App State Finds Ideal ‘FIT’ with 2019 Signing Class

Published Thursday, February 7, 2019 at 9:54 am

With record-breaking rankings, the addition of nine more student-athletes on February’s National Signing Day gave Appalachian State Football a total of 18 signees from the Class of 2019.
 
On Wednesday, head coach Eliah Drinkwitz announced the signing of, in alphabetical order, wide receiver Raykwon Anderson, quarterback David Baldwin-Griffin, outside linebacker KeSean Brown, offensive lineman Larry Dowdy, defensive back Emmanuel Jenkins, long snapper Christian Johnstone, offensive lineman Craig McFarland, defensive back Milan Tucker and running back Ben Williams.
 
In December, App State signed defensive back Tre Caldwell, wide receiver Dashaun Davis, outside linebacker Brendan Harrington, linebacker Jourdan Heilig, offensive lineman Lyle Hiers, tight end Ricky Kofoed, defensive back Nicholas Ross, defensive lineman Luke Smith and wide receiver Christian Wells. Caldwell, Davis, Harrington, Heilig, Ross and Smith already have joined the Mountaineers as early enrollees.
 
According to the 247Sports database, this 18-player class includes three of the six highest-rated commitments in App State’s FBS history, with Baldwin-Griffin and his grade of 85.88 ranking No. 1 in program history. Anderson has an 84.85, followed by Harrington with an 84.35.
 
“When we talk about fit, FIT is an acronym,” said Drinkwitz, noting that the staff was looking at focus, intangibles and talent. “We are looking for a young man who is focused — focused on what they want to achieve not only in football, but in life, and that’s represented. Our GPA for the combined signees is a 3.42 GPA. These guys have a high academic IQ and standard, which is important to us. We want to have smart football players, and so that was the right fit.
 
“We’re looking for intangibles, guys that we like, that like us, that fit us. Boone is a special place. Appalachian Football is a special place for special people … Looking at talent, seven of our signees had multiple Power Five (conference) offers.”
 
App State’s recruiting class is made up of four defensive backs, three offensive linemen, three linebackers, three receivers, one defensive lineman, one quarterback, one running back, one tight end and one long snapper.
 
The class includes six in-state prospects, tied for the highest total in the program’s FBS history. There are four Florida prospects, four Georgia prospects, one prospect from South Carolina, one prospect from Tennessee, one prospect from California (Baldwin-Griffin) and one prospect from Arizona (McFarland).
 
“I think our administration did a great job with supporting us and making sure that we had all the resources we needed to attract quality football players here,” Drinkwitz said. “Our coaching staff put in tireless hours, and our community did a great job.”
 
Baldwin-Griffin, who is from Compton, Calif., played his final prep season at IMG Academy in Florida. A left-handed quarterback with a 6-foot-4, 215-pound frame, he is ranked as the No. 22 dual-threat QB in the Class of 2019.
 
Set to become the first Arizona native since 1992 to play at App State, McFarland is a top-150 offensive tackle nationally, and Anderson received all-state recognition at three different positions as a four-time honoree in Georgia.
 
Dowdy appeared in the prestigious Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas as a two-time all-state offensive lineman out of South Point High School in Belmont, N.C., and Williams joins Kofoed, a Charlotte Christian teammate, as a Class of 2019 signee from a program that won back-to-back state titles.
 
The February signing period led to the addition of two more defensive backs in Tucker, who excelled as a two-way player in Fort Myers, Fla., and Jenkins, whose size as a 6-foot-2, 200-pound member of the secondary stands out.
 
An award-winning linebacker in South Carolina, Brown also performed well and scored a touchdown as a running back during the Border Bowl in Augusta, S.C., and Johnstone was ranked nationally as a top-10 long snapper during his prep career in Georgia. The Mountaineers now have another candidate to replace four-year starter Elias McMurry at that position.
 
Drinkwitz thanked recruiting coordinator Justin Watts, director of player personnel Andrew Blaylock and App State’s other assistant coaches for their hard work. That included a high volume of flights, nights in hotels and cross-country travel, a lot of which occurred while their families are in the process of moving to the High Country.
 
“Justin had this group targeted, and when I signed up, we only had six days before the first signing period,” Drinkwitz said. “We were able to hold on to nine committed players, and I want to thank them and their families for buying into our mission. I want to thank Justin for being able to hold it together and keep us on the right track. I thought he did a great job, once that signing period ended, to refocus on what we needed to get now.”
 
App State Football 2018-19 Signing Class
 
December
*Tre Caldwell | DB | 5-10 | 186 | Greensboro, N.C. (Southeast Guilford)
*Dashaun Davis | WR | 5-9 | 160 | Deerfield Beach, Fla. (Deerfield Beach)
*Brendan Harrington | OLB | 6-1 | 205 | Pittsboro, N.C. (Northwood)
*Jourdan Heilig | LB | 6-1 | 195 | Concord, N.C. (Concord)
Lyle Hiers | OL | 6-5 | 260 | Lake Wales, Fla. (Lake Wales)
Ricky Kofoed | TE | 6-3 | 220 | Charlotte, N.C. (Charlotte Christian)
*Nicholas Ross | DB | 5-10 | 175 | Marietta, Ga. (Kell)
*Luke Smith | DL | 6-1 | 292 | Lebanon, Tenn. (Friendship Christian)
Christian Wells | WR | 5-11 | 170 | Fort Lauderdale, Fla. (University School)
 
February
Raykwon Anderson | WR | 5-9 | 175 | Folkston, Ga. (Charlton County)
David Baldwin-Griffin | QB | 6-4 | 215 | Compton, Calif. (IMG Academy)
KeSean Brown | OLB | 6-2 | 210 | Bamberg, S.C. (Bamberg-Ehrhardt)
Larry Dowdy | OL | 6-4 | 285 | Belmont, N.C. (South Point)
Emmanuel Jenkins | DB | 6-2 | 200 | Canton, Ga. (Sequoyah)
Christian Johnstone | LS | 6-3 | 240 | Loganville, Ga. (Archer)
Craig McFarland | OL | 6-6 | 275 | Phoenix, Ariz. (Chaparral)
Milan Tucker | DB | 5-11 | 165 | Lehigh Acres, Fla. (Fort Myers)
Ben Williams | RB | 5-10 | 185 | Charlotte, N.C. (Charlotte Christian)
 
* Already enrolled at App State
 
FEBRUARY SIGNEES
 
Raykwon Anderson – WR
5-9, 175
Folkston, Ga. (Charlton County)
 
BIO: Four-time all-state selection at three different positions in Georgia, excelling as a receiver, quarterback, returner and defensive back … Playing quarterback for an 8-4 team as a senior, amassed 2,580 all-purpose yards and had a hand in 30 touchdowns … Rushed for 1,064 yards with 15 touchdowns and threw for 1,283 yards with 14 touchdown passes … Also had one touchdown catch, 104 kickoff return yards, 97 punt return yards and a 34.3-yard average as Charlton County’s punter … As a junior receiver, had 63 catches for 941 yards and 12 touchdowns on a 9-3 team … Also rushed for 514 yards and nine touchdowns that year, passed for 96 yards (with two TDs), totaled 455 kickoff return yards (with a 26.8 average), had 150 punt return yards (for a 16.7 average with one TD) and intercepted two passes … GHSA-A First Team All-State as a returner during his sophomore year, when he recorded 16 touchdowns, more than 1,250 all-purpose yards, three interceptions, two blocked punts and 29 tackles … Also received all-state recognition as a returner during his freshman season … Played for Rich McWhorter at Charlton County, which went 17-7 over his final two seasons … Committed to App State in February 2019 … Considered a three-star prospect by the 247Sports composite rankings and the 15th-best cornerback recruit from Georgia.
 
David Baldwin-Griffin – QB
6-4, 215
Compton, Calif. (IMG Academy)
 
BIO: Dual-threat, left-handed quarterback from IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., shared time at that position for a 7-1 team that was ranked No. 5 nationally in USA Today’s final high school poll for 2018 … Ranked by 247Sports as the No. 22 dual-threat quarterback in the Class of 2019 … Totaled 10 touchdowns with 532 passing yards and 244 rushing yards as a senior … In his sophomore and junior seasons at Upland (Calif.) High School, totaled 5,052 yards (4,181 passing, 852 rushing) with 54 touchdowns (46 passing) … As a junior, led Upland to an undefeated regular season and 12-1 record with 2,510 passing yards, 32 touchdown passes and just six interceptions … Named Offensive Player of the Year in the Baseline League as a junior … As a sophomore, threw for 1,671 yards and 14 touchdowns … Played for coach Kevin Wright at IMG … Committed to App State in January 2019 … Considered a three-star prospect by the 247Sports composite rankings.
 
KeSean Brown – OLB
6-2, 210
Bamberg, S.C. (Bamberg-Ehrhardt)
 
BIO: Versatile standout on a 10-2 team that reached a Class 2-A regional final, playing primarily linebacker and running back … Second-team USA Today All-South Carolina pick at linebacker with nearly 100 tackles and four forced fumbles … Was on 13-3 state finalist as a junior, when he made the all-area team as a running back/receiver, and played for an 11-2 team as a sophomore … Had 123 rushing yards and two touchdowns on five carries in a first-round win during his senior year … Rushed for 56 yards and a touchdown while representing South Carolina at the Border Bowl in Augusta, Ga. … Named an All-American in wrestling by the Wrestling USA magazine in the summer before his senior year, after he helped lead Bamberg-Ehrhardt to the Class 2-A Duals State Championship as a junior … Won individual state wrestling titles as a sophomore and junior … Coached in football by Robert Williams at Bamberg-Ehrhardt … Committed to App State in January 2019 … Considered a three-star prospect by the 247Sports composite rankings, which also lists him as the state of South Carolina’s top OLB prospect in 2019.
 
Larry Dowdy – OL
6-4, 285
Belmont, N.C. (South Point)
 
BIO: Two-time first-team all-state selection by the Associated Press and USA Today as an offensive lineman … Only two-time AP all-state player in the history of Gaston County … Rated the fourth-best offensive tackle prospect in the state by Rivals and seventh by 247Sports … Four-year starter and four-time all-conference selection for a South Point team that made four straight playoff appearances, including a 3-A state title in 2016 and 3-A runner-up finish in 2015 … Playing for coach Adam Hodge, helped South Point to a 46-12 overall record in four years … Three-time All-Gaston Gazette pick … Provided blocking for an offense that racked up 3,626 rushing yards and 52 rushing TDs his senior year … Played for the North Carolina Shrine Bowl team in 2018 … Committed to App State in January 2019 … Rated a three-star prospect by the 247Sports composite rankings.
 
Emmanuel Jenkins – DB
6-2, 200
Canton, Ga. (Sequoyah)
 
BIO: Two-time 6-A All-Region 6 selection … Playing at both cornerback and receiver, helped Sequoyah to three straight playoff appearances, including a quarterfinals berth in 2018, under coach James Teter … Had 45 tackles and two TFLs as a senior and 29 tackles and two forced fumbles as a junior … Hauled in 14 catches for 180 yards and a TD as a receiver in 2018 … Named to the Cherokee Tribune Super Six prior to his senior season … Committed to App State in January 2019 … Rated a three-star prospect by the 247Sports composite rankings … Ranked the 22nd-best cornerback prospect in Georgia by 247Sports.
 
Christian Johnstone — LS
6-3, 240
Loganville, Ga. (Archer)
 
BIO: Excelled as a long snapper and center at Archer … Ranked 10th nationally among long snappers in the Class of 2019 and was one of 18 long snappers to receive a five-star grade from Rubio Long Snapping … Ranked as the No. 9 long snapper in the Class of 2019 by 247Sports … Ranked 10th nationally by Kohl’s … 2018 Gwinnett Daily Post All-County selection as a senior for an 11-3 team coached by Andy Dyer … In March 2018, named to the top performers list at the Rubio Long Snapping Camp in Cornelius, N.C. … Committed to App State in February 2019 … Rated a two-star prospect by 247Sports.
 
Craig McFarland – OL
6-6, 275
Phoenix, Ariz. (Chaparral)
 
BIO: Two-time first-team 6-A All-Desert Valley pick and USA Today All-Arizona honorable mention … Played left tackle and defensive end for coach Brent Barnes at Chaparral, where he protected the blind side of an all-state quarterback … In the Class of 2019, ranked as the 147th-best offensive tackle in the nation and 43rd-best prospect in Arizona by 247Sports … Made the Sports360AZ All-Academic First Team with a 4.26 GPA … Would be the first Arizona native on an App State football roster since 1992, when Chandler, Ariz., native Jason Budinger was a senior offensive lineman for the Mountaineers … Committed to App State in January 2019 … Considered a three-star prospect by the 247Sports composite rankings.
 
Milan Tucker – DB
5-11, 165
Lehigh Acres, Fla. (Fort Myers)
 
BIO: Played both ways for Fort Myers, racking up over 1,000 all-purpose yards and 12 total touchdowns (nine receiving, three rushing) to go with 34 tackles, an interception and a blocked field goal as a senior … Saw time at cornerback as well as receiver and running back in the Green Wave’s new spread offense in 2018 … Helped coach Sam Sirianni’s team to a 10-3 record and second round of the Florida 6-A playoffs and earned first-team all-area honors from The News-Press … Second-team all-area as a junior in 2017, when he totaled nearly 750 all-purpose yards and seven TDs as one wing in the Green Wave’s wing-T scheme and intercepted two passes, recovered a fumble and blocked a punt … Committed to App State in June 2018 … Rated a three-star prospect by the 247Sports composite rankings.
 
Ben Williams – RB
5-10, 185
Charlotte, N.C. (Charlotte Christian)
 
BIO: First-team NCISAA All-State selection at running back after rushing for 623 yards and 12 touchdowns while helping Charlotte Christian to an undefeated 2018 NCISAA State Championship season under coach Jason Estep … Added 136 receiving yards, a touchdown reception, 112 kickoff return yards, 44 tackles, two interceptions and a forced fumble as a senior … Part of a three-year run with a 31-3 record that also included a 2017 state title … Committed to App State in January 2019 … Rated a three-star prospect by 247Sports … High school teammate of December signee Ricky Kofoed … Also ran track for Charlotte Christian, helping his 4×100-meter relay team qualify for a state title in 2018 and runner-up finish in 2017.
 
DECEMBER SIGNEES
 
Tre Caldwell – DB
5-10, 186
Greensboro, N.C. (Southeast Guilford)
 
BIO: Before suffering a season-ending injury, played in seven games as a senior, totaling 37 tackles, two interceptions, three breakups, one quarterback hurry and three tackles behind the line for a 14-2 team that reached the state 3-AA final … Also had 14 catches for 256 yards with two touchdowns and 14 carries for 78 yards with one touchdown … Had two interceptions in a 27-8 win against Southern Alamance in Southeast’s seventh game of the season … All-region and all-conference as a junior on a 9-3 team … Coached by Kennedy Tinsley … In track, was all-conference in the 4×100 relay (seventh in the state) and 4×200 (fourth in the state) … Considered a three-star prospect by the 247Sports composite rankings.
 
Dashaun Davis – WR
5-9, 160
Deerfield Beach, Fla. (Deerfield Beach)
 
BIO: Standout receiver as a senior for a Deerfield Beach team that went 12-2 and reached the semifinals of the Class 8-A playoffs in Florida … Had a 26-yard touchdown in a regional final victory against Palm Beach Central … Coached by Jevon Glenn … Played as a junior at Blanche Ely High School in Pompano Beach … A three-star prospect by Rivals and two-star prospect based on 247Sports’ composite rankings.
 
Brendan Harrington – OLB
6-1, 205
Pittsboro, N.C. (Northwood)
 
BIO: Versatile player who had 64 tackles, 14 tackles for loss, five sacks and one interception as an all-conference linebacker during his senior season at Northwood … Also a key contributor at running back, had 840 rushing yards with 16 TDs and 322 receiving yards with two TDs in eight games offensively … Three-time all-conference pick as well as a two-time all-region pick from the News & Observer and a two-time team captain … Honor roll student who was a four-year starter in football while also playing basketball and running track at Northwood … A president of Northwood’s chapter of My Brother’s Keeper, a program that focuses on academic achievement for minority students … Coached at Northwood by his uncle, Brian Harrington, and was on a 7-5 team as a senior … Had four interceptions, including two touchdown returns, during a junior season in which he totaled 949 all-purpose yards and was an all-conference defensive back … Also an all-conference defensive back as a sophomore, when he scored on one of his four interceptions and also had a punt return for a touchdown …  Intercepted two passes and had 10 breakups as a freshman … Considered a three-star recruit by the 247Sports composite rankings.
 
Jourdan Heilig – LB
6-1, 195
Concord, N.C. (Concord)
 
BIO: The two-time All-South Piedmont Conference selection had 176 tackles, seven tackles for loss, one sack, one interception and two pass breakups as a senior … Had 398 career tackles, including 151 as a junior and 63 as a sophomore … Posted at least 17 tackles in five games as a senior, highlighted by a 25-tackle performance against Mount Pleasant and 20 stops against Central Cabarrus … Played his final season at Concord for head coach and App State grad Marty Paxton … Cousins include Concord football greats Dee Bost, who was a Mississippi State basketball standout before playing in the NBA Summer League, and Lance Lewis, who excelled as an East Carolina receiver before spending time with four NFL franchises … Rated a three-star prospect by the 247Sports composite rankings.
  
* Lyle Hiers – OL
6-5, 260
Lake Wales, Fla. (Lake Wales)
 
BIO: Four-year offensive lineman for a Lake Wales team that went 10-2 in 2018 with per-game averages of 226.5 rushing yards, 412.1 total yards and 35.4 points … Excelled at offensive tackle while also seeing time at guard and center in his career … Credited with as many as five pancake blocks in a game as a senior … Team went 18-5 over his final two seasons … An honor roll student at Lake Wales … Hiers’ older brother, Luke, started his college career at UCF before transferring to Warner University … Played for coach TraVaris Johnson at Lake Wales … Rated a three-star prospect by the 247Sports composite rankings.
  
* Ricky Kofoed – TE
6-3, 220
Charlotte, N.C. (Charlotte Christian)
 
BIO: Finished career with back-to-back NCISAA state titles a Charlotte Christian, where he caught 26 passes for 446 yards and five touchdowns for an 11-0 team as a senior … A two-time all-conference and all-state selection … In his final three years, had 80 catches for 1,218 yards and 14 touchdowns … Made 30 receptions for 452 yards and four touchdowns as a junior following a sophomore season in which he recorded 24 catches for 320 yards and five scores … As a defender, had 119 career tackles and 8.5 career sacks, highlighted by four sacks as a sophomore and 90 tackles as a junior … Posted 55 tackles and three sacks as a senior … Made seven catches for 156 yards with a 57-yard score in a 47-21 win against Providence Day in the 2017 state title game and followed that with two catches for 68 yards and a 59-yard score in a 43-14 victory against The Christ School in the 2018 state final … Best game as a senior was a 104-yard, two-touchdown effort against Charlotte Latin … A top target for Charlotte Christian quarterback and Mississippi State recruit Garrett Shrader … In his three-year run that also included a state runner-up finish as a sophomore, the Knights went 31-3 under coach Jason Estep … Father, Bart, played five NBA seasons over six years from 1987-93 as a guard for Utah, Golden State, Seattle and Boston after being a fifth-round pick of the Jazz out of Nebraska-Kearney in 1987 … A three-star prospect in the 247Sports composite rankings.
  
Nicholas Ross – DB
5-10, 175
Marietta, Ga. (Kell)
 
BIO: Had 69 tackles (50 solo), two forced fumbles and five pass breakups during the 10-game regular season as a senior for a Class 5-A team that went 9-3 under coach Brett Sloan … Posted a season-high 13 tackles against Rome during his final prep season … Recorded 80 tackles as a junior and 30 as a sophomore on a state semifinal team that went 11-3 … A three-star prospect by the 247Sports composite rankings.
 
Luke Smith – DL
6-1, 292
Lebanon, Tenn. (Friendship Christian)
 
BIO: Four-time Division II-A Middle/East All-Region player and the region MVP as a senior playing just outside of Nashville … Two-time all-state and all-county selection … Had 31 tackles for loss and seven sacks among his 72 stops as a senior nose tackle for a 10-3 team that reached the Division II Class A state final … Also a left guard and long snapper, helped Friendship Christian go 24-2 over the last two seasons …Recorded back-to-back games with seven tackles for loss apiece against Clarksville Academy and Middle Tennessee Christian, which gave up 14 tackles to the interior lineman … Had a three-sack game against Fayette Academy … Posted 219 career tackles (197 solo), 57.0 tackles for loss and 21 sacks in 45 career games … Coached by John McNeal at Friendship Christian … Considered a three-star prospect by the 247Sports composite rankings.
 
Christian Wells – WR
5-11, 170
Fort Lauderdale, N.C. (University School)
 
BIO:  Standout, big-play receiver as a senior on an 11-2 team coached by Daniel Luque … Averaged approximately 30 yards per catch, as he followed a four-catch, 139-yard, two-touchdown effort in a second-round playoff win with two more touchdowns in a Class 4-A semifinal loss. That game included a 32-yard touchdown, a 17-yard touchdown and a one-handed, 23-yard reception … Also contributed as a defensive back for the Sharks … Reached the state semifinals as a junior, catching 23 passes for 391 yards on a 10-2 team … Rated a three-star prospect by the 247Sports composite rankings.

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