ST. CHARLES, MO. — National Signing Day was back in February for high school football players that wanted to make their college selections official by signing with the school of their choice.
But it wasn’t until this month that many of Lindenwood University’s 2012 football recruiting class members made it to campus — much to the delight of head coach Patrick Ross.
The Lions signed 23 high school seniors and six college transfers back in February, and in just a couple of weeks, they will join the returning members of the Lindenwood football program for summer training camp at Harlen C. Hunter Stadium.
Ross and his staff recruited heavily on both the offensive and defensive lines this offseason, and were especially successful on the offensive side of the ball, where they landed nine new signees.
The Lions were also very active going after quarterbacks, and brought in four new players at the position, including former NCAA Division I talent Stevie Weatherford, a redshirt from the University of Cincinnati last season.
This year’s class of signees comes from 10 different states, with 10 of them being home-grown talents from Missouri, and 11 coming from high school football hotbed states Texas and California.
Lindenwood, which is beginning its first season as a full-fledged NCAA Division II program, went 8-3 last season in its transition year, and will compete in the Mid-American Intercollegiate Athletics Association (MIAA) this season.
Traditionally, the MIAA is considered the best Division II football conference in the country, and features nationally renowned programs like Northwest Missouri State, Central Missouri, and defending national champion Pittsburg State.
Here’s a rundown of the 2012 Lindenwood Football recruiting class:
Jaron Alexander (6-1, 175, Wide Receiver, Grandview HS)
The Lions’ lone receiver signee … named one of four finalists for the Otis Taylor Award, given annually to the top receiver in the Kansas City metro area … a first-team All-State Class 4 selection after racking up 1,117 receiving yards and 16 touchdowns … second-team Kansas City Star All-Metro pick … is also one of the state’s top sprinters, clocking a 10.69 100 meters last spring.
Brandon Baker (6-3, 270, Offensive Line, Adolfo HS)
An athletic and aggressive lineman who excelled at tackle for Adolfo Camarillo (Calif.), earning first-team All-Pacific View League honors as a senior … rated a two-star recruit by scout.com … should be a good fit on the Lion offensive line which features players with ability to run and make blocks on the perimeter … also a standout wrestler and track and field athlete at Adolfo.
Jalin Brown (6-0, 185, Defensive Back, Grandview HS)
One of the most versatile football and track athletes in the Kansas City metro area … captain of both the state champion track team and the football team at Grandview High School … totaled 55 tackles for the Bulldogs and head coach Andy Leech this fall … will contend for the state championship at 400 meters this spring … impressed Lion coaches with his physical play last summer at the Lindenwood team camp.
Mitch Carman (6-1, 195, Defensive Back, Sheldon HS)
Has unique all-around ability as a football player … honored this fall as an Oregon All-State pick on both sides of the football … earned second team All-Class 6A honors at both wide receiver and defensive back … his stepbrother, Dillon Miller, is a quarterback who joined him in the Lions’ 2012 recruiting class … length and athleticism profile him as a safety in Lindenwood’s defensive scheme.
Kylann Clayborn (6-2, 220, Linebacker, University City HS)
The Lions feel they found a gem in the unheralded tackling machine from University City … led the Suburban South in tackles with 141, ranking him fifth in the St. Louis metro area … Clayborn is long and he is going to get big during his time at Lindenwood … his speed (he runs the 300 meter hurdles for state champ University City in track) will make him a unique player at his size.
Jackson Dennis (6-3, 260, Defensive Tackle, Boyd HS)
A first-team All-District 10-5A selection in one of the toughest districts in the Dallas metroplex … recorded 52 tackles, including nine in opposing backfields … played noseguard for head coach Don Drake at Boyd, where his strength (530-lb. squat) and speed (4.95 in the 40) earned him a reputation as a player with one of the best motors in the district.
Connor Harris (6-0, 225, Linebacker, Blue Springs South)
One of the most decorated and prolific players in Missouri prep history … capped a stellar senior year with a Class 6A state title … named the Kansas City Star Metro Player of the Year, and a first-team All-State Class 6 selection … a standout at quarterback, Harris will also carry the rock during his Lions’ career, appearing in Wildcat sets as the signal caller … tremendous instincts and heart.
Stephen Gorczyca (6-4, 285, Offensive Line, Parkway West HS)
The Lions’ summer team camp has been fertile ground for recruiting during the Ross era, and the story of “Jumbo” is another example: he shined enough to catch the eye of offensive line coach Jeff Hynes, and the Lions stuck with him despite a senior year which saw the team captain and returning All-Suburban South pick miss time with various injuries … big and athletic, will probably be a guard at Lindenwood.
Mark Herndon (5-9, 190, Running Back, Forest HS)
The Lions signed only one running back in this class, but he is a good one … a second-team All-State Class 7A pick in Florida … rushed for 1,541 yards and 19 touchdowns … scored a pair of touchdowns in the FACA North-South All-Star game … played in the prestigious Georgia-Florida Border Wars game last month … FACA District 7 Offensive Player of the Year.
Rhys Jeffrey (6-4, 255, Offensive Line, Flower Mound HS)
The Lions have had some luck in the past with athletic linemen with room to grow (most notably, All-American Dan Jones), and this big, strong, athletic Texan fits that mold … a first-team selection to the All-District 8-5A team, which may be the toughest prep district in the nation … athleticism and length make him a candidate to move to tight end if the Lions would like to add one.
Latham Johnson (6-2, 285, Offensive Line, Aledo HS)
One of the prizes in this class is Johnson, a stalwart on three straight Texas state championship teams at Aledo … a first team All-State Class 4A pick, and a two-time first team All-District 5-4A selection … paved the way for an offensive unit which averaged 553 yards and 58 points per game in 2011 … will be given a chance to compete immediately on the offensive line, likely as a guard.
Corey King (5-11, 180, Athlete, Francis Howell HS)
A star at receiver for head coach Bryan Koch’s program at Francis Howell … racked up 82 catches for 1,191 yards while scoring 14 touchdowns as a senior … he may still end up at wideout, but the Lion staff sees a potential star at cornerback, where he will be given an opportunity early in his career to crack the lineup … a first-team All-State Class 6 pick … second-team St. Louis All-Metro selection.
Tyler Luce (6-1, 245, Defensive Tackle, Argyle HS)
A teammate of fellow signee Clint Merka’s at Argyle … his quickness and explosion at the line of scrimmage jumped out on film … a first-team All-District 9-3A pick … athletic and physical enough to play at fullback for the Class 3A state runners-up … was named the District 9-3A Defensive Lineman of the Year as a senior … Lion coaches see his future on the interior of the defensive line.
Bobby McCabe (6-4, 275, Offensive Line, Spruce Creek HS)
One of the top offensive lineman in the talent-rich Daytona Beach area … earned a spot in the prestigious Central Florida All-Star Game last month … was named a second-team All-Area pick by the Daytona Beach News-Journal … the Lions made a concentrated effort to restock the offensive line position with young, athletic big men, and McCabe is one of the biggest and most athletic of the group.
Clint Merka (6-3, 285, Offensive Line, Argyle HS)
Merka joins classmate Tyler Luce in the 2012 signing class … he is a big, strong and athletic center who has experience snapping in the shotgun … was named a first-team All-State Class 3A pick for Argyle … lead his team to the Class 3A state title game in Cowboy Stadium … was also a two-time first-team All-District 9-3A pick … a coach’s son who has great instincts for the game.
Dillon Miller (6-0, 190, Quarterback, Sheldon HS)
One of the top prep quarterbacks in the Pacific Northwest over the past two seasons … capped a brilliant career with a return trip to the state title game… a first-team All-State Class 6A selection who threw for 3,633 yards and 35 touchdowns … first-team ESPNHS Oregon All-State pick … his father, Chris, was a star at Oregon and in the NFL … also one of the state’s top basketball players.
Brendan Norwine (6-2, 195, Quarterback, O’Fallon Christian HS)
A sleeper prospect from a local small school, where he starred in three sports and earned All-District honors in football the past two seasons … passed for 3,792 yards and rushed for 12 touchdowns over the past two seasons … also an All-District place kicker as a junior and again as a senior … three-year starter for one of the state’s top small class basketball teams.
Phil Posley (6-1, 220, Linebacker, Parkway North HS)
The Lions have had their eye on Posley for a couple of years … earned first-team All-Conference honors in the tough Suburban South the past two seasons as a pass rushing defensive end … led the team with 68 stops as a senior … the LU staff feels his 4.6 speed will translate nicely to a linebacker spot in college … comes from the same high school program as current Lindenwood graduate assistant Mike Bunton.
Aaron Robinson (6-3, 275, Offensive Line, Highlands)
An emphasis for the Lions this year was finding players from the best of the best high school programs—and Ft. Thomas Highlands fills that bill, winning their fifth straight 4A state title this fall … Robinson was named the Northern Kentucky Class 4A Offensive Lineman of the Year, and a KFCA All-Star … was named Mr. Highlands Football, leading the way for an offense which scored 849 points.
Lucas Sandheinrich (6-4, 250, Offensive Line, Kirkwood HS)
Another member of the Lion recruiting class whose team enjoyed a stellar season … Sandheinrich helped lead his Kirkwood team to the state championship game … a second-team All-Suburban south selection … showed great athleticism and feel for offensive line play at the Lions’ summer team camp in July … also a member of Kirkwood’s varsity men’s volleyball team.
Joe Stevens (6-4, 240, Defensive End, Vianney HS)
Of the 49 players who visited the Lindenwood campus in January, perhaps the most impressive specimen was Stevens … broad-shouldered and looking like he has plenty of room to grow … already benches 360 pounds … showed great speed and natural moves as a pass rusher for Vianney … Lion coaches feel he has a future either at defensive end, or inside if he continues to grow.
Justin Taylor (6-1, 250, Defensive End, Little Elm HS)
The Lion coaching staff feels Taylor has a chance to make an immediate impact in the MIAA as a true freshman … a first-team Texas All-District 10-4A pick for head coach Tommy Stowers at Little Elm … so explosive in his first two steps that it often looks like he is cheating the snap count … also a first-team All-Area selection … Taylor is strong (350 bench, 600 squat) and fast (4.89 40).
Sterling Thomas (5-10, 170, Cornerback, Union HS)
Thomas is yet another member of the Lions’ incoming freshman class who hails from one of the nation’s top prep programs … Tulsa Union won its fourth consecutive Oklahoma Class 6A state championship this fall … an honorable mention All-State Class 6A selection … named to the first-team Class 6A, District 4 defensive unit … Lion defensive coaches love his footwork and smooth breaks.
Ramon Barraza (6-3, 270, Offensive Line, East Los Angeles College)
A first-team All-Mountain Conference selection at East L.A. … Barraza is on campus this spring and will compete for a starting spot on the 2012 offensive line.
Chris Floyd (6-3, 280, Defensive Tackle, East Los Angeles College)
Expected to provide an immediate impact on the 2012 Lion defensive line … twice earned first-team All-Mountain Conference honors at East L.A.
Ben Gomez (6-0, 200, Quarterback, Saddleback College)
Gomez, who is already on campus in St. Charles, was named the California JC Offensive Player of the Year … threw for 3,651 yards and 33 touchdowns last year at Saddleback.
Jaz Granderson (6-0, 190, Defensive Back, Univ. of Northern Iowa)
Former Kirkwood HS product … played two years at Northern Iowa after one season at Rainey-Harper JC in Illinois … he played a starring role on a national championship team at Northern Iowa.
Sione Maka (6-0, 300, Defensive Tackle, Mesa Community College)
Maka is the kind of wide-bodied interior defensive lineman the Lions will need in the rugged MIAA … he is already on campus and will participate in spring drills and practice.
Stevie Weatherford (6-3, 190, Quarterback, Univ. of Cincinnati)
A three-star recruit last winter … redshirted this past fall at the University of Cincinnati … the former Florida All-Stater is already on campus and will compete for the quarterback job.