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Wave of National Signing Day reaches Faulkner County

Posted: February 5, 2013 - 7:57pm

The faxes will be sprouting info early and often to college and university football offices Wednesday for National Signing Day.

Ceremonies and special events are set at three locations in Faulkner County.

At Conway Christian, quarterback Tanner Stevenson will formalize his commitment to the University of Central Arkansas and wide receiver Andrew Dather will sign with Harding University.

Wednesday will also be a monumental day for Hendrix College as coach “Buck” Buchanan continues putting together his first team for NCAA Division III, which does not allow athletic scholarship. Greenbrier’s Seth Peters will become the first Faulkner County athlete to formalize his commitment to the new program in a ceremony at the school’s library.

At Conway High on Wednesday after, four Wampus Cat players will sign with four different state institutions: Jeff Anderson with UCA, Bryton Booker with Arkansas Tech, Brandon Cox with Arkansas State and Brannon Kotch with Ouachita Baptist.

Later that afternoon at UCA, coach Clint Conque will analyze his latest recruiting class, one that on paper seems to be one of the best, both academically and athletically, in his 14 seasons.

Included in the UCA class are three mid-year transfers and 17-19 freshmen. Scholarship signees in-state include Anderson, offensive lineman Gilbert Garcia of Morrilton and offensive lineman Stockton Mallett of Yellville Summit.

Korliss Marshall, a running back from Osceola, who committed to UCA early, has indicated he will sign with the University of Arkansas.

UCA’s mid-year transfers are Jonathan Harrison of Northeast Mississippi Community College, a junior college All-America punter; Jordan Kersh, an offensive lineman from Hinds County Community College in Mississippi; and Justin Burdette, a wide receiver who is transferring from Southern Mississippi.

“Immediate needs and future needs are met in this class; we had some hotly contested battles with other schools, both FBS and FCS,” said Conque, whose team returns 16 starters and several all conference performers. “Even with an extremely strong senior class, there are opportunities in this class for players to establish themselves during the summer and in preseason camp. I feel like we have done well with our evaluations.”

Conque said no linebacker will be signed in this class.

“That’s highly unusual but we already have good depth there and we plan to move a safety to a vacated linebacker position (by Seth Allison), so we felt there we no immediate recruiting needs there,” said Conque.

Conque then outlined what he and his staff thought the Bears needed in this cycle.

“We had three senior running backs and we have only one with some experience (Willie Matthews) returning, so there was an emphasis on getting immediate help there. We had a real opportunity to strengthen our competition and depth in the offensive line. We had to get some big guys in the interior on defense and we plan to sign six defensive backs in this cycle.”

While maintaining a base in Arkansas, Conque noted that the UCA staff expanded its footprint. The 2013 UCA class is expected to have players from at least eight states (Arkansas, Missouri, Texas, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana).

“We have expanded our efforts into St. Louis, deeper into central Texas and into the backyard of our conference competition in Texas and Louisiana.

“Our visibility has been exponentially enhanced by two straight postseason playoff appearances and that we played a Southeastern Conference bowl team (Ole Miss) last season and have teams from upper-tier BCS conferences like Colorado, Texas Tech and Oklahoma State on our future schedules. What has also helped us is a deep run into the playoffs two straight years, our on-field success against conference teams from Louisiana and Texas and our academic success in leading our conference in Academic Progress Rate (APR) for the last two years.”

(David McCollum can be reached at 501-505-1235 or david.mccollum@thecabin.net)

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