tampabay.com

Sun Belt school raids county

Middle Tennessee signs seven Hillsborough recruits despite not having local ties.

By JOEY KNIGHT
Published February 8, 2007


TAMPA - If Middle Tennessee's second-year coach, Rick Stockstill, can build a program as effectively as he constructs a pipeline, the Blue Raiders will be jostling for a BCS berth by the end of the decade.

On only his second signing day, Stockstill formally funneled seven local recruits, including four Jefferson players, from Hillsborough County to Murfreesboro.

To put the feat in more astounding terms: One-third of the 21 county players who signed Division I or I-AA letters of intent Wednesday are bound for the Sun Belt Conference school.

That figure jumps even higher if you count Jefferson defensive back Marcus McGee, who's headed for Middle Tennessee on an academic scholarship.

"They cleaned up around here," Dragons coach Mike Fenton said. "I think they were smart. They knew they didn't have to go anywhere else."

Surprisingly, none of the Raiders' local recruiters have prominent area ties. Offensive coordinator G.A. Mangus, the area's primary recruiter, was a backup quarterback for Steve Spurrier at Florida but is from Georgia.

"There's no secrets or anything like that in recruiting," said Stockstill, a former FSU quarterback and journeyman assistant who grew up in Fernandina Beach.

"I think it's just probably a combination of our needs and what was available talent-wise in that area."

Stockstill's local harvest features girth for the offensive line Berkeley Prep's Colin Boss, Jefferson's Mike Williams, versatility for his backfield (Armwood fullback Marquise Branton) and speed for his flank (Armwood athlete Deondre Kyles, Jefferson wideout Evan Cromer).

It also includes a defensive tackle (Jefferson's DeMarcus Cleveland) and a defensive back (Jefferson safety Kevin Brown). The four Jefferson players made their official visit to Murfreesboro together.

"Not only did they get a bunch of Hillsborough County guys, those Hillsborough County guys never wavered," Armwood coach Sean Callahan said. "They were going to Middle Tennessee because (Mangus) did a great job.

"We're real happy. I'm sure with Jefferson and Armwood, now they've created some inroads with both schools."

Times staff writer Scott Purks contributed to this report. Joey Knight can be reached at (813) 226-3350 or jknight@sptimes.com.