Wednesday was National Signing Day for high school football players to commit to various college programs. Seventeen high school players and three mid-year transfers from other schools make up the University of West Florida’s third recruiting class.
Here are the numbers: 17 recruits are from Florida, and three from Alabama. Eleven play on the offensive side of the ball, eight on defense. Add to that one kicker. Head Coach Pete Shinnick says it helped that the Argos have played their first season, with some of the games on either regional or national television, and being able to host potential recruits at the games.
“That really, I think, created the buzz and the atmosphere that we found when we were in the high schools, when we were talking to coaches,” Shinnick said. “Games being on TV, games being played at Wahoos Stadium, really generated I think the excitement to the level that we’re at right now.”
That first season on the field in 2016 perhaps is the main factor that places the recruiting class of 2017 above the previous two years. Because of that, Shinnick says the word is now going forth about the UWF football program.
“The brand is starting to identify itself,” said Shinnick. “And what UWF Football is, is starting to create some energy and excitement amongst the high school coaches which then, the players are the benefactors of that. They’re starting to connect the dots on that, and they’re starting to see what that looks like.”
Shinnick said going into recruiting season, they were hoping to get “one of everything” – one at each position, or perhaps two if possible. One focus was the offensive line, where UWF was notoriously thin last season. The Argos are hoping two recruits, Mike Dill and Tommy Kanaley, can help right away.
For the offensive backfield, UWF picks up quarterback Spencer Mollnow of Jacksonville and two running backs: Anthony Johnson Jr. of Pace and T.J. Stokes of Montgomery, Alabama. The recruits and transfers will join about 90 returning players, including 19 starters from the inaugural season in which the Argonauts went 5-6.
“But as we said from day one, we’re going to build this program with high school players,” Shinnick said. “We’re going to start in the 850 area code [Florida Panhandle].”
When it comes to recruiting, college football programs at all levels try to balance filling immediate needs with going after the best players available at all positions. UWF Coach Pete Shinnick is no different.
“Linebacker’s a position that we have a need for, and we think we’re going to have a freshman linebacker play for us next year,” said Shinnick. “But every year, you don’t want to pass up either, a great high school player.”
Next up for the Argos: spring practice kicks off March 25, with the Blue-White Spring Game on Saturday, April 22 at Pen Air Field on the UWF campus.