ELLISVILLE, MS (WDAM) - This is a press release from Jones County Junior College.
Steve Buckley and his Jones County Junior College coaching staff have been on the go for two months on the recruiting trail.
And that work paid off on Wednesday on National Signing Day.
JCJC officially announced 37 signees during the "Bobcat Football Recruiting Special," which aired live from the McClellan Hall Media Room on www.jcjc.tv.
Buckley, who was named as JCJC's new head coach on Dec. 3, 2015, was pleased with the results and is confident in the future of the Bobcat football program.
"We went hard for the last eight weeks, with six weeks on the road," he said. "You win some and you lose some. I learned a long time ago, worry about the ones you can get and not about the ones that are gone. We lost a couple on signing day that we really, really wanted. But I understand that.
"I'm not going say we are in a rebuilding stage. But from six weeks ago, this place is rebuilt. We are going to win and we are going to win fast. I'm not talking about how many games we are going to win and who we are going to beat, but we are going to be a winning program.
"The kids that we lost – that type kid next year and the next year will want to come to Jones. That's our goal."
Among the signees is Raekwon Davis, a 6-foot-7, 327-pound defensive tackle from Meridian, who also double-signed with the University of Alabama. Davis is rated the No. 11 defensive tackle and No. 83 prospect overall nationally by 247Sports.
Locally, the Bobcats grabbed quarterbacks Detric Hawthorn (5-10, 175) and Alex Ward (5-10, 170) out of Oak Grove. Hawthorn guided Collins to consecutive state championships and was named the Hattiesburg American All-Area Player of the Year. Ward threw for 3,562 yards and 38 touchdowns.
Running backs Scott Phillips (5-10, 205) of South Jones and Rashaud Green (5-10, 190) of Bassfield are also quality prospects, along with West Jones linebackers Larry Keys (5-10, 216) and Brandon Young (6-0, 187).
Offensive linemen Malik Cooley (6-6, 270) of Laurel, Andrew Smith (6-3) of Prentiss and Nick Vines (6-4, 315) of Oak Grove are also Bobcats, along with wide receiver Kendall Parham (6-1, 190) of Oak Grove and defensive tackle DeShondrick Foxworth (6-2, 295) of East Marion.
Other area players include defensive backs Derric Hawthorn (5-9, 175) of Collins, Jalon Scott (6-0, 170) of Perry Central and Tyrek Moody (5-10, 180) of Petal and kicker Brady Farlow (5-11, 180) of Purvis.
Across the state on offense, the Bobcats added linemen Cal Bakker (6-4, 285) from Vancleave, Jermaine Scott (6-0, 260) of Meridian, Melvin Hollins (6-1, 310) of Forest Hill and Dylan Desper (6-4, 255) of Madison Central, along with wide receivers Kaleb Clark (6-2, 200) of St. Martin, Daquan Smith (5-8, 170) of McComb, and Jeriko Morris (6-4, 200) of Crystal Springs and tight end Chancie Tidwell (6-2, 206) of Clinton.
On defense, the Bobcats signed linemen Jimon Dixon (6-3, 260) of St. Martin, Jordan Beaton (6-3, 265) of Harrison Central and Colby Ragland (6-6, 283) of Raymond, along with linebacker Cam Edgar (6-1, 240) of Madison Central and defensive back Antonio "AJ" Bracey (5-11, 175) of Terry.
JCJC also added punter Taylor Wallace (6-1, 200) of Jackson Prep and dual players Michael Boyce (6-2, 240), a tight end/defensive end from Harrison Central, and Travis Reed (6-2, 170), a wide receiver/defensive back from Meridian.
Five signees are already enrolled at JCJC, including Georgia transfer Jonathan Abram, Rutgers transfer Marques Ford, South Carolina commit Javon Kinlaw, Ohio transfer and former Florida commit Deontai Williams and early graduate Trevor Taylor.
Abram (6-2, 202) is from East Marion and started nine games as a true freshman in the secondary at Georgia in 2015.
"Jonathan contacted us in mid-December about maybe transferring here," Buckley said. "He had gone through a coaching change at the University of Georgia, which happens a lot in this profession. He is a great character kid and had a 3.3 GPA in his first semester at Georgia.
"He is a dominant player. He can play corner or one of the safety positions. He is a physical player. He can even play linebacker. He was a dual-threat quarterback in high school. We have a number of different options with him."
Williams (6-0, 175) is a defensive back from Trinity Christian Academy in Jacksonville, Florida.
"Deontai is a dynamic player," Buckley said. "He is one of the most physical players I've ever seen in high school. He has a chance to be a professional football player one day."
Kinlaw (6-5, 276) is a defensive lineman from Goose Creek High School in North Charleston, South Carolina.
"Javon has been a great kid since he's been here," Buckley said. "He has tremendous upside. We signed him as a defensive end, but he may end up as a '3-technique' guy inside. He played in the Army All-Star Game this past year."
Ford (6-4, 230) is a defensive end from East Bay High School in Riverview, Florida.
"Marques contacted us in December," Buckley said. "He is an explosive kid and was an Under Armour All-American game participant. He signed with Rutgers, but was not happy with a coaching change and other things, so welcomed him in December."
Terry (6-1, 175) is a wide receiver from Long Beach.
"Trevor is a great kid," Buckley said. "He is a very long kid and I think he's gained about 10 pounds since he's been here. He has great upside and is a great route-runner."
Buckley is pleased with what the Bobcats were able to accomplish in the past eight weeks.
"For some people, two months is a long time, but in the recruiting world, it's a very short time," he said. "Nowadays, it's turned into a two-year process. You start building relationships and you start getting to know kids and targeting kids when they are sophomores in high school.
"We took the list that was already here and tried to continue building those relationships. We've been in the high schools and we've tried to get to know their families."
Buckley praised his coaching staff for their role in putting together this year's class.
That staff includes assistant head coach/wide receivers coach John Carr, secondary coach Chip Bilderback, defensive line coach Anthony Maddox, quarterbacks coach Cole Weeks, assistant secondary coach Richard Chambliss, tight ends coach Javier Gonzalez and assistant offensive line/strength coach Alec Willis.
"We came in hustling. I can't say enough about what they've done," he said. "We all jumped in with some unselfish bodies. You can only have four out at the time on the road, but we worked the phones and did our research. I cannot thank those guys enough.
"I think the high school coaches know what we are going to be about and that's very important to us. High school football in Mississippi is well-coached."
Buckley also noted the efforts of Recruiting Coordinator/Director of Football Operations Tara Weisshaar.
"I'm probably the only guy in the country who has a female recruiting coordinator," he said. "Tara came in and did a great job. She was as instrumental as any of us in this process."
But Buckley can now reflect just a bit on the effort it to take to make this class a successful one.
"I've literally logged over 9,000 miles in a six-week period because we had a two-week dead period," he said. "It's been a lot of long days and nights to try and see everybody."
The Bobcats could add more players to the class soon.