The list of signees included 26 players from within the state line, including Georgia’s Mr. Football, along with two from Alabama and one from Tennessee.
Kennesaw State’s inaugural signing class will use the fall and spring to practice and develop their skills in time for the Owls’ first regular-season game, set for Sept. 3, 2015 at East Tennessee State.
“What a great day,” coach Brian Bohannon said. “We talk about firsts and all of the good things going on at Kennesaw State. We started on this journey as a staff back in late March. There were seven of us total in the room and it was about what we wanted in a Kennesaw State football player.
“We talked about the core values of not just being a player that can help us win football games on Saturdays, but a man of great character with a great academic resume. Those were the core values we started with, and it’s kind of culminated (Wednesday) with the 29 signees we have at Kennesaw State.”
Bohannon and his staff, who identified 25-30 players for the initial recruiting class, signed eight defensive linemen, six defensive backs, five offensive linemen, three quarterbacks, three running backs, two wide receivers and two linebackers.
“We signed 29 young men that contain all those core values,” Bohannon said. “Everything we talked about and tried to accomplish, we hit in the first class. They’re guys not only with great character and great academic resumes, but they’re also great players. This class is awfully talented.”
One player, Griffin quarterback Jaquez Parks, was an all-American and named Georgia’s all-classification player of year by the Georgia Sports Writers Association.
Parks, who threw for 3,640 yards and 28 touchdowns and rushed for 1,329 yards and 17 TDs, led Griffin to a 15-0 record and the Class AAAA state championship.
Bohannon is an alumnus of Griffin, where he played with Parks’ father, O.J.
“No doubt, (Parks is) a heck of a player,” Bohannon said. “I went to high school with his daddy, and I think he felt comfortable with that, so that was definitely a factor (getting Parks to sign). We got him and his daddy up on campus, and they looked around and said, ‘Wow! I didn’t know all this was here.’ He’s looking at, ‘I could be the first. I could be the guy the next four to five years at Kennesaw State and I can create a legacy of my own.’ Those are the things the guys bought into.”
Parks joined Region 5AAAAA Lineman of the Year Lorenzo Adger from South Paulding, along with his teammate, Region 5AAAAA Player of the Year Chandler Burks. Mary Person’s Akebren Ralls was the Region 2AAAA All-Purpose Player of the year.
Along with its wealth at the skill positions, Kennesaw State targeted linemen for its initial class.
“We talked about the lines of scrimmage on both sides of the ball,” Bohannon said. “Those were key components for us in this first class. Those areas are more developmental than the skill kids at times. That was an emphasis for us to get the most depth (we could) at offensive and defensive line, and we did that.
“That’s probably the area I’m most excited about. When you’re watching the highlight tape, the skill kids are always going to be the ones you see, but truthfully, at the end of the day, the guys down in the trenches are going to make things happen. I feel like we did a great job and hit a home run up front.”
McEachern’s McKenzie Billingslea was one local defensive lineman to sign with the Owls. Kell defensive back Taylor Henkle will also join the team this fall.
The Owls only nabbed six players from its recruiting base of Cobb, Paulding and Cherokee counties. Despite the low numbers, Bohannon was pleased with his class.
“We signed six total from the greater Cobb area, and we’re excited about that,” he said. “Those kids are not only great kids, they’re great players and they’re close to home. I think you can look at recruiting in a lot of different ways. You can always look at what you didn’t get, or maybe the guys you wish you would have gotten, but I prefer to look at the 29 guys we got, and how excited I am about those guys being here.”
The coaching staff arrived at Kennesaw State at roughly 6:30 a.m. Wednesday morning. Burks’ letter of intent was the first to arrive at 7:01 a.m., while the final one came through at roughly 11 a.m.
“When you look at all of these kids that signed (Wednesday), they bought into the vision,” Bohannon said. “They didn’t know what was here, and when they got here, and they saw it and felt it, they jumped in and it (cascaded) from there. Once you get a couple in, they started spreading the word. Next thing you know, we’re sitting here with an unbelievable class.”