After rebounding from a forgettable 1-10 season in 2009 to finishing one game below .500 in 2010, the Bulldogs look to continue the upward trend in 2011 with 28 new recruits joining the program.
Ferris announced its recruiting class for this year on Friday after the winter storm on Wednesday delayed the announcement originally scheduled for Feb. 2. This year’s class hails mostly from Michigan, with 22 recruits from the Great Lakes state. The Bulldogs nabbed five recruits from Illinois and one from California as well.
“We were able to expand our talent pool quite a bit outside of Michigan,” said Ferris head coach Jeff Pierce. “But it’s great to have local talent and I’d prefer to stock our football team with local talent.”
With 16 offensive recruits and 11 on defense, the Bulldogs focused on improving in the trenches with five offensive linemen and four defensive linemen singed to this year’s class.
With the loss of senior guards Joe Voiles and Scott Shattuck on the offensive front, Ferris loaded up on the offensive line with five recruits that have racked up numerous accolades in high school.
Offensive line prospect Adam Bennett (Romeo) comes into the program with a laundry list of accomplishments, as he was a Detroit News Honorable Mention All-State selection and named to the Detroit Free Press Division I First Team this season. Fellow o-line prospect Thaddeus Cook (Grant) helped his team pile up 2,100 rushing yards in 2010 on his way to being a West Michigan All-Star and playing in the East-West All-Star Game for high school players.
With the Bulldogs entering the second year in offensive coordinator Chris Boden’s spread offense, finding playmakers was a high priority this offseason. The team added six receivers who look to add explosiveness in the wide-open system.
Transfer receiver William Frazier (Redwood City, Calif.) is a player that will have a chance to help out immediately as he has one year of eligibility left after transferring from Division I New Mexico State this season.
Fellow transfer A.J. McEwen (Grand Rapids) joins Frazier in the receiving corps after transferring from Grand Rapids Community College. McEwen’s family has ties to the Ferris program as his father is former Bulldog quarterback Sparky McEwen. McEwen will retain his full four years of eligibility for his Ferris career.
“One thing that was apparent is that we needed some skilled kids…we wanted to find playmakers,” said Boden. “I’m very pleased and I think we’ve found a very athletic group. I think this group of kids athletically and academically will be very successful at Ferris.”
On the defensive side, defensive back was a major point of emphasis with five of the 11 defensive recruits coming from the defensive backfield. Recruit Brett Kenny (Traverse City) gained first team recognition as an All-Big North Conference pick in the secondary and also earned Honorable-Mention All-State honors in 2010 for his play.
Sean O’Brien (Greenville) looks to add a playmaking dimension to the defensive secondary as well, coming into the program after tallying five interceptions in 2010. Pierce was excited the Bulldogs were able to land some quality recruits in the defensive backfield, as they made that an area of focus in the offseason.
“It’s difficult to find corners and that’s one of the more challenging spots to recruit…you’re looking for a guy that’s not only good in run support but also has the ability to play man coverage,” said Pierce. “Usually we can find one or two kids maximum like that and we were able to get three of them, so it’s exciting.”
The defensive line was also an area of emphasis as Ferris signed four linemen to bring the pressure on the defensive front. Local product Tyler Havens (Stanwood) will make the shift from linebacker to defensive lineman after being named the Big Rapids Pioneer’s Dream Team Player of the Year in 2010 after leading his team to the state quarterfinals in the fall.
Although finding playmakers was a high-priority this offseason, this year’s recruiting class also comes in with a focus on academics as well. The overall cumulative grade point average of the recruiting class is over 3.1.
The Bulldogs will get a look at the new recruits in late March when they hit the field for spring practice. n