BATESVILLE, AR – National Signing Day is here, but for the Lyon College football coaching staff, it began some time ago. While NCAA institutions targeted Wednesday as the day they could begin getting athletes to put the ink on the dotted line, NAIA colleges like Lyon have never stopped their push.
Lyon College Football Recruiting Coordinator Kyle Phelps announced on Tuesday that the program had 36 of the goal of 50 players signed for the 2014 ‘season’. He said he hopes, if anything, the number of signees will pick up, now that athletes will start committing somewhere.
“I think everything will change after National Signing Day,” Phelps said on Tuesday. “Kids that are a little ‘higher profile’ want to wait to see if they’ll get the Division I-AA or Division II offer. Once they figure out that it isn’t the place for them or don’t get that offer, I think that could be a benefit for us. Then kids will be looking at their options and making commitments to go elsewhere.”
Lyon College, which hasn’t fielded a football team since1951, is in a more unique situation that most colleges. Head football coach Kirk Kelley and his staff have had to go into homes and sell a program that isn’t established yet. With the Scots not fielding their team for intercollegiate play until 2015, the staff has had to convince athletes to be part of history.
“It’s an exciting obstacle for us,” Kelley said of the recruiting challenges of his staff. “We’re selling a vision for our program and what we want to get accomplished. We’ve told every single recruit that it’s going to take courage to jump in with us. But that’s been one of the things that has tipped things our way, because they think that’s exciting. It’s something they can take ownership in.”
Obviously, the plan of attack has worked. Since beginning the search for players in August, the Scots’ staff has inked well more than half of their goal. When making a preliminary prognosis of where players might play, 19 of the athletes signed are projected to be offensive players, while 15 will play defense. Two have been tabbed as kicker or punter.
“We’ve sat down and spent a little time projecting the area where players will play for us, but it’s all preliminary a this point,” Kelley noted. “There could be a lot of them that might end up playing in another position, but with our first game not until the fall of 2015, it gives us plenty of time. It just gives us a place to start.”
On the offensive side of the ball, Kelley has two projected quarterbacks, two running backs, three receivers and 12 linemen signing thus far.
“Overall, we feel like we’re headed in the right direction, as far as number of players signed,” Kelley noted. “After talking to other programs which are starting football, I think our numbers are very healthy. We’re excited because we feel we have the right kids. And we believe the number of kids signing is going to get better.
“Offensively, we feel our strength right now is in the offensive line. We’ve signed a lot of kids – a number of good-sized kids – with some versatility. As far as skill positions, we still have a lot of needs out there. But we also still have 31 offers ‘on the table’ right now.”
The Scots inked Russellville (Ark.) quarterback Cody Jones. He could be an impact player, who has proved in high school that he can throw the football with more than 3,000 yards, more than 30 touchdown in 2013, including a high 512 yards in a single game.
Tight end Garrett Denton of Batesville is a player that has outstanding blocking and catching ability. And two of the offensive lineman come from Hector (Ark.) High School, with Batesville Zach Lillard being in the mix to lead the way.
On the defensive side, Lyon has inked six projected defensive backs, a pair of linebackers and seven defensive linemen.
“I think the strengths in our defense are in the defensive back area right now,” Phelps noted. “Up front and linebackers are areas we’re still looking at bringing in some more people to help, but we’ve got some good offers out there.”
Both Kelley and Phelps said the Scots are looking to bolster the squad’s overall team speed on both sides of the ball.
Of the 36 players signed, all are high school athletes, with no college experience. Twenty-eight of the players are from Arkansas, four are from Florida, three played in Texas and one is from Colorado. Batesville, Hector and Sarasota (Fla.) Riverview High Schools have the most commitments to the program, with four from each school. Riverview is Kelley’s alma mater.
The Lyon coach said he doesn’t have a timetable as far as when he would like to have the additional 14-plus players signed. He did say, however, that he feels like things will pick up now.
The incoming freshmen will be red-shirted this fall as the Scots begin workouts in the fall. All players will continue to have four years of playing eligibility left heading into the season opener in late August/ early September 2015 when the Scots begin play.