Western Kentucky University announced a 2017 football signing day class of 23 players for new head coach Mike Sanford on Wednesday.
Sanford replaced Jeff Brohm, who departed for Purdue after leading the Hilltoppers to three consecutive bowl games and two straight Conference USA championships.
Sanford expressed pride in his staff quickly forming bonds with recruits.
“I think we effectively built those relationships, and more important is the fact that those players bought into the vision and bought into everything this university and this program have to offer,” the new head coach said.
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Sanford’s first recruiting class balanced offense (12 players) with defense (10) and included one specialist. The Hilltoppers landed four offensive linemen, three tight ends, two wide receivers, two running backs, a quarterback and a long snapper. On defense, WKU signed four linemen, four defensive backs and two linebackers.
The Toppers secured signatures from two in-state recruits — offensive linemen Cole Spencer of Trinity and Jordan Meredith of Bowling Green. The 21 out-of-state signees included 10 from Georgia, four from Florida, three from South Carolina and one each from Alabama, Mississippi, Oklahoma and Virginia.
The lone quarterback in the class is Davis Shanley, a 6-foot-2, 190-pound two-star prospect from Duluth, Ga.
Five members of the class have enrolled early — defensive back Roger Cray, defensive linemen Jaylon George and Carson Jordan, wide receiver Tariq Young, and Meredith.
Sanford, who was previously offensive coordinator at Notre Dame, took over the Hilltoppers on Dec. 14. WKU opens the 2017 season at home against Eastern Kentucky on Sept. 2.
Colonels add 39 players
Second-year Eastern Kentucky coach Mark Elder announced a 2017 signing class rich in home-grown talent.
Seventeen of the 39 prospects are from Kentucky, including wide receiver Jackson Beerman from Tates Creek, defensive linemen Shane Burks and Quinten Floyd from Bryan Station, and place-kicker Landon White from hometown Madison Central.
Nine other states are represented in the recruiting class, including six from Ohio, four from Tennessee, three from Alabama and North Carolina, two each from Florida and Indiana, and one each from Maryland and Virginia.
The group of new Colonels includes 19 players that received all-state honors in their respective home states. The class includes 11 defensive linemen, seven offensive linemen, five wide receivers, five running backs, four linebackers, three quarterbacks, two tight ends, one kicker and one long snapper.
“I’m really fired up about this class,” Elder said. “We addressed some needs we definitely needed to address. Up front was a major emphasis for us on both sides of the football.
“We were competing with a lot of teams at this level and competing with some FBS programs, and won some of those battles,” Elder said. “That was really good to see that not only can we compete at the upper echelon of FCS for these guys, but there were a handful of guys with FBS offers that turned down those opportunities to be a part of something special here at Eastern Kentucky.”
The group consists of 23 players that signed national letters of intent, four mid-year transfers and 12 walk-ons. The three Football Bowl Subdivision transfers are quarterback Garrett Kruczek (Central Florida), running back Jason Lewis (Arizona State) and running back LJ Scott (Louisville).