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Best class? Put up your Dukes

By Craig Haley, FCS Executive Director

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - The axiom for college recruiting is for a particular university to keep the top high school players from its state at home for its signing class.

The Virginia-laden roster of James Madison University football speaks a lot toward veteran head coach Mickey Matthews and his assistants annually delivering on this notion.

But when the Dukes reach outside the state, they reach with big intentions.

This year's recruiting success both in and out of Virginia has given JMU arguably the best class in the Football Championship Subdivision. The CAA Football program has secured the most two- and three-star recruits according to the nation's three main recruiting web sites, ESPN, Rivals and Scout.

"We're really doing a nice job," Matthews said in announcing the recruiting class Wednesday.

James Madison football coach Mickey Matthews targeted quarterbacks, linebackers and defensive ends in his recruiting class.
"We have a great group of salesmen in our assistant football coaches. These guys have been with me for a while, they know what I'm looking for, they know what our schemes are offensively and defensively. So we feel very good about this year's group."

Evaluating recruiting classes is an inexact science because it's all on paper. It could be four, five years before we will get the true answer of who has come up biggest this year.

Still, there's no disputing JMU has enjoyed recruiting success not just against the old CAA guard, but Old Dominion's rising program, which also is having a banner recruiting year.

The Dukes' 14-member class includes Virginia recruits Dylan Stallings, a 6- foot-4, 210-pound defensive end out of Yorktown and Grafton High; Justin Baker, a 6-foot, 255-pound defensive end out of Ashburn and Briar Woods High; and Rhakeem Stallings, a 6-foot, 210-pound outside linebacker out of Chesapeake and Oscar Smith High.

Matthews and his staff, whose team went 8-5 and reached the second round of the FCS playoffs this past season, rolled into Maryland to get 6-6, 245-pound quarterback Ian Fisher from Brunswick High and yet another defensive end, 6-4, 240-pound Silas Ademola from Bladensburg High.

The Dukes even went into CAA rival Delaware's hometown and grabbed 6-1, 185- pound quarterback Taylor Reynolds from Newark High.

In addition, Maryland transfers Titus Till, a 6-2, 200-pound safety, and Jeremiah Wilson, a 5-10, 185-pound cornerback - both redshirt sophomores - are enrolled already and will be a part of spring practices.

Oh, yes, they're celebrating in Harrisonburg.

James Madison 2012 Recruiting Class

Player (Pos) HT WT Hometown (High School)

Silas Ademola DL 6-4 240 Bladensburg, MD (Bladensburg)

Justin Baker DL 6-0 255 Ashburn, VA (Briar Woods)

John Barillo LB 6-1 215 Ventnor, NJ (St. Augustine Prep)

Michael Birdsong QB 6-4 220 Matoaca, VA (Matoaca)

Xavier Crocker CB 5-10 175 Mechanicsville, VA (Hanover)

Ian Fisher QB 6-6 245 Brunswick, MD (Brunswick)

Mitchell Kirsch OL 6-5 265 Kensington, MD (St. John's College)

Taylor Reynolds QB 6-1 185 Newark, DE (Newark)

Dylan Stallings TE/DL 6-4 210 Yorktown, VA (Grafton)

Rhakeem Stallings LB 6-0 210 Chesapeake, VA (Oscar Smith)

Gage Steele LB 6-0 210 Front Royal, VA (Warren)

*Titus Till S 6-2 200 Upper Marlboro, MD (Wise/Maryland)

Kwe'shon Williams ATH 5-10 160 Norfolk, VA (Norview)

Jeremiah Wilson* DB 5-10 185 Winchester, VA (Handley/Maryland)

* - denotes transfer

OTHER TOP CLASSES

At Portland State, head coach Nigel Burton's recruiting class doesn't feature only key players from Oregon, it has some of the best within the city.

Portland's larger size helps increase the talent pool, but Burton clearly has been the man with a plan since arriving at the Big Sky school after the 2009 season. After a competitive first season with some tight losses in 2010, he led the Vikings to their first winning record since 2006 with a 7-4 mark this past season.

Portland State has done an excellent job of marketing itself within the city and the payoff includes this year's recruiting haul. Its five recruits from Portland are led by 6-1, 230-pound linebacker Daniel Halverson from Grant High. He's come aboard with high school teammate Jamarr Graves, a 6-3, 190- pound wide receiver.

Portland State and head football coach Nigel Burton recruited well within city limits.
Another Portland standout, 5-11, 205-pound wide receiver/defensive back Nicholas Rothstein from Jesuit High also is part of the class.

The Vikings' announced class didn't include, as expected, stud defensive tackle Tyrone Holmes from Eagle Point, Ore., but they should get an immediate impact from seven transfers, including five from junior colleges.

Appalachian State has put together an outstanding class as it tries to reload following an 8-4 campaign that saw the end of a six-year run as Southern Conference champion. Since then, there has been a big turnover on head coach Jerry Moore's staff.

ASU added one of this year's top FCS running back recruits in 6-foot, 190- pound running back Tysean Holloway out of Asheville, N.C. He's enrolled already.

The Mountaineers also stayed in-state for 5-11, 175-pound cornerback Aaron Krah out of Durham and Hillside High.

Moore and Co., though, did some of their best recruiting in Georgia - sorry, Georgia Southern fans - with a haul that includes cornerback Dante Blackmon (5-11, 185) from Covington Eastside; defensive tackle Darian Small (6-2, 285) from Hampton Dutchtown; wide receiver Malachi Jones (6-1, 180) from Lawrenceville Central Gwinnett; and tight end Barrett Burns (6-4, 220) from Woodstock Etowah.

Villanova always does some of the best recruiting in the FCS, and despite suffering through their first losing season since 2005 - a 2-9 record - veteran coach Andy Talley has another top group of newcomers.

The Wildcats' talent is widespread, including two key linebackers from Pennsylvania, Langhorne's Corey Majors (6-1, 240), who is spending a prep year at Worcester (Mass.) Academy, and West Chester Henderson's T.J. White (6-2, 220), as well as wide receiver Mike Burke (6-2, 200) from Columbia (Pa.) Columbia Junior/Senior.

The Wildcats reached north to Connecticut for Danbury linebacker Austin Calitro (6-1, 230) and south to Maryland for Clarksville River Hill running back Aaron Wells (5-8, 180) and to Florida for Orange Park Fleming Island linebacker Cameron McCurry (6-0, 215).

Sacks or scores, contact Craig Haley at
chaley@sportsnetwork.com.


Follow Craig Haley on Twitter and Facebook.

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