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A Look At Western Kentucky’s 2017 Additions

The Tops bring in 24 new players for Mike Sanford’s first season.

NCAA Football: C-USA Championship-Louisiana Tech at Western Kentucky Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

When Mike Sanford Jr. was hired as the new WKU head coach back in December, he and his staff really only had less than two months to put a recruiting class together for the 2017 year, minus a few early commits. Considering that, they came out looking alright with the number four recruiting class in Conference USA and number 82 in the country per 247 Sports.

Here’s a complete breakdown by star rating.

3-Star: Mik'Quan Deane - TE, Calder Marria - WDE, Juwuan Jones - LB, Kyle Bailey - LB, Latheron Rogers-Anderson - DB, Josh Samuel - RB, Preston Mixon - Tackle, Tariq Young - WR

2-Star: Caleb Etheridge - OG, Roger Cray - CB, Dionte Ruffin - CB, Davis Shanley - QB, Antwon Kincade - CB, Steven Witchoskey - TE, Jakairi Moses - RB, Jaylon George - DT, Cole Spencer - OT, DeAngelo Malone - WDE, Jordan Meredith - OG, Jacquez Sloan - WR, Carson Jordan - SDE, Kris Leach - TE, Ben Reeder - Long Snapper

Tops fans have been pretty spoiled by stellar offenses the past couple of years, especially through the air. While they get another year of Mike White at QB in 2017 and most likely Drew Eckels in 2018, the Western faithful may see Davis Shanley under center in a few years. A 6’2” pro-style QB, Shanley put up solid numbers at South Forsyth High School in Georgia, but will definitely benefit from some time to develop with Sanford and QB coach Steve Spurrier Jr.

Staying in the backfield, the additions of Jakari Moses and Josh Samuel give them something else that can develop into legitimate weapons in time once Leon Allen and D’Andre Ferby have moved on. Samuel in particular is a nice combination of size and speed and works really well coming out of the backfield in shotgun formations.

Bolstering their tight end depth, the team was able to add senior WKU basketball player Justin Johnson and JUCO transfer Mik'Quan Deane, who will be a junior, along with signees Steven Witchoskey and Kris Leach. Johnson hasn’t played football competitively since middle school and while he got some snaps in spring ball, there’s definitely going to be a bit of a learning curve. Deane, on the other hand, has a chance to be the number one tight end come week one. The 6’4”, 215 pounder looked great playing at Northeastern Oklahoma A&M and was the #4 JUCO tight end in the 2017 class.

The big question marks for the offense were who would fill the gaps on the offensive line and the receiving corps in 2017. With the receivers, the whole group is very young. New signees Jacquez Sloan (225th ranked receiver) and Tariq Young (305th ranked) join that group of eleven wideouts who has just one senior and one junior.

Caleb Etheridge, Preston Mixon, Cole Spencer, and Bowling Green High School product Jordan Meredith all provide some great size and power for o-line coach Geoff Dart to mold into what could eventually be the next Forest Lamp.

Defensively, the two recruits to be the most excited about would probably be weak-side defensive end Calder Marria, Jr. and inside linebacker Juwuan Jones. The two were the 947th and 948th ranked recruits, respectively, in their class. Marria is a 6’4” kid with a big wing span that can be really disruptive in the pass rush, in particular.

Jones has some pass rushing ability of his own, but also played the run really well in high school and actually plays a lot like current Top Joel Iyiegbuniwe. He fills gaps quickly and authoritatively and can snuff out screens and short passes when he has the chance. Jones could actually get some snaps this year alongside Iyiegbuniwe and Ben Holt with T.J. McCollum and Keith Brown both gone now.

Freshman signee DeAngelo Malone and JUCO products Jaylon George and Carson Jordan add some more depth to that defensive line that’s arguably already one of, if not THE best in CUSA.

Defensive backs Dionte Ruffin, Latheron Rodgers-Anderson, Antwon Kincade, Roger Cray, and Kyle Bailey (who’s really more of a linebacker/safety hybrid) add to a position group that’s already pretty log jammed with bodies. Although if you want to see a fun montage of hard hits, check out some of Kyle Bailey’s high school highlights.

On the special teams side, the 8th ranked long snapper Ben Reeder fills an open spot left by the departure of Nolan Dowling for the NFL.

In just a little over two months, (ironically, about the same amount of time the coaching staff had to get this group together) we’ll get to see how Sanford’s first recruiting class begins to pan out on the field.