PEMBROKE — Filling up the recruiting trail with in-home and in-school visits, The University of North Carolina at Pembroke football coaching staff competed their goal, with the work culminating and showing on National Signing Day.
The result was a 24-member signing class, the third straight class of 20-plus signees under coach Shane Richardson.
“We are really excited with the 24 guys that is another well-rounded group,” he said. “Every coach had visits with every player and this group of guys will continue to shift the culture in the right direction.
“It all was possible with the hard work the coaches put in and they all did a good job of combining their areas and making sure to get out to in-home and in school visits.”
Citing the receiving corps and the trenches as areas the team wanted to get depth in, Richardson and his staff went out and picked a wealth of players at those positions. UNCP had four receivers, three offensive linemen and four defensive linemen sign their National Letters of intent on Wednesday.
Cleveland’s Jacob Scott highlights the pass catchers group after finishing second in the state in receiving yards with 1,915 yards. He put up those numbers with 104 catches and 24 touchdowns with three 200-yard games and nine 100-yard games. He was named to the AP all-state team, helping the Rams to a 9-4 record and an appearance in the second round of the state playoffs.
“Jacob is definitely one of those guys we had our eyes on for a long time,” Richardson said. “He’s a real dependable receiver and has a blue-collar mentality where he’s not afraid to work.”
Shammond Hicks flourished in the spread offense at Middle Creek under former Fairmont coach Randy Ragland with 712 yards receiving and 13 touchdowns. The Braves also picked up two big receivers in 6-foot-2 Marcus McDonald out of Southern Durham and 6-foot-1 D.J. Harris from Garner.
“We wanted to address the depth at wide receiver and we were able to add a lot of big and dynamic receivers,” Richardson said. “Some of these guys could come in compete and contribute really early on.”
Along the defensive front, UNCP picked up Scotland’s Octavis McLaurin, Adonai Aloma from Myers Park, Ben Jaramillo out of North Johnston and West Brunswick’s Taye Vereen.
A big part of the Scotland defensive line that led the team to an appearance in the 4A East Regional final, McLaurin was third on the team in tackles as a senior with 72 tackles and 13 for loss. He also totaled six sacks for the 14-1 Scots.
“He’s just a very explosive guy and he is a very dynamic big body for a defensive lineman,” Richardson said. “He really has that “it” factor and we are very excited with him.”
McLaurin highlighted the local products in the signing class with offensive lineman Cameron Callaway from Pine Forest and Nick Anderson from Terry Sanford also staying close to home. Nick Golden was the other addition to the offensive line.
With some concerns in the secondary the past two seasons with inexperience this year and injuries the season before, UNCP bolstered up the defensive backfield a little more in this class with three newcomers. Elias Crawford from Olympic, Cameron Caldron from JH Rose and Selby’s Aaron Jolly were the defensive backs that signed yesterday.
Richardson also picked up four linebackers — Arendell-Parrott’s Cole Daniels, Northeastern’s Trey Sawyer, East Forsyth’s Devin Higgins and Hickory Ridge’s Donovan Hayes — after losing just one to graduation this year.
The Braves also signed two talented tailbacks in West Montgomery’s Jo Leake and Travis Prince from South Mecklenburg.
Leake led West Montgomery to a state championship appearance with 1,555 yards rushing and 30 touchdowns on the season. He also had 486 yards receiving and six touchdowns through the air. Prince rushed for 1,244 yards and nine touchdowns.
Jonathan Bym can be reached at 910-816-1977. Follow him on Twitter @Jonathan_Bym.