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Eagles add speed with signing class
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Georgia Southern 2009 signing class
Pos.    Name    Ht./Wt.    School
RB     Robert Brown     (5-11, 199)     Westside-Macon
AB     Tray Butler     (5-9, 179)     Woodland
OL     Dorian Byrd     (6-1, 245)     Westside-Macon
LB     Carlos Cave    (5-10, 188)     Westside-Macon
DT     Justice Ejike     (6-1, 241)     Newton County
FB     Aaron Fisher     (5-5, 188)     Central-Tulsa, Okla.
AB     Alex Ford     (5-11, 177)     Franklin, Tenn.
DE     Josh Gebhardt     (6-2, 235)     Landmark Christian
OL     Matthew Gilbert     (6-2, 275)     Walton
OL     Marcus Howton     (6-2, 315)      West Florida
LB     Omari Jones    (6-0, 199)     Mundy's Mill
OL     Zach Lonas     (6-1, 275)     Etowah
CB     Javonte Martin     (5-9, 170)      Plant-Tampa, Fla.
OL     Trevor McBurnett (6-1, 300)     Peachtree Ridge
QB     Jerick McKinnon (5-9, 177)     Sprayberry
DT     Blake Riley     (6-1, 250)     McIntosh Co. Academy
RB     Darries Robinson (5-8, 165)     Glynn Academy
LB     Michael Spaulding (5-11, 224)     Sandy Creek
S     Deion Stanley     (5-9, 185)     Twiggs County
QB     Julian Suber     (5-9, 165)     Brookwood
S     Lavelle Westbrooks (5-11, 174)     Riverdale
LB     Rashad Williams     (6-1, 223)     Dunwoody
QB     Ezayi Youyoute     (5-11, 171)     Hardee County, Fla.

From the quarterbacks to the defensive backs to the linebackers and even the linemen, one thing was consistent throughout Georgia Southern’s 2010 recruiting class — speed.

First-year coach Jeff Monken unveiled 23 new Eagles at the Parrish Football Center on Wednesday, and the class had a striking resemblance to those from the beginning of the decade.

“(Speed) was one thing that we really tried to target,” Monken said as he started naming signees. “We said, ‘Hey, if we’re going to go find some players, we’re going to find some guys that can run.’ We’ll sacrifice size to get a guy who runs faster.”

Getting late into the recruiting game in January was difficult, and Monken credits some of the class’s success to the many former GSU players who are now in the prep coaching ranks.

“Once you become a part of Georgia Southern, there’s something about this place that gets in you,” Monken said. “I think there’s always a fondness for Georgia Southern that gets in you. No matter where you go, if you leave and never come back, there’s always something there in your heart for Georgia Southern. It’s the case with the former players — the high school coaches that are out there. They want to see good things happen for Georgia Southern people.”

Both speed and lack of size were especially evident on the offensive side of the ball, where the Eagles signed three quarterbacks, five running backs and five offensive linemen.

For a team that spent the better part of each possession throwing passes from the pocket the last four years, the quarterback position has the biggest question mark.

One quarterback — Brookwood’s Julian Suber (5-foot-9, 165) — got looks from Georgia Tech as a quarterback when Monken was the slotbacks coach there. Suber played running back his senior season at Brookwood.

“We’re going to try him at quarterback,” Monken said about Suber. “I think if he can’t play quarterback, there’s about seven other places on the field he can play.”

The other two are familiar with the option game. Jerick McKinnon of Marietta (5-10, 180) ran the option from the shotgun and chose Georgia Southern over several other opportunities because of the chance to remain at the position. Ezayi Youyoute ran a similar scheme to GSU’s and rushed for 1,197 yards on 97 carries as a senior at Hardee County High School in Wauchula, Fla.

That doesn’t rule out the possibility of a player already in the system emerging as the QB from spring practice.

“We’re going to work as hard as we can to see if we can have a couple of guys come out of spring practice,” said quarterbacks coach Mitch Ware. “When these guys in the fall get here, it will be open to all of them.”

Two players enter the program as potential fullbacks.

Robert Brown, one of three former Westside-Macon standouts to join the GSU roster, rushed for 1,917 yards and 22 touchdowns as a senior and was named GHSA Region 1-AAAA offensive player of the year.

The other was flying under the radar — literally.

Aaron Fisher came to GSU from Oklahoma, where he averaged 8.15 yards-per-carry as a senior running back and recorded 100 tackles on defense as a junior.

His size is what you might call, “deceptive.”

“I honestly wasn’t fired up about a 5-foot-6 running back from Tulsa, Oklahoma, that we had to fly over five states to get,” Monken said. “But the more you watch the kid on film, the more he grows on you. He’s just built eerily similar to (former GSU All-American) Jermaine Austin.”

GSU didn’t go far from home to pick up three slotbacks in the class. Darries Robinson enters the program from Glynn Academy. The other two — Alex Ford and Trey Butler — were also mostly noted for their speed.

“We weren’t going to turn anybody down who was fast,” Monken said about Robinson. “We just think he’s going to be a guy in the slot that when we toss him the ball at the corner, he’s going to have a chance to take it the distance.”

Dorian Byrd is one of five offensive linemen to sign the dotted line, and is a throwback to GSU offensive lines of old.

“By most people’s standards, he doesn’t look like an offensive tackle,” Monken said. “He’s 6-foot-1, 245 pounds, and most people would think that’s really undersized.”

Matthew Gilbert (Walton) and Marcus Howton (Pensacola, Fla.) join the lineup as well as Zach Lonas and Trevor McBurnett — two others who Monken began evaluating for Georgia Tech.


With just four scholarship players currently on the four-man front the defense will run in the fall, it’s a safe bet that the two defensive tackles and two defensive ends who signed Wednesday will see the field at some point in 2010.

“All the defensive linemen we’re signing today, we’re going to give them the opportunity to at least be in the depth,” said Monken. “We’ve got to. We just don’t have the numbers.”

Josh Gebhardt, a defensive end from Landmark Christian Academy who was being recruited by GSU in the fall, is expected to play early, and Rashad Williams (Dunwoody) was sent GSU’s way by former Eagle and Dunwoody head coach Michael Youngblood.

Three linebackers signed with the Eagles — most notably Mike Spaulding. Spaulding was found late in the process and was the last recruit to send in his letter of intent. Spaulding played middle linebacker and running back on a state-champion Sandy Creek team, and was the only player on the team who went both ways.

Deion Stanley from Twiggs County played quarterback in high school and will join GSU’s roster as a defensive back, along with Lavelle Westbrooks of Riverdale

Though the signing class won’t be at GSU in the spring, the Eagles are expected to begin spring camp on March 22.

For the first time since the Academic Progress Rate was instituted by the NCAA, Georgia Southern was able to use a full slate of scholarships.

Monken said he had roughly 20 scholarships to work with for this year’s class. In the FCS, a scholarship may be used partially among multiple players.