D’Vontae Bedford, DL, 6-1, 265, Darien
Dez Billingslea, LB, 6-2, 205, Covington
McKenzie Billingslea, DL, 6-4, 240, Powder Springs
Jae Bowen, RB, 5-11, 190 Douglasville
Cymeon Burden, DB, 6-2, 180, McDonough
Chandler Burks, QB, 5-10, 175, Douglasville
Austin Byrd, DL, 6-3, 230, Calhoun
Will Cape, DB, 5-10, 180, Gainesville
Trey Chivers, RB, 5-11, 197, Carrollton
Anthony Gore, LB, 6-0, 215, Statesboro
Xavier Harper, WR, 6-0, 185, Hoschton
Taylor Henkle, S, 5-11, 185, Marietta
Melvin Hill, RB, 5-8, 175, Sandersville
Luther Jones, DL, 6-0, 285, Blairsville
Jake McKenzie, QB, 6-0, 190, Monroeville, Ala.
Chiaza Nwadike, OL, 6-2, 290, Riverdale
Jaquez Parks, QB, 6-1, 205, Griffin
Devin Pughsley, DL, 6-1, 215, Hoover, Ala.
Akebren Ralls, DB, 5-10, 170, Forsyth
Justin Sumpter, WR, 6-3, 200, Tyrone
Brandon Sutton, OL, 6-0, 250, LaGrange
Corey Thomas, OL, 6-2, 290, Covington
Marcus Thurman, DB, 5-11, 165, Bowdon
Ryan Warrior, OL, 6-3, 260, Fayetteville
Jace White, DB, 6-1, 185, Dallas
Braylon Young, DT, 5-11, 265, Alcoa, Tenn.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Kennesaw State signed 29 players in its inaugural class. The Owls will play their first game in 2015.
Coach Brian Bohannon signed eight defensive linemen, six defensive backs, five offensive linemen, three quarterbacks, three running backs, two wide receivers and two linebackers. Bohannon plans to run an option offense that will include some under-the-center and some shotgun formations. The defense will run a 4-2-5 system. Each player will enroll in the fall, which is when the team will run its first practices. Each player will redshirt.
Within the group are a high school All-American and Georgia All-Classification Player of the Year (Jaquez Parks), 14 all-state players, three state champions (including Parks), two state runners-up, two all-star game MVPs, two Atlanta Journal-Constitution all-area team selections and two all-Middle Georgia team selections. Also, 19 of the signees have at least a 3.0 grade-point average.
“This is a five-year plan,” Bohannon said. “We want to build things the right way and really set a foundation for us to grow on.”
Bohannon said he doesn’t plan to use the last scholarship available.
The Owls secured the top players on their board at several positions, including quarterback and linebacker.
There should be plenty of competition at quarterback among Parks, Jake McKenzie and Chandler Burks, three players who had prolific high school careers and who each seems suited for the option offense. Parks passed for more than 7,000 yards, with 59 touchdowns in his career. McKenzie came close to reaching 2,800 yards in offense, with 40 touchdowns last season. Burks, the first commitment and the first signee, had more than 4,800 yards in offense in his high school career.
“In any offense the quarterback is the guy that makes you go, and the three we got are outstanding,” Bohannon said. “We couldn’t have done any better.”
The coaching staff also is high on wide receiver Xavier Harper of Jackson County. Harper is a big target (6-0, 185 pounds) who caught 62 passes for 1,164 yards and 17 touchdowns last season.
Dez Billingslea, a three-star recruit, may be the second-most important signing in the class behind Parks. As a linebacker at Newton, he had 91 tackles, three sacks and a forced fumble.
Jace White could be the hybrid safety/linebacker in the 4-2-5. He was credited with 139 tackles at North Paulding last season after making 137 tackles in 2012.
The only player that the Owls hoped to sign and didn’t was Ahmad Gooden, a defensive end from Talladega, Ala., who signed with Samford.
The Owls didn’t sign any kicking specialists. Bohannon said they will do that either next year or through walk-on tryouts.
If there was a player at a high school with “Paulding” in the name, the Owls may have signed him. Kennesaw State signed three players from nearby South Paulding — offensive lineman Lorenzo Adger, running back Jae Bowen and Burks — and one from North Paulding — White. Kennesaw State assistant coach Tim Glanton formerly was the head coach at South Paulding.
Bohannon and Parks’ father played together in high school, so he said their relationship may have helped to convince Jaquez to sign with the Owls.
Kennesaw State signed a pair of players from prolific Sandy Creek, wide receiver Justin Sumpter and offensive lineman Ryan Warrior.
Well, because it was a new team there was no depth chart. But Bohannon said it was important in this initial class to build depth on the offensive and defensive lines because he said that is where games will be won. He will try to build upon that depth, and he said add maturity to the team, in next year’s class.
The offensive line’s largest players are Adger, Charles Drew’s Chiaza Nwadike and Newton’s Corey Thomas, each of whom are listed at 6-2, 290.
The largest players on the defensive line are Alpharetta’s Auzoyah Alufohai (6-3, 310) and Tri-Cities’ Joseph Alexander (6-4, 300).
“The emphasis for us was to get as much depth as possible on the line of scrimmage,” Bohannon said. “Those are the positions that take a little more time to develop, and we wanted to get them in here. When it comes down to it, the guys in the trenches are what matter most, and I’m excited for the guys we brought in on that front.”
Twenty-six players from in-state schools signed with the Owls.
“Georgia is home base, and that will never change here,” Bohannon said. “We are going to cover the state of Georgia. That’s what we set out to do and that’s what we did.”
The three out-of-state players who signed didn’t travel far. Two are from Alabama and the other from Tennessee.