The Eastern New Mexico News - Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

Hounds have big haul on signing day


February 8, 2018

Gary Mook (Las Cruces Sun-News)

Brandon Baeza, the 2017 Gatorade New Mexico football player of the year, was among Wednesday's signing class for Eastern New Mexico University.

PORTALES — Coming off of a season in which they cracked the Top 25 for the first time since 2003 and finished 8-2, the Eastern New Mexico Greyhounds football team were looking to carry that momentum into Wednesday's national signing day.

According to head coach Kelley Lee, who will have to replace eight defensive starters and also rebuild his offensive line, it was mission accomplished.

"Very good class," Lee said. "We did very well with regional and area football players in New Mexico and west Texas. We needed to do that because that's our main recruiting base. We needed offensive linemen and defensive backs; those were our two main areas of concerns. We brought in a bunch of guys at those positions that we think can help us."

ENMU's 2018 class included 52 players on Wednesday, not counting the three previous offensive linemen signings from December's early signing period. Of that group, the Hounds signed 17 offensive linemen and nine defensive backs.

Lee believes the previous offensive line transfers have an opportunity to potentially start right away, whereas high school recruits tend to redshirt more often. Lee thinks that fall camp will have a big say in the depth chart.

Two players who highlight this year's group are Clovis' own Hunter St. John and Josiah Thomas.

"Everybody knows that if you play football for Clovis, you're tough," Lee explained. "They both get after it in the run game and are very physical. We think that they can do what we ask them to do.

"Josiah reminds me of Isaiah Callahan (a current ENMU starting lineman and a former Clovis Wildcat), when he was coming out of high school. Hunter is a little light on weight, but we'll get him into our strength program and help him get his weight up. What we like about him is that he's very athletic and he can get to that second and third level of the defense, which is what we like out of our linemen."

As for defensive backs, Colby Russ (6-1, 185) is from Randall High School in Amarillo and was considered one of the fastest players from west Texas. Lee says Russ was one of the many recruiting battles that his Greyhounds won, as Russ was being recruited by several other schools but chose the Greyhounds because they contacted him first.

A diamond in the rough candidate that has caught Lee's eye is fellow DB Zerrian Meander. Meander was Russ' teammate at Randall, and is similar in size at 6-1, 175. According to Lee, Meander was a standout player as a junior, but played in just three games due to injury as a senior, meaning that many schools basically forgot about him.

As for the defensive back class in general, Lee was relieved to have such a good haul of players.

"Basically, we looked for speed and size players," Lee said. "Not necessarily weight, but taller DB's who are long and rangy-type guys.

"Last year in our scheme, we played with three defensive backs and a hybrid linebacker/safety. But by the end of the end, we were stretched pretty thin at the position, and that's not a good thing with all these uptempo, spread offenses we face. Plus, a lot of our special teams guys are DB's too. So, you need that depth and I felt like we had a really good class."

Perhaps the crown jewel of the class was 2017 New Mexico Gatorade Player of the Year Brandon Baeza. Baeza (5-9, 175) excelled on all sides of the ball at Las Cruces High, as he was All-State as a wide receiver, defensive back and return man.

For Eastern, this is now the third time in the last five years that it has been able to sign the New Mexico Player of the Year. According to Lee, he believes it's a product of guys being able to come in and compete for playing time right away, compared to larger schools. As for Baeza, Lee is leaning toward making him a slot running back.

As for running back, Lee brought in seven running backs/fullbacks, if you include Baeza - who was recruited as an athlete. Lee's "Ground Strike" offense features a lot of ball carriers, but no one excelled quite as well as outgoing senior Kamal Cass.

Cass broke the school's career rushing record last year, and was a multiple-time All-American. As for specifically replacing Cass, Lee said, "I think that'll come from guys already on campus. Paul Terry, he's the heir apparent. But even before Kamal, we had E'lon Spight, who was also an All-American. Before that, we had Christian Long. So we have a tradition at running back here, and with Kamal, it's more than just his production. When your best player is one of your great leaders and hardest worker, that's hard to replace. Those are the biggest things he did here, and we're hoping to establish that type of culture here."

ENMU football signings

The following players signed letters of intent with Eastern New Mexico University on Wednesday, the first day prospects could sign with the school:

Name Ht. Wt. Pos. School/City

Brandon Baeza 5-9 175 ATH Las Cruces H.S./Las Cruces

Nathan Betts 6-3 195 QB/P Amarillo H.S./Amarillo, TX

Roel Sanchez 5-10 180 QB O'Conner H.S/Helotes, TX

Caleb Ball 6-0 195 FB Tularosa, H.S. /Tularosa

Jontay Edwards 5-10 225 FB Bartlett H.S./Anchorage, AK

Tafari Gomillion 5-10 170 RB Tascosa H.S./Amarillo, TX

Dennis Hayden 5-10 180 RB Sandia H.S./Albuquerque        

Nashon Ray 6-1 190 RB Tascosa H.S./Amarillo, TX

Lamaron Smith 5-11 215 FB Tascosa H.S./Amarillo, TX

Ashton Williams 6-3 205 WR Estacado HS/Lubbock

Cameron Seabrook 6-2 180 WR Pebble Hills H.S./ El Paso, TX

Jiovanni Franklin-Santacrose 6-3 235 TE East H.S./Anchorage, AK

Diego Archuleta 6-2 270 OL Atrisco Heritage/Albuquerque

Matthew Arce 6-0 265 OL Littlefield HS/Littlefield

Dan Bradbury 6-3 270 OL West H.S./Anchorage, AK

Logan Butler 6-5 280 OL Hereford H.S./Hereford, TX

Cormac Fish 6-1 260 OL Midland Lee HS/Midland, TX

Travis Hacker 6-4 275 OL Eunice H.S./Eunice

Chase Latimore 6-0 275 OL Del Norte H.S./ Albuquerque

Tyler McClendon 6-5 270 OL Ruidoso H.S./Ruidoso

Sam Piotraschke 6-5 310 OL Fort Collins HS/Fort Collins, CO

Colin Powers 6-2 280 OL Lubbock Cooper HS/Lubbock

Cannin Prieto 6-1 265 OL Hobbs H.S./Hobbs

Moises Sanchez 6-4 295 OL West L.A. College/Norwalk, CA

Hunter St. John 6-3 225 OL/TE Clovis H.S./Clovis

Josiah Thomas 6-4 290 OL Clovis H.S/Clovis

Cody Wilhelm 6-3 250 OL Coronado HS/Lubbock

Jaylen Wilson 6-2 270 OL Monterey HS/Lubbock

Brett Wydra 6-2 305 OL Andress H.S./El Paso, TX

Reggie Gaines 6-2 295 DL Oak Hills H.S./Hesperia, CA

Kedrick Grandberry 6-1 265 DL Rio Rancho H.S./Rio Rancho

Adrian Mackey 6-0 260 DE NMMI/Hobbs

Toni Makihele 6-4 265 DL Diamond H.S./Anchorage, AK

Nicolas Martinez 6-1 265 DL Espanola Valley H.S./Espanola

Khalif Ravenell 6-1 240 DE/OLB Moutain Pointe H.S./Phoenix

Santiago Zapien 6-0 240 DL Rio Rancho H.S./Rio Rancho

Noah Baca 6-0 205 LB Manzano H.S./Albuquerque

Andrew Gaines 6-0 210 LB North Pole H.S/ North Pole, AK

Bryson Huey 6-0 200 LB Coronado HS/Lubbock

Derek Loidolt 5-11 210 OLB La Cueva H.S./Albuquerque

Miguel Martinez 6-0 200 LB Artesia H.S./Artesia

Camron Pitcher 6-0 220 LB Centennial H.S./Corona, CA

Trent Welch 6-1 205 LB Bushland H.S./Bushland, TX

Elijah Cofer 6-2 175 DB Tascosa H.S./Amarillo

Tranarri Haskins 6-0 175 DB Palo Duro H.S./Amarillo

Deon Lee 6-0 180 S Phoenix CC /Phoenix, AZ

Ty McFail 5-10 175 DB Denison H.S./Denison, TX

Zerrian Meander 6-1 175 DB Randall H.S./Amarillo

Emilio Rodriguez 6-0 190 Safety Phoenix CC /Phoenix, AZ

Colby Russ 6-1 185 DB Randall H.S./Amarillo

Jaylien Spires 5-11 175 DB Pebble Hills H.S./ El Paso, TX

Denver Williams 5-11 175 S Artesia H.S./Artesia


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