KENT — Kent State completed the highest-rated football recruiting class in program history on Wednesday by beating Alabama for Joachim Bangda, a 5-foot-10, 215-pound running back out of Washington, D.C.
Yes, that Alabama.
Ohio State, Wisconsin, and Michigan State were also among the 15 schools that offered scholarships to Bangda, a three-star recruit ranked 31st in the nation at his position by Rivals.
“The staff did an amazing job pursuing him,” Golden Flashes director of player personnel Steven Schrum said. “[Bangda] is wise beyond his years. He exceeded our [team] values. He saw that we make players better not just on the field, but off the field as well.”
Bangda is a power back who averaged 8.8 yards per carry as a junior and seven yards per tote as a senior, when he scored 17 touchdowns in seven games for Maryland state power St. Francis Academy. He originally committed to Georgia Tech, but backed out after Yellow Jackets coach Paul Johnson announced his retirement in late November.
“He's one of the highest-ranked kids that Kent State has ever signed,” second-year Flashes coach Sean Lewis said. “I couldn't be more excited about the direction our program is going and the recruiting battles that we won. We have the total package here. There's no need for us to take a back seat to anyone.”
Since taking over the program in December 2017, Lewis and his staff have attacked the dilapidated image of Kent State football with an onslaught of positive messages via every method imaginable — including social media. His message, and KSU's wide-open style of play, seem to be striking a chord with today's players.
After earning a No. 5 ranking in the Mid-American Conference last season, when Lewis slapped together his initial recruiting class in 42 days, the Flashes' 2019 recruits were ranked fourth in the MAC and 95th in the nation by 247Sports.
“We're shifting the perspective of what we're about,” Lewis said. “Our way of doing things is exciting, it's new, it's fresh, and it's what kids want to be a part of. Some 2020 [recruits] have noticed and already reached out to us. They see we're putting together something special and want to see what's going on. If we get a kid on campus, I feel good about our ability to close.”
Bangda is one of six scholarship recruits the Flashes added on national signing day. They'll join the 15 recruits inked during the early signing period last December and two transfers who enrolled during the winter semester.
Of the 23 new additions, 11 of them play in the trenches — seven offensive linemen/tight ends and four defensive linemen.
“We sat down about a year ago this time and truly identified all of our needs. We needed to solidify the offensive and defensive lines in particular, because that's where the game is won,” Lewis said. “We were able to get bigger, longer and faster across the board. We went toe-to-toe with some really great programs. You have to win those recruiting battles to give yourself a chance to win in the fall.”
Other Wednesday signees were Mario Nunez, a 6-2, 188-pound defensive back from Kennesaw, Georgia; Elijah Lamptey, a 6-5, 265-pound offensive lineman from Chicago rated as the No. 49 recruit in the state of Illinois; Quentin "Buddha" Jones, a 6-3, 320-pound defensive tackle from Tallahassee who compiled 15 tackles for loss and seven sacks as a senior; Ja'Shaun Poke, a 5-10, 175-pound wide receiver who finished among the top three in the 400 and 200 meters at the 2018 Georgia state track championships; and Columbia Station two-way star Brandon Coleman.
Coleman (6-1, 220) was heavily recruited after his sophomore season, then lost his junior year to an injury. He bounced back to rush for nearly 1,700 yards and pile up 12.5 tackles for loss as a senior to earn first-team All-Ohio honors.
Also joining the program as walk-ons are linebacker Colt Jennings (6-3, 225) from Padua Franciscan High School and long snapper Brad George (Wheaton, Ill.)