Tahlequah Daily Press

February 7, 2013

Twenty-nine players sign with RiverHawks

By BEN JOHNSON
Sports Editor

— Aaron Patterson's signed letter of intent was hot off the fax machine at 7:16 on Wednesday morning.

Seven hours later, Northeastern State had received 29 letters of intent to finalize its haul on National Signing Day.

"I think it's a very good class," NSU head coach Kenny Evans said. "We'll know how good of a class it was in two years."

Making up the majority of NSU's signing class was 16 players from inside the state lines. Among them was Tahlequah's Mason McMillan, Sequoyah's Tanner Sheets and Keys' Blake Maxey and JJ Ozturk.

The four Cherokee County players signify what the RiverHawks went hard after during the recruiting process: linemen and running backs. NSU was able to sign nine offensive linemen and more than a handful of running backs.

"We feel like we addressed some longterm needs," Evans said.

Noticeably absent from the RiverHawks' signing class was the lack of defensive backs. NSU opted to go without any cornerbacks or safeties in 2013.

"We were very selective this year," Evans said. "We turned down a lot of recruits because they didn't fit a particular need. We also have a lot of guys returning."

The RiverHawks certainly do at defensive back. Heading up that group in 2013 will be cornerback Vernon Jones, safety Victor Johnson and Marquin Watts, who sat out during the recent 2012 campaign.

As for guys who were signed that could make an immediate impact, Evans said defensive lineman Reuben Washington (6-foot-1, 285 pounds) and wide receivers, Austin Roberts (5-11, 194) and Raquan Dobbs (6-2, 180), could fit that mold.

"Washington can come in and do some things real quick," Evans said of the Houston native. "Both receivers, they've got great speed. Both have legitimate track time. There's no doubt on the football field that they can stretch the coverage real quick, and that's something we did not have last year."

NSU will return a host of running backs in 2013, led by Joel Rockmore, Terrence Dixon and Zack Simmons, but Evans said signees such as Pryor's Carson Smallwood, Wetumka's Derrick Moore and Fort Worth Christian's Jared Taylor could add dept in the offensive backfield.

"We signed some running backs that have a lot of talent," Evans said. "They will have a chance to play quick and have chance to play at other positions. As we move forward, we're in solid position at running back."

The RiverHawks also bolstered their depth at linebacker. Norman North's Beau Proctor, Wagoner's T.J. Ponds, Jr., Claremore's Jordan Cunningham, Vian's Tre Locust, Star Spencer's Kenneth Davis were all brought in to do just that.

Already enrolled at NSU, Buck Spurger of Trinity Valley Community College could play right away on the RiverHawks' offensive line.

"He's very explosive and could work his way into the mix," Evans said of the 6-6, 340-pounder who committed to the RiverHawks while on a visit to Northwest Missouri State.

As for NSU's haul on local and area talent, Evans said he feels like the RiverHawks signed the best in northeast Oklahoma.

"To be honest, we feel like we got the best players from this area," Evans said. "All those guys will be good in the classroom, and they'll bring people to the stands. And hopefully they'll be valuable assets to our program."