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In 'strange' year, slimmed-down football recruiting classes for Spiders, Dukes, Tribe

In 'strange' year, slimmed-down football recruiting classes for Spiders, Dukes, Tribe

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College football’s December signing period appears only about half as productive as usual. FCS members Richmond, James Madison and William & Mary typically sign 15 to 18 prospects, but didn’t reach that level Wednesday.

The impact of COVID-19 influenced the NCAA to extend by one season the eligibility of players who were part of 2020 teams. That allowance translated into many seniors determining, along with their coaches, that they would return for a bonus year after not competing in the fall of 2020 because of the pandemic.

In response, most schools signed fewer recruits while adhering to the FCS scholarship limit of 63. Most programs are expected to bring in a few more players during the February signing period.

Coaches and their staff members in many cases signed prospects without ever having seen them in person, playing or in introductory sessions, because of NCAA recruiting restrictions during the global health crisis and the absence of high school football in various parts of the country.

“Building the relationships the best you can. This was a strange, strange, strange, strange year,” UR coach Russ Huesman said. “I feel for a lot of the [Class of] 2021 players that are coming out. They didn’t get all the opportunities that they should have gotten as far as official visits, unofficial visits, getting to know coaches, home visits from coaches.

“Everything was done via Zoom, telephone calls, those types of things.”

Many schools may again sign reduced classes in the next few years as players currently in programs take advantage of extra seasons of eligibility presented by the NCAA.

The Spiders went south for nearly all of the players, and among them is quarterback Kyle Wickersham, son of former LSU quarterback Jeff Wickersham, who passed for 6,921 yards at LSU during 1983-85. UR offensive line signee Keith Gouveia, from Stephens City, is the nephew of former NFL linebacker Kurt Gouveia, who played for Washington during 1987-94 and in 1999.

All but one of James Madison’s 12 signees are Virginians. From the Richmond area, the Dukes lured offensive lineman Jaelin Montgomery (Prince George) and linebacker Jailin Walker (Varina). Most of the players in the class were committed before fall sports athletes were granted the extra year of eligibility in August, coach Curt Cignetti said.

“So there was a little bit of tweaking at the tail end,” according to Cignetti. “But it fell into place nicely and we’ve already got our eyes on the next one.”

Cignetti said the Dukes are likely done with their class. If they do add players in the February period, it won’t be many.

Richmond

Name Pos. Ht. Wt. Hometown

Carsen Stocklinski OL 6-4 290 Watkinsville, Ga.

Sam Hedrick DL 6-4 250 Charlotte

Bryson Parker DB 5-10 180 Charlotte

Gabriel Carbajal OL 6-4 290 Slidell, La.

Ja’Vion Griffin WR 6-0 175 Williamston, N.C.

Keith Gouveia OL 6-3 290 Stephens City

Jerry Garcia Jr. WR 5-10 175 Hope Mills, N.C.

Kyle Wickersham QB 6-3 225 Metairie, La.

James Madison

Name Pos. Ht. Wt. Hometown

Billy Atkins QB 6-1 200 Parkton, Md.

Matt Binkowski LB 6-1 230 Haymarket

Matei Fitz DL 6-2 265 Leesburg

Kye Holmes S 6-0 190 Bowie, Md.

Zach Horton TE 6-4 250 Roanoke

Scott Hummell OL 6-4 310 New Market, Md.

Maxwell James WR 6-3 190 Springfield

Skylar Martin LB 6-3 230 Ashburn

Jaelin Montgomery OL 6-4 315 Petersburg (Prince George)

Messiah Russell S 6-2 187 Newport News

Josh Toner OL 6-3 320 Marlton, N.J.

Jailin Walker LB 6-2 194 Richmond (Varina)

William & Mary

Name Pos. Ht. Wt. Hometown

Davin Dzidzienyo DL 6-4 280 Washington

Martin Lucas RB 6-2 230 Abingdon

Trey McDonald TE 6-6 225 Kinnelon, N.J.

David Roulley DB 6-2 195 Virginia Beach

Tanner Slavic DL 6-5 280 Uniontown, Pa.

Ethan Yip DB 6-2 185 Surrey, B.C., Canada

Darius Wilson QB 6-3 190 Bronx, N.Y.

joconnor@timesdispatch.com

(804) 649-6233

Twitter: @RTDjohnoconnor

Staff writer Wayne Epps Jr. contributed to this report.

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