 quarterback sacks for the Blue Devils. Kyron is the son of Randy and Wendy Hart and Amanda Potts.

Jimmy Laughlin, DB, 6-2, 190, Vestavia, Ala., Vestavia Hills HS
A team captain for coach Buddy Anderson, Jimmy was a three-year starter at Vestavia Hills High School where he was named honorable mention All-Hoover South and earned a spot on the Over-The-Mountain team. The son of Jim and Karen Laughlin, he led the Rebels with 101 total tackles. He also had three interceptions, broke up five passes and forced three fumbles.

Jibrin Linge, OL, 6-3, 310, Marietta, Ga., Sprayberry HS
A three-year starter in the offensive line at Sprayberry High School, Jibrin was a two-time all-county selection while also earning all-region and second-team all-state honors for the Yellow Jackets. The son of Jolyn and Mustafa Linge, Jibrin played his high school football for coach Billy Shackelford, a standout runningback for the Golden Eagles from 1989 to 1992. Linge played a major role in helping lead the team to the 2009 and 2011 state playoffs. He plans to major in business management.  

Corey Malone, DT, 6-6, 240, Henderson, Tenn., Chester County HS
A three-year letterwinner as both an offensive and defensive lineman at Chester County High School, Corey started all 13 games on both sides of the line of scrimmage as a senior for the Eagles under head coach Jeff Cupples. The son of Patrick and Melanie Malone, he plans to major in engineering and he signs along with his brother, Zach Malone.  Together the pair helped the Eagles post a 10-3 overall record and a 5-2 mark in conference play, while reaching the third round of the TSSAA playoffs. He won the team's Outstanding Leadership Award and was named to the All-District 14AA team as a defensive lineman. He finished the 2011 season with 31 total tackles, including eight tackles-for-loss and three quarterback sacks.  

Zach Malone, DT, 6-2, 250, Henderson, Tenn., Chester County HS
The brother of Golden Eagle signee Corey Malone and a fellow defensive tackle, Zach was a four-year letterwinner for Chester County High School for head coach Jeff Cupples. The son of Patrick and Melanie Malone, Zach was named the team's Most Valuable Lineman while lining up as both an offensive and defensive lineman. Also selected as the District 14AA Most Valuable Lineman, he was named the Jackson Sun All-West Defensive Lineman of the Year. As a senior, Zach had 60 total tackles including four sacks and 11 tackles-for-loss. He helped the Eagles to a 10-3 overall record and the third round of the TSSAA playoffs. He plans to be pre-med major at Tech.

Matt Martin, OL, 6-5, 300, Franklin, Tenn., Battle Ground Academy
Matt was the standout player in the offensive line for coach Roc Batten at Battle Ground Academy for three seasons, but missed most of his senior season due to injury. He led the  returning to appear in the final game of the year. The son of Paul and Beth Martin,  he helped lead the Wildcats to the Class II-AA state playoffs as a junior.

J.T. Rankin, OL, 6-1, 260, Alcoa, Tenn., Alcoa HS
The starting center for Alcoa High School where he played for his father, coach Gary Rankin, J.T. has helped the Tornadoes rank among the top teams in the state throughout his career which featured 43 consecutive starts. Named all-state as both a junior and senior, he was a key in Alcoa winning the TSSAA state title in 2008, 2009 and 2010, including undefeated seasons in both 2009 and 2010. A team captain as a senior, he was a Knoxville News Sentinel PrepXtra first-team selection and selected for the Tennessee East-West All-Star game. The son of Gary and Sandra Rankin, he was an Honors student and graded out at 88 percent as a senior with 82 pancake blocks.

Harrison Reid, DE, 6-4, 235, Cincinnati, Ohio, Winton Woods HS
A starter as a defensive end as well as a special teams mainstay for coach Andre Parker at Winton Woods High School in Cincinnati, Harrison was named first-team Fort Ancient Valley All-Conference and also received the FAVC Academic Award. The son of Kevin and Caryn Reid, he plans to major in computer engineering. He helped the Warriors win their first-ever Ohio Division II state championship as a sophomore in 2009 with a 13-2 record. As a senior, he led the team with 10 quarterback sacks.

Terrell Rollins, DT, 6-0, 270, Greeneville, Tenn., Greeneville HS

A two-time state champion at Greeneville High School, Terrell was named the Knoxville News Sentinel's PrepXtra Defensive Player of the Year and was a major part of the "Golden Age" of football for the Greene Devils with a combined four-year 51-8 record. Helping coach Caine Ballard's team to the TSSAA state playoffs all four years, they lost the Class 4A championship game in 2009 and came back to clinch the crown on Tech's Overall Field in 2010 and 2011.  As a senior, he recorded 102 total tackles including 23 tackles-for-loss and had 7.5 quarterback sacks. He won the Class AA Mr. Football Lineman award and was the defensive MVP of the state title game.  The son of Taray and Heather Rollins, Terrell was also named the Greeneville Sun Defensive Player of the Year, TSWA All-State twice and earned a spot on the Murphy Fair All-State team the past two years.

Jay Rudwall, LB, 5-11, 220, Ooltewah, Tenn., Ooltewah HS
Jay received a lengthy list of post-season honors following his senior season for coach Shannon Williams and the Ooltewah High School Owls, including Tennessee Sports Writers Association All-State and District 5AAA Defensive Player of the Year. A versatile athlete, he lettered three years on the gridiron as well as earning all-state honors in wrestling. The school record-holder for most tackles in a game (30) and most tackles in a season (171), he was named his team's Defensive Player of the Year and was a Chattanooga Times Free Press first-team Best of Preps pick. The son of Chuck and Connie Rudwall, he helped the Owls to the second round of the TSSAA playoffs after capturing the District 5AAA title. In addition to his 171 total tackles, he also piled up 16 tackles-for-loss and had one interception (returned for touchdown), caused a fumble and recovered a fumble. He started 33 consecutive games and finished with 351 total tackles.

Jordan Smith, WR, 5-10, 175, Franklin, Tenn., Battle Ground Academy
A two-time Division II-AA all-state selection, Jordan Smith was also a second-team All-Mid-State pick as a senior and a two-time all-region pick while starting at wide receiver for coach Roc Batten at Battle Ground Academy. He led the conference in receptions, yards and touchdowns, making 57 catches for the Wildcats for 859 yards and 14 trips into the end zone. He is the son of Melvin and Jackie Smith, he helped BGA reach the TSSAA state playoffs each of the past two seasons.

Trent Thompson, gs-QB, 6-2, 186, Powder Springs, Ga., McEachern HS
A grey-shirt who will join the Golden Eagle program in January, Trent was a three-year starter for coach Kyle Hockman at McEachern High School in Powder Springs, Ga. The son of Mike and Kim Thompson, Trent passed for more than 5,000 yards and 49 touchdowns in three seasons and helped the Indians to a 30-5 combined record, including a 10-2 mark as a senior. He led the team into the second round of the Georgia state playoffs, going 10-for-16 with two touchdown passes in the first-round victory. As a sophomore he passed for 1,200 yards and 13 TDs as McEachern posted a 10-1 record. His junior season netted 1,300 yards and 11 touchdowns and an 11-2 record, and last year he threw for 2,500 yards and 28 touchdowns.

Ladarius Vanlier, RB/RS, 5-7, 165, Nashville, Tenn., Maplewood HS

Twice named the All-City Player of the Year and an all-state selection, Ladarius led Maplewood High School to the championship game of the TSSAA state playoffs in Tech's Tucker Stadium. A three-year letterman for coach Arcentae Broome, he was also a three-year letterwinner on the track & field team for the Panthers. A talented runningback who was also dangerous as a return specialist, Ladarius helped Maplewood produce a 12-4 record in 2011 while earning his second consecutive Class 2A Player of the Year honor. Named all-state as both a runningback and returner, he was selected to play in the East-West All-Star game. As a sophomore he rushed for 1,388 yards and 15 touchdowns, and added 926 yards and six scores. As a senior, he capped off his prep career with 2,290 yards and 24 touchdowns, adding up to 4,604 yards and 45 touchdowns on 496 carries. The son of Lakesha Vanlier, Ladarius is a three-time Academic Honor Roll recepient.

Tennessee Tech's 2012 signees:

PLAYER Pos Ht Wt Hometown Previous School
Radir Annoor RB 5-10 195 Nashville, Tenn. Brentwood Academy
Colton Belew SAF 6-2 180 Columbia, Tenn. Columbia Central HS
Eric Belew WR 6-2 180 Columbia, Tenn. Columbia Central HS
 Karl Buchanan
DT
6-2
280
Los Angeles, Calif.
Santa Monica College
 Krys Cates
WR
6-2
190
Newport, Tenn.
Cocke County HS
Logan Cavender
LB
6-2
215
Fairview, Tenn.
Fairview HS
William Chatmon
OL
6-4
255
Kennesaw, Ga.
North Cobb HS
Jared Davis
QB
6-3
190
Tullahoma, Tenn.
Tullahoma HS
Brett Dillard
OL
6-3
280
Mt. Juliet, Tenn.
Mt. Juliet HS
Demario Donnell
CB
5-9
165
Nashville, Tenn.
Pearl-Cohn HS
 Chris Harris
P/K
6-0
190
Columbia, Tenn.
Columbia Central HS
 Kyron Hart
DE  6-3 250 Lebanon, Tenn.
Lebanon HS
Jimmy Laughlin
SAF
6-2
190
Vestavia, Ala.
Vestavia Hills HS
Jibrin Linge
OL
6-3
310
Marietta, Ga.
Sprayberry HS
Corey Malone
DT
6-6
240
Henderson, Tenn.
Chester County HS
Zach Malone
DT
6-2
250
Henderson, Tenn.
Chester County HS
Matt Martin
OL
6-5
300
Franklin, Tenn.
Battle Ground Academy
J.T. Rankin
OL
6-1
260
Alcoa, Tenn.
Alcoa HS
Harrison Reid
DE
6-4
235
Cincinnati, Ohio
Winton Woods HS
Terrell Rollins
DT
6-0
170
Greeneville, Tenn.
Greeneville HS
Jay Rudwall
LB
5-11
220
Ooltewah, Tenn.
Ooltewah HS
Jordan Smith
WR
5-10
175
Franklin, Tenn.
Battle Ground Academy
Trent Thompson
gs-QB
6-2
186
Powder Springs, Ga.
McEachern HS
Ladarius Vanlier RB/RS 5-7 165 Nashville, Tenn. Maplewood HS