KENT: Kent State football coach Paul Haynes stuck to a recruiting strategy often deployed by Ohio State, his former employer, in his first full recruiting cycle at the helm of the Golden Flashes: Guard your home state.
Kent State signed 20 recruits on Wednesday, national signing day, 15 of whom come from Ohio and seven from Northeast Ohio. All 20 are two-star recruits according to Rivals.com and none of the 20 will enroll early to take part in spring practice, according to Haynes. At the day’s conclusion, Haynes said searching for Ohio-born talent will continue to be a focus for as long as he’s at KSU.
“I think you have to have a home base and our home base is Ohio,” he said. “We’re in a hotbed of great football surrounding us and being in Northeast Ohio. We want to hit the counties here a lot, and Cleveland, Columbus, Toledo and Cincinnati.”
In addition to being an Ohio-heavy group, this class might be best described as “the heavy class,” as seven of the 20 recruits will be inserted on the offensive or defensive lines.
The offensive lineman, all of whom are at least 6-foot-5, include Perry’s Stefano Millin (6-foot-5, 245 pounds), Tri-Valley’s Collin Prouty (6-foot-5, 280 pounds), Nathan Puthoff (6-foot-5, 287 pounds) from St. Charles High School in Columbus and Connor Shinsky (6-foot-6, 260 pounds), the lone inport on the line from Butler, Pa.
Haynes added three interior lineman on the defensive side, starting with Bedford’s Jon Cunningham (6-foot, 265 pounds), Bishop Hartley’s Kalil Morris (6-foot-3, 280 pounds) and Zack Singer, a 6-foot-3, 290-pound defensive tackle from Las Vegas.
“We started with our needs and talked about up front, where we have a lot of holes to fill on the offensive and defensive lines,” Haynes said. “On the offensive line, we need some help but they usually need a year to grow. And we need one or two of those [defensive tackles] up front to help us this year.”
Singer is an especially interesting addition. Haynes said that after scouring Ohio to fill the team’s needs, he’d then branch out to Pennsylvania and Michigan, and then Georgia and Florida. Singer being all the way out in Nevada makes him the outlier. But he attracted Haynes’ attention with his involvement in UFC, the Ultimate Fighting Championship.
“That’s not a place we normally recruit, but he spars with the UFC guys out there as a heavyweight,” Haynes said. “And I’m a UFC guy so that intrigued me.”
Another emphasis for Haynes’ strategy is clear with this class: tall defensive backs.
In this class are five defensive backs, four of whom stand at least 6 feet tall. The list includes former Glenville quarterback Quan Robinson Jr. (6-foot-1, 170 pounds) and Jerrell Foster (6-foot, 180 pounds) from Cincinnati Winton Woods, who will play cornerback. Safeties Marcus Elliott (6-foot-1, 200 pounds) of Toledo Whitmer and Erik Simpson (6-foot, 175 pounds) from Glenville High School round out the defensive backs.
“Any time you can get 6-foot defensive backs with long arms and range, it helps with the receivers, who are getting taller,” Haynes said. “That’s what we wanted to target — longer, rangy guys.”
The lone quarterback of the class is George Bollas, from Aurora. Bollas had more than 1,300 yards passing and rushing and 30 touchdowns as a senior. He also wrestled for two years at Aurora, which spiked Haynes’ interest in him. Haynes said on Wednesday that Bollas is a quarterback for now but is versatile enough to possibly change positions at some point.
“George can do a lot of different things,” Haynes said. “He’s a tough kid, a big kid, who can run and is competitive. Right now he’ll be at quarterback but down the road could do a lot of different things for us.”
The lone specialist of the group is kicker Shane Hynes, from Clarkston, Mich. Hynes kicked a school-record 53-yard field goal as a junior and was a two-time All-Ohio selection. Haynes believes Anthony Melchiori could be an “unbelievable” punter if he could focus on punting alone and is hopeful that either Hynes or current backup Brad Miller can take over the kicking duties in 2014.
Other notable additions include Luke Grandjean, a 6-foot-3 wide receiver from North Canton Hoover, and linebacker Matthew Sommers from Kent Roosevelt.
Ryan Lewis can be reached at email@example.com. Read the high school blog at http://www.ohio.com/preps. Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/RyanLewisABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.