Kennesaw State signs 11 players on first day of early signing period

Kennesaw State Owls coach Brian Bohannon during a FCS playoff game against the Wofford Terriers, Saturday, Dec. 1, 2018, Kennesaw.
Kennesaw State Owls coach Brian Bohannon during a FCS playoff game against the Wofford Terriers, Saturday, Dec. 1, 2018, Kennesaw.

Credit: Branden Camp

Credit: Branden Camp

Kennesaw State coach Brian Bohannon told his staff they were going to have to find a way to turn the negative — having to recruit virtually because of the pandemic — into a positive, and it wouldn’t be an excuse to not sign a good class.

On Wednesday, the first day of the early signing period, the Owls signed 11 players to letters of intent — and Bohannon said accomplished his goal of still bringing in a good class. Quarterback Arendez Fedd and offensive lineman Jordan Love headline the class as three-star recruits according to the 247Sports Composite rankings, and Kennesaw State’s class led the Big South for the fourth consecutive year.

“When you look at our class, I think, the class we signed today, what you see is really a benchmark of our program: kids that can run,” Bohannon said. “You turn (the tape) on, there’s a ton of kids that can run. They’re fast. That’s who we are. One thing I think we’ve tried to do here over the last few years is upgrade our size a little bit, particularly on the lines of scrimmage. I feel like we did that in the early signing period. We’ll never compromise speed here, but we’ve known that’s something we want to do is continue to upgrade our size a little bit.

“... Proud of our staff and our coaches, for their hard work they put in navigating a very unusual time to put together what I think is a heck of a class. I said earlier it’s gonna raise the bar. Every year, we try to do that for our program. There’s no question we did that in the early signing period.”

Since its first season of football in 2015, Kennesaw State has never had a losing season. After back-to-back conference championships and FCS quarterfinals appearances in 2017 and 2018, the Owls finished second in the Big South last year and lost in the second round of the FCS playoffs. Regularly contending for national championships seems to be the next step in the growth of Bohannon’s program.

Four of the 11 signees — William Calhoun (Greater Atlanta Christian), Dominique Marshall (Lowndes) and twins Gabriel and Garland Benyard (Irwin County) are competing in the GHSA semifinals this weekend. For Bohannon, watching them is an opportunity to relax and cheer on his recruits — and a reminder that recruiting athletes from winning programs is a key aspect of the Owls’ philosophy.

“We’re built on winning championships here, and we’re fortunate enough these kids we’re recruiting are from the same culture,” Bohannon said. “I think that’s important. When you’re at a place that wins, you want to go to a place that wins.”

Like most programs, Kennesaw State relies heavily on bringing recruits to campus as part of its pitch. That wasn’t an option this year, for the Owls or for anyone, and so the recruiting staff had to get creative. They put together a interactive, virtual tour of campus that featured all the aspects players would normally experience on an official visit and spent hours on Zoom calls, working to build relationships.

“There’s just so many things that we were not able to do, and I don’t know that you can really do anything to make up for that,” Bohannon said. “You just have to go do the best you can with what you have. We came up with a virtual tour that was very interactive. ... It’s just not the same, but that’s what we had to do. We didn’t have a choice.”

Kennesaw State has historically recruited heavily in-state, and this class is no different, with eight of the 11 players hailing from Georgia. But because everything was done virtually, Bohannon and his staff were able to expand their reach — all the way to Australia.

Defensive lineman Finn Hazel-Polkinghorne is a native of Williamstown, Australia, a suburb of Melbourne. He found a place on the Owls’ radar after sending emails to a number of coaches, including Kennesaw State recruiting coordinator and defensive line coach Liam Klein. Klein’s interest was piqued, and as they continued to talk, he realized Hazel-Polkinghorne would be a good fit.

“The uniqueness of recruiting a kid from Australia, it’s no different than recruiting a kid from right down the street because you communicate the same way in this year,” Bohannon said. “It really made it all the same because we’re having Zoom calls with kids who live 30 minutes from here (and) we’re having Zoom calls with Finn in Australia. The time difference was challenging.”

Klein and Bohannon had to talk to some other coaches at Kennesaw State to get advice on the logistics of signing an international player, which the Owls have never had in football. Once that was sorted out, it was smooth sailing. Hazel-Polkinghorne isn’t expected to enroll until the summer, and Bohannon clarified that even if he had wanted to enroll in January, the staff would’ve told him to wait.

“It wouldn’t be worth it right now,” Bohannon said. “But we’ve got him planning on coming in June sometime. I don’t anticipate anything (going wrong) right now, but we’re still in 2020, so who knows.”

Kennesaw State December 2020 signees

Name, Pos., Ht., Wt., Hometown

Gabriel Benyard, RB, 5-10, 180, Ocilla

Garland Benyard, LB, 6-1, 190, Ocilla

William Calhoun, OL, 6-2, 295, Suwanee

Arendez Fedd, QB, 6-1, 195, Locust Grove

Finn Hazel-Polkinghorne, DL, 6-4, 280, Williamstown, Australia

Jordan Love, OL, 6-2, 290, Rockledge, Fla.

Dominique Marshall, WR, 6-1, 190, Valdosta

Deontre Morris, DB, 5-11, 175, Atlanta

Java’n Singletary, DB, 6-0, 200, Warner Robins

Quandarius Smith, RB, 5-11, 205, Gainesville, Fla.

Adam Watkins, DL, 6-0, 285, Dacula

Note: Singletary is a transfer from Georgia Southern.

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