Wildcat football introduces its 2018 signing class
ABILENE, Texas —
Looking for immediate help to try and make a quick climb up the Southland Conference standings, ACU's second-year head coach Adam Dorrel and his staff knew they had to get more physical on both sides of the ball and had to get players who already had some experience at the collegiate level.
That's why they added 15 NCAA Division I and junior college transfers in the December signing period before tacking on nine high school freshmen on Wednesday's National Signing Day.
"We knew in late October or early November last fall that we would have to get some junior college kids because of attrition and our lack of depth," Dorrel said. "In the early signing class (Dec. 20) we wanted to try and get kids who were more physically mature and who had played college football and already had experience on that level."
But Dorrel ¬– who always built his teams at Northwest Missouri State with high school players – went back to that formula in the late signing period as the team added nine true freshmen on Wednesday.
"Our second priority in this signing period was to target high school kids that we believed fit the culture we want here at ACU," Dorrel said. "We want to recruit high school kids. We're certainly not looking for finished products. We're looking for kids who can develop spiritually, academically and in the weight room, and we found a great group of those guys in both of these signing classes."
Dorrel and his coaching staff also set out to recruit student-athletes who fit in with the academic culture he wants surrounding his program. ACU's football GPA was 2.95 last fall – its highest since those numbers began to be kept – and Dorrel wants that to continue.
Of the 23 players signed to scholarships, 10 received academic money totaling more than $100,000 in aid. The 15 transfers entered ACU with an average GPA of 3.30, while the high school group has an average GPA of 3.24. The average GPA of the entire class is 3.27.
"We were very adamant with the kids we recruited that we're headed in the right direction … in the classroom, in the community and on the field," Dorrel said. "We re-affirmed at every turn that we're building something that which everyone associated with ACU can be proud."
The genesis of the desire to get a little more physical and a little more mature might have come last Oct. 21 when Southeastern Louisiana rolled into Wildcat Stadium and walked out with a punishing 56-21 win over the Wildcats. The Lions outscored ACU 35-8 in the second half and finished the day with 443 rushing yards and 623 total yards, while holding ACU to just 293 yards of offense.
"We knew then we had to go get guys on both sides of the line," Dorrel said. "We just didn't have enough tackles or defensive ends in our program, and that's where you have to start building. We really tried to focus on bringing in team-oriented guys from good programs who love to play the game. We want low-ego unselfish kids who can add to the culture we have here at ACU and fit into our current roster."
Two of the transfers that Dorrel is the most excited about and two players who could make an immediate impact on the field in 2018 are running back Billy Ray McCrary III (Cal) and linebacker John Picone (Texas Tech).
McCrary put up ridiculous numbers at Rouse High School in Central Texas, but got lost in the running back shuffle at California. He will be utilized in several different ways in the ACU offense.
"He has game-changing speed," Dorrel said. "He's electric coming out of the backfield, but he's also got the ability to run inside. Certainly he can also catch the ball, and if you get him in the open field he's very dangerous."
Picone was one of the top-rated linebackers in Louisiana in 2015 and chose Texas Tech over a host of other suitors. He played in four games as a freshman in 2016 before redshirting in 2016, leaving him three years of eligibility at ACU.
"Picone has a natural ability to rush the passer, and not a lot of linebackers can do that," Dorrel said. "He'll work well in (defensive coordinator) Tremaine Jackson's system. I'm really excited to get him on the field and see what he can do for us."
The Wildcats didn't just concentrate on one area, instead sprinkling in additions to every part of the roster: five offensive linemen, two quarterbacks, two running backs, two wide receivers, two tight ends, three defensive linemen, two linebackers and six defensive backs. And Dorrel said they'll be looking to add more to the roster this summer, especially along the offensive and defensive lines.
Among the high school players, Dorrel said defensive back T.J. Williams, wide receiver Ja'Vorian Williams from Odessa Permian and offensive lineman D'Wayne Anthony could be standouts, and that the rest of the high school players will be given a chance to contribute on the field in 2018.
"We believe we were able to bring in high-character kids who are committed to not only football, but especially academics," Dorrel said. "This is a very diverse group because we didn't concentrate on solely one area. We needed help across the board, and I believe we were able to get a lot of what we needed."
For the full list of players and bio's, visit here