National Signing Day: It’s a special thing for Harsin and the Red Wolves
Published: Thursday, February 7, 2013
Updated: Thursday, February 7, 2013 18:02
A month and a half after taking over the Arkansas State football program as the 29th head coach in its history, Bryan Harsin started his tenure in Jonesboro Wednesday by signing 20 players to help continue the school’s championship ways.
ASU put an emphasis on the defensive side of the ball, signing 12 defensive players compared to eight on offense, with the most players, five, coming from Alabama, while four athletes from Arkansas signed National Letters of Intent to become Red Wolves.
While Alabama recruits barely out numbered those from the Natural State, Harsin said Arkansas based athletes are a priority for the Sun Belt program.
“We’re really proud of the four we signed from Arkansas. Obviously that’s an area for us, as we start tomorrow, that we will emphasize and be involved in from day one,” Harsin said. “We want to take care of our back yard. That’s the most important thing to us.”
The four players from Arkansas included Garrett Kaufman, a 6-foot-1-inch, 225-pound linebacker of Bentonville; Mark Johnson, a 6-foot-1-inch, 190-pound linebacker of Prescott; Brandon Cox, a 5-foot-8-inch, 165-pound wide receiver of Conway and Jerry Moorehead, a 6-foot-4-inch, 210-pound tight end of Camden.
It was defensive coordinator and Arkansas native John Thompson’s recruiting efforts that helped sign Kaufman from Bentonville.
“ASU was the place for me based on Coach Thompson and his character and community support,” Kaufman said.
The Bentonville native will be able to participate in ASU’s spring practice.
Kaufman was named the 7A’s defensive player of the year after recording 127 tackles last season.
Harsin and his staff crossed the country, visiting California, Kentucky, Texas, Tennessee and others, so many the former Texas and Boise State coach lost count.
“I was in a lot of places, for a short of time. Fly in; fly out. Get in cars and drive,” Harsin said. “The nice thing, being a head coach, you’ve got you’re assistant coaches. They’re waiting for you, you get in and they take you right where you need to go.”
Quarterback signee Cameron Birse, a 6-foot-2-inch, 215-pound athlete of Danville, Calif., had two last minute offers from PAC-12 schools, including Arizona State, but Harsin said Birse is “a man of his word.”
As a senior at San Ramon Valley High School, Birse threw for 3,007 yards and averaged 250.5 yards per game and was named an All-East Bay selection.
Harsin said his relationship with current Boise State quarterback Joe Southwick, who also graduated from San Roman, was influential in the successful signing of Birse.
Birse joins sophomore Fredi Knighten and red-shirt senior Phillip Butterfield on the roster.
ASU’s newest quarterbacks coach, Bush Hamdan, a former Boise State quarterback under Harsin, praised the throwing ability of the California native.
“He’s an elite level thrower,” Hamdan said. “From his standpoint, there are some things athletically he’ll have to develop and have to work on. Anytime you get a guy who has the ability to throw like that, a guy who is into football and a leader, I was really excited to get him.”
The Red Wolves coaching staff was especially proud of the signing of Willie Fletcher, a cornerback from Carson, Calif., who will also be present at spring practice.
Thompson boasted about the signees height and ability to get up and down the field.
“Having Willie here already is a really a good deal,” Thompson said. “Willy’s got the ability to bend, and he can even play safety, but we have him at cornerback.”
Unlike last year, ASU didn’t undertake a massive in-state recruiting effort like Gus Malzahn’s “A-State Ambush.”
On last year’s signing day, ASU put together its best recruiting class ever, signing six 3-star athletes according to Scout, for a 76th best overall ranking in the NCAA and the Sun Belt’s best class.
This year’s class however sees ASU with two 3-star recruits according to Scout and just one awarded from Rivals.
With that, ASU is ranked 121st and 107th respectively, though Harsin said he doesn’t give rankings much attention.
“I’m not against it. I know why it’s done,” Harsin said. “The one thing in recruiting for me, I’ve never worried about the ones I don’t get; I always worry about the ones I get.”
Wednesday might have been the marquee day for the submission of Letters of Intent, but the first year coach knows more commitments could trickle in the following days, especially with five scholarships still available to give out.
“You can drive yourself crazy in recruiting (with) who you didn’t get. If you do that too much, then you forget about the ones you got and there’s a reason that they’re here,” Harsin said. “They want to be here and you wanted them here and that’s a special thing.”