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National Signing Day takes on new feel following early signing period

  • Tags:
  • National Signing Day
  • By:
  • George Becnel
  • Posted:
  • February 07, 2018 - 3:40pm

Riverside Academy signees for National Signing Day on Wednesday are, from left: LeBoe Bridges, Jeremy Gibson, Jalen Banks, Jordan Loving and Jeremiah Bigham.

For players like Shawn Preston of St. James and Macon Clark of Destrehan, the drama has been over for a little while.

Both took advantage of the new early signing period last December with Preston signing with Mississippi State and Clark with Tulane.

They were at their respective high schools on Wednesday to be part of National Signing Day ceremonies along with teammates who officially signed with their college of choice on the traditional signing period.

The addition of the early signing date made for a different type of experience for the college recruits around the nation, including the River Parishes.

In the case of Preston, he was an early verbal commitment to Mississippi State and opted to become a Bulldog even after Dan Mullen left to become the head coach at Florida.

The early signing day coincided with a number of colleges in the midst of coaching changes. For players like Riverside Academy running back Jeremy Gibson and Hahnville offensive lineman Larry Dixon, it meant a change that has a big impact on their futures.

Gibson was a verbal commitment to Arkansas and Dixon to Mississippi but a coaching change caused them to have to look elsewhere.

Gibson opted for Southwest Mississippi Community College while Dixon chose Southern University.

His plan, Gibson said is to play one semester at Southwest Mississippi and to be re-recruited with an eye on another potential opportunity with a Southeastern Conference school.

“It was rough but everything happens for a reason,” Gibson said of the recruiting process.

Still, the day was mainly for those who inked with colleges on the traditional signing day.

Few River Parish schools had a bigger day than East St. John.

It was a bumper crop for the Wildcats with 10 signees as most opted for community colleges and smaller Division II and NAIA schools.

“They are good kids. They worked their behinds off so we as coaches had to work our behinds off to give them a chance. They set themselves up. A few will go a little ways (from home) but it’s a chance. That’s the key. They get a chance to fulfill their dreams,” East St. John coach Alden Foster said.

One of the East St. John players who will be going to school far from home is linebacker D’andre Pittman, who signed with the University of Idaho.

“The guy who recruited me, Brandon Mitchell, he played for Coach Foster at Amite High and he came and talked to me and offered me a full ride. I went visit and really enjoyed myself up there,” Pittman said.

Other East St. John signees Wednesday included:  receiver/defensive back Javon Antonio, Hinds Junior College; running back Shelvin Keller, Southwest College in Kansas; linebacker Chris Thompson, Belhaven; offensive lineman Morgan Ursin, Belhaven; Kierce Farlough, Arkansas Baptist; Korey Lee, Hutchinson Community College; Cameron Grant, Southwestern College; Kyle Henderson, Southeast Prep in Lafayette; and Mark Stewart, Southern Prep in Baton Rouge.

Another East St. John player, defensive lineman John Gayden, who is weighing his options from 10 offers, did not sign Wednesday.

St. James had a large signing class as well.

Along with Preston, other signees included: defensive back Glenn Brown, Southern; defensive linemen Jason Dumas and Kyren Harris, both with Prairie View; defensive back Rashod Pierre, Wayne State in Nebraska; defensive back Keaton Hogan, Culver-Stockton College; and running back Kailan Johnson, William Penn, a NAIA school in Iowa.

At the traditional joint event for Destrehan and Hahnville, along with Clark to Tulane, Jabriel Fields is headed for Millsaps and Samson Matthews to West Hills Community College in California.

Dixon announced his decision to attend Southern while running back Anthony Williams was an early signee with Kansas and receiver Jamel Byrd signed early with Southern.

Another early signee was St. Charles Catholic athlete Lloyd Nash with Nicholls. Comets offensive lineman Robert McDonald is headed to Louisiana College.

For Gibson’s teammate at Riverside, Jalen Banks, Wednesday was more than just about football. He is heading to Army.

“My first four years I will be playing football and going to school. After that, there is five years of active duty,” Banks said.

Other Riverside signees Wednesday included: Le’Boe Bridges; Trinity Valley Community College and Jeremiah Bigham, Lindenwood University in St. Louis. Quarterback Jordan Loving will be a preferred walk-on at LSU.

Like Pittman headed for Idaho, Lutcher running back Daevon Adams will be playing football far from home after signing with Occidental College, a Division III school in California.

“My coach, Dwain Jenkins, he knew a guy out there. The guy got in touch with me and it was smooth sailing. I went up there and visited and it was home,” Adams.

Adams’ mother, Lisa, will just have to deal with her son being far away from home.

“I will be heartbroken but I understand and it’s best for him,” Lisa Adams said.

West St. John, the Class 1A state champions, had no signees on Wednesday but a few players may sign at a later date, according to Rams coach Brandon Walters.

George Becnel | .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

George Becnel is an award-winning journalist and has been a sports writer and editor for more than 30 years.