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Head Coach Jeff Pierce Press Conference
Offensive Coordinator Chris Boden Press Conference
Big Rapids, Mich. - A total of 28 newcomers, including 21 prep in-state products and two incoming transfers, have joined the Ferris State University football program as the Bulldogs unveiled their 2011 recruiting class.
The official announcement of this year's 26 prep National Letter-of-Intent signees and two transfer additions came from head coach Jeff Pierce on Thursday (Feb. 3) afternoon after weather delayed the National Signing Day announcement.
Pierce will meet with local and regional media to discuss the 2011 recruiting class in a formal press conference Friday (Feb. 4) afternoon at 2 p.m. (ET) on the third floor of FSU's Wheeler Pavilion at Top Taggart Field. Video comments and highlights from the event will be posted following the event at www.ferrisstatebulldogs.com.
"As a class, we're extremely excited with the group that has joined our program," said Pierce. "It is a combination of excellent skill players on both sides of the ball along with some young men who have the ability to develop and help us along the line of scrimmage."
Overall, the Bulldogs' recruiting class, including transfers, features 22 products from the state of Michigan along with five from the state of Illinois and one from California. The 28-member class is one of the largest in Pierce's 16-year tenure.
This year's class of incomers consists of 16 individuals on offense along with 11 on the defensive side of the ball and one kicker. Five of the offensive players came up front along the offensive line where the Bulldogs lost two seniors to graduation this past fall. Six others are receivers with four coming in as running backs and one quarterback.
Defensively, FSU added five defensive backs, four defensive linemen and two linebackers.
"We focused on two areas in particular and were able to secure a fine group of young receivers in addition to a solid group of cornerbacks," Pierce said. "It's always a challenge to find defensive backs who play the corner well, so we're thrilled to land the one's we did and they are all high-quality kids."
The crop of defensive backs includes five well-regarded prep signees in Ben Hinamanu (Okemos/Mason), Brett Kenny (Traverse City/West), Sean O'Brien (Greenville), Patrick "Brady" Sheldon (Novi) and Malik Thurman (Bellwood, Ill./Proviso West).
O'Brien is one of several West Michigan players who inked with the Bulldogs as the class also includes one of his prep teammates in linebacker Justin Zimmer (Greenville) along with local all-state product Tyler Havens (Stanwood/Morley-Stanwood), who led his squad to the state quarterfinals this past fall and was tabbed as the Big Rapids Pioneer's Dream Team Player of the Year.
Havens is penciled in to play along the defensive line and was one of four players up front on the defensive side to sign with FSU. The rest of the group includes Paeton Caldwell (Kalamazoo/Central), Cody Dingeldey (L'Anse) and out-of-state standout Jordan Roxas (Homer Glen, Ill./Lockport Township). Finally, William Webster (Redford/Lee Thurston) joins Zimmer as the two lone linebackers among the class.
"Defensively, we've brought in quality kids at a number of positions and they'll give us some good options down the road," Pierce said.
On the offensive side, the Bulldogs added a single quarterback in Illinois native Jason Vander Laan (Frankfort, Ill./Chicago Christian) and brought in four running backs with the additions of Darrian Bell (Rochester/Adams), Rico Cole (Belleville/Westland John Glen), Nathaniel Deak (DeWitt) and Austin Leeck (Ossineke/Alpena).
One of Deak's prep teammates, Jordan Johnson (Lansing/DeWitt), is included in the group of four prep receivers joining the program with the others being out-of-state product Razion Harris (Springfield, Ill./Chatham Glenwood), Jake Lampman (East Lansing/Haslett) and Austin St. Louis (St. Ignace/La Salle).
The list of receivers also includes two transfers who joined the program and enrolled at FSU over the semester break in A.J. McEwen (Grand Rapids/East Grand Rapids) and William Frazier (Redwood City, Calif./Palo Alto). Frazier appeared in 12 games for NCAA Division I New Mexico State during the 2010 season and will have one year of eligibility remaining. Meanwhile, McEwen is the son of former Bulldog quarterback Sparky McEwen, who formerly served as the head coach of the Arena Football League's Grand Rapids Rampage and has been active as a coach on both the prep and professional indoor levels. He did not play last fall while attending Grand Rapids Community College and will have four years of eligibility left.
"The group of receivers coming in is very impressive," said Pierce. "Offensively, we feel really good about the skill players we are bringing in and how they fit our scheme in terms of the spread offense."
Besides the receiving corp, the Bulldogs' largest position group in the class came along the offensive line where five prepsters inked. The group includes Adam Bennett (Romeo), Illinois signee Frank Colletti (Park Ridge, Ill./Maine South), West Michigan All-Star Thaddeus Cook (Grant), Northern Michigan product Jonathan Dziesinski (Alpena) and Jacob VanderKlok (Caledonia/Grand Rapids South Christian).
The final member of the class is kicker Victor Bodrie (Northville), who Pierce figures will help create competition immediately in a variety of kicking and punting roles.
The Bulldogs' class of incoming prep players have also been successful academically as the overall cumulative grade point average of the freshmen signees is over 3.1 as a group.
"Over 50% of the incoming freshmen also received some form of academic scholarship aid as well," said Pierce. "Their performances in the classroom should help with the stability of the class and we're hopeful a high percentage of these guys will be around when they are seniors."
Pierce believes the Bulldogs were able to attract a high-quality class of recruits aided by an expanded talent pool.
"Our ability to recruit more in some of the surrounding states and areas such as Chicago has increased our options and provided us with the ability to capitalize on kids with both athletic and academic strengths," he added.
The Bulldogs are tentatively slated to start spring drills in late March with the 2011 season set to commence in early September. FSU's upcoming schedule will be announced in the near future.
Below is FSU's 2011 recruiting class:
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|Rico||Cole||Westland John Glen||Belleville||RB||5-6||160|
|Frank||Colletti||Maine South||Park Ridge, IL||OL||6-1||250|
|Razion||Harris||Chatham Glenwood||Springfield, IL||WR||6-1||180|
|Brett||Kenny||TC West||Traverse City||DB||6-0||200|
|Jordan||Roxas||Lockport Township||Homer Glen, IL||DT||6-2||245|
|Austin||St. Louis||Lasalle||St. Ignace||WR||6-2||185|
|Malik||Thurman||Proviso West, IL||Bellwood, IL||DB||5-9||170|
|Jacob||VanderKlok||GR South Christian||Caledonia||OL||6-5||275|
|Jason||Vander Laan||Chicago Christian||Frankfort, IL||QB||6-4||200|
|William||Frazier||New Mexico State||Redwood City, CA||WR||6-0||190|