BY JEREMY SCHILLING
WEST LONG BRANCH, N.J. -- Two weeks after a disappointing 2011 football season ended, Monmouth Unversity head coach Kevin Callahan identified areas of improvement.
“Those are the two areas [linebacker and defensive back] that we have identified as our biggest need [and where] we’re trying to put out greatest focus in terms of recruiting," said Callahan.
“We were able to satisfy some specific positional needs, in addition to adding some desired depth. As you can see, there was an emphasis on defense in this class, and I think we successfully brought in a number of players who can help us early in their careers.”
That was Callahan today in the press release unveiling his 2012 recruiting class. Needless, to say he feels like they addressed their needs, and then some.
Of the 21 players announced today on National Signing Day, 12 are on the defensive side of the football and nine are at the high-need positions of linebacker and defensive back.
There is a mix of speed with guys like linebacker Ethan Gambale out of Mays Landing, New Jersey and physicality with Manchester, New Jersey’s Joe Johnson, a defensive back. Cornerback Malcolm Powers out of Baltimore, Maryland gives them a good tackler with strong cover skills, while linebacker Tom Winters from Brick, New Jersey is a solid pass rusher.
They also added eight offensive players, including two quarterbacks, two running backs, and two tight ends to help address depth issues.
Also included is a specialist, punter and kicker Lucas Santangelo from New Hyde Park, New York, who according to Callahan would seem to fill the need of a placekicker that can kick the ball deep and create touchbacks.
So are the Hawks headed towards a situation of using two kickers, Eric Spillane for field goals and extra points and Santangelo for kickoffs?
“I think when you say we’re a long way from September you were very accurate,” Callahan said at the Blue-White Club inside the Multipurpose Athletic Center to a gathering of fans, media and other dignitaries. “He showed the ability to kickoff deep in high school. That’s what we liked about him. Like every other player at every other position, he still has to come here and do that. So let’s not get that far down the line.”
There are also two recruits who are related to well-known professional athletes. Running back Trevor Jacobs from Napoleonville, Louisiana is New York Giants running back Brandon Jacobs’ cousin, and defensive lineman Dimitrius Smith from Millstone, New Jersey is New Orleans Hornet J.R. Smith’s brother. Dimitruis says J.R. has been a big part in getting him to where he is today.
“I actually workout with him sometimes,” said Smith. “So I know most of [his] workouts and stuff. Every workout that I do I think about him and I think about how hard he worked at that stuff to get where he is now.”
Smith was able to attend the celebration because he has already enrolled in Monmouth University. Per NCAA regulations, the other recruits who are still in high school were not permitted to attend.
Callahan told the gathered crowd that starting quarterback Kyle Frazier, who is coming off surgery to repair a torn ACL is ahead of schedule and should be able to participate on a limited basis in spring practice. He also said that cornerback Elijah Phillips, who needed offseason shoulder surgery to repair a torn labrum, is on the road to recovery but his status for the spring is uncertain at this time.
Spring practice may start until March 28 but the current players and coaches are already having some fun.
They spent a 65 degree February day working out at the beach, and after losing a bet Callahan ended up in the cold Atlantic Ocean.
Apparently everyone enjoyed the sight, and the Hawks coaching staff hopes these new recruits bring more smiles like that in the years to come.
Jeremy Schilling can be followed on Twitter at @Jschil.