BEAUMONT, Texas – The Lamar University Cardinals signed five high school standouts to National Letters of Intent, and added five junior college transfers announced LU head coach Mike Schultz at a press conference Wednesday morning in the Dauphin Athletics Complex.
The 2017-18 season marks the first year the NCAA allowed an early signing period for high school seniors in the sport of football, a switch from the traditional National Signing Day during the first week of February. Players who don’t sign during the early signing period will also have an opportunity to sign with the school of their choice in six weeks.
The Cards’ early signing class is evenly balanced with five signees on the offensive side of the ball and the other five on defense.
The position breakdown on the offense consists of three offensive linemen, a running back and a quarterback. On defense, Big Red added two defensive linemen, two defensive backs and a linebacker.
“We’re extremely excited about the quality of this early signing class,” said Schultz. “We knew going in that we needed to add size and speed on both sides of the ball, and we accomplished that today. We were able to hit every need with the 10 guys we added.
“In terms of the overall balance of the class, that is something we knew we had to get done this year. We went into the recruiting process knowing we needed ‘X’ number of guys on the offensive end and ‘X’ on defense,” added Schultz.
The Cardinals continue to place a focus on the Golden Triangle under Schultz’s leadership. Big Red added two more local standouts to the fold in West Brook High School running back James Jones and defensive back Steven Jones.
The 2017 early signing class also expanded beyond the reach of the Lone Star State. The newest members to the football roster represent four different states including Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi and California.
With the graduation of one quarterback following the 2017 season and another entering his final year of eligibility, the quarterback position was very important entering the 2017 recruiting process. The Cardinals were able to fill this need with the addition of 6-3, 200-pound Killeen prospect Marcellus Johnson. A two-star athlete, Johnson completed 178 passes for 2,128 yards and 15 touchdowns as a senior. He also rushed for 827 yards and eight scores.
LU continues to bulk up in the trenches. The Cardinals’ three newest offensive linemen join a strong group of signees from last season. Over the course of his first two signing classes, Schultz has added eight new players on the offensive front. The incoming offensive linemen average 6-2, 285 pounds.
“We feel good about where we’re headed up front,” said Schultz. “When you look at who we have coming back, along with who we signed last year in addition to this early class and we’ve added a great deal of talent to the line. In addition to their size up front, I also really like the athleticism of the linemen we’ve signed today.”
The most pivotal of the offensive line signees comes in the form of 6-1, 280-pound transfer Stephon Cooper. A center for Mississippi Gulf Coast CC, Cooper’s signing comes at a key time for the Cardinals as three-year starter and 2017 honorable mention All-Southland selection Matt Oubre has exhausted his eligibility.
The Cardinals two defensive line signees only serve to strengthen what was a very young squad this past season. The Cardinals return three of their four starters from last season, but will look to replace an honorable mention all-conference pick in defensive end Manasseh Miles. Darien Wilson (Missouri City, Texas) and Hunter Adams (Houston, Texas) add immediate size and strength to the position. Wilson stands 6-0, 315, while Adams is 6-1, 280.
Over the course of the past several years, the word that everyone focuses on coming into signing day is ‘stars.’ Everyone wants to know how many stars a recruit has. The Cardinals added a California defensive back that was one of the most highly-recruited players in the nation coming out of high school. A former four-star athlete, Stanley Norman bring size (6-1, 185) and speed the Cardinals’ secondary. Norman originally signed with Arizona State after playing in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, and comes to Beaumont after spending the 2017 season at Cerritos College.
“I was extremely excited about the addition of Stanley ‘Scrappy’ Norman,” said Schultz. “He was a national recruit coming out of high school, and brings some big-time speed to our secondary. In addition to Norman, we also got faster with the addition of Steven (defensive back) and James Jones (running back) from West Brook High School. This class includes some big-time speed guys, size and guys who are already benching 500 pounds. We feel good about where we’re at as we turn our focus to National Signing Day in February. Because we were able to fill our needs today, we can narrow our focus a little bit more when it comes to February.”