Morgan State coach Donald Hill-Eley announced the signing of nine players in the Bears' recruiting class last week.
The Bears received letters of intent from offensive lineman Antonio Brown (Dunbar), wide receiver Anthony Elliott (Friendship Edison -- Washington, D.C.), running back Collin Bing (Glenn Hills -- Hephzibah, Ga.), linebacker Zachary Harper (Gwynn Park), linebacker Brian Saunders (Northern Iowa Community College), linebacker Lance Simmons (Carmen Ainsworth -- Flint, Mich.), defensive lineman Montique Allen (John Marshall -- Chicago), defensive back Derrick Kinchen (Coral Gables -- Miami) and defensive back Kirkland Davidson (Northern Iowa Community College).
Hill-Eley discussed Morgan's class with Recruiting Report earlier this week.
Upon first glance at your class, the thing that stands out is that there are just nine members in it. Did you expect this class to be on the small side?
Hill-Eley: We actually were hoping it was a little bigger, but we had some staff turnaround (editor's note: MSU defensive coordinator Alonzo Lee Sr. was named head coach at North Carolina A&T last month) and some of the kids we had started to [identify for] some of the positions, ended up at other schools. That’s all part of change in recruiting. You get guys recruiting kids, recruiting for one job and you end up in another job. You have relationships with those kids. We wanted to sign two quarterbacks and they both ended up at A&T. But that’s all a part of it. We’re just trying to get back to the drawing board in assessing other needs. We’re still happy with the nine that we signed. Those kids will add depth to what we have. We’re fortunate to have a younger team and it’s not as big of an impact losing some of them as it would’ve been a year ago.
How important is it to land a guy like Antonio Brown from a local powerhouse in Dunbar, and what are your expectations of Brown?
Hill-Eley: Well it’s very rare you get an offensive lineman with his size and strength out of the city. He’s made a good commitment in that he’s already eligible, so it isn’t a situation of waiting around for him [to qualify]. To have a kid that’s been a part of three state championships and getting a player from our backyard with his background is really commendable. It’s really good for us to pull in local talent that normally would have left.
With your ties in Florida, was Brian Saunders (a West Palm Beach native) a guy you had your eye on even before he went to junior college?
Hill-Eley: Oh yeah. He was a kid that was sought by everyone coming out of high school. We had a chance to watch him a couple years back. He didn’t make the grade at the time. But you just keep in contact with these kids once they move on to the junior colleges. He remembered the direction [I tried to give him] and he remembered me being positive to him and he accepted our offer.
Is he a guy you’ll count on to contribute immediately?
Hill-Eley: Oh yeah. Anytime you lose a player like [MEAC Defensive Player of the Year] Jarrell Guyton, you need to have some young linebackers who are capable to step in. But being able to get an impact guy that can play inside or outside [like Saunders], we’re looking forward to reaping the benefits from him right away.
Did Saunders tip you off to Kirkland Davidson at Northern Iowa Community College?
Hill-Eley: When you relate to kids well, they tend to spread the word. Brian started talking to Kirkland Davidson about playing together and about what we had to offer at Morgan. They wanted to finish their college career playing together. He’s an exceptional return guy who can also cover. [Having a commitment from Saunders] allowed us to land another kid that was just as good.
Talk about two of the other area guys in the class, Anthony Elliott and Zach Harper. What do you expect from them?
Hill-Eley: Well Anthony Elliott is a big-time receiver. By us having three of his former teammates last year that are on the team, we were able to get him over here. Those kids talk all the time and had a chance to share their experiences with him. He wanted to be a part of the program from what he heard from those guys, so that was good for us. Harper is just as good a track star as he is in football. His mom and dad run a track team in Maryland and he’s probably one of the fastest kids we’ve recruited at linebacker. Anytime you have a chance to keep local talent home, that gives you a competitive edge and that always ... is a win for the program.
Montique Allen was a three-time All-City player in Chicago, an All-State guy as a senior, and he put up good numbers and looks to have solid measureables. Did he really slip under the radar?
Hill-Eley: We have another one of his teammates here, and those guys hang out together. We were in there recruiting him against some very good programs as well. The winning edge was that his teammate, De’Angelo Witlow, he’s been talking to the kid all year. Every time he goes home they’re spending time together. He came on his visit and decided he wanted to play football with his friend. He’s coming into a situation where we could nurture him. His numbers and accolades [are impressive]. I think the kid averaged almost three sacks a game. Four or five years ago, a kid like him never would’ve thought about coming to our program.
Which of these guys will you expect to contribute immediately?
Hill-Eley: I think the ones with the biggest impact will be the junior college transfers with Saunders and Davidson. Those are the only two. The junior college transfers, we’re looking to make an immediate impact. The other guys, we’re looking to nurture them and make sure they get grounded in school and look forward to the next four years of them playing. We don’t have a need for any of these guys to step in right away out of high school, so we’re fortunate about that. It’s just the junior college guys that can step in and take advantage of contributing in the return game (Davidson) and add depth to our linebacker corps (Saunders). We feel they’ll be very competitive.
Overall, are you satisfied with this class?
Hill-Eley: Oh yeah. Like I said, sometimes you look at a list of 22 or a list of 25. We got a list of nine and we believe it’s about the quality, not the quantity. Those nine kids are very quality kids and those kids can help us. The good part about it is that the program isn’t in a situation where you have to go out and sign 27 kids. We’re able to retain our student-athletes and that gives us the ability to have a strong program year in and year out.
Do you plan on adding anyone else to the class?
Hill-Eley: Yeah, I still would like to add another quarterback for depth purposes, and anytime you can find those guys on the O-line and D-line, [that’s something we’d like to do]. We’re still looking back and forth and trying to add to the depth of our program.
Credit: Photo of Donald Hill-Eley by Monica Lopossay / Aug. 14, 2004