Jucos make final push

By David Wheeler/Special to the Journal

Four-year schools are making the headlines, but are not the only ones in the trenches, trying to capture football players for their rosters.
Staff with the Northeast Tigers and Itawamba Indians are among the Mississippi ranks of junior colleges that are just as busy trying to lock up that certain position player with the Wednesday signing day approaching.
“I think recruiting has been a little different for us,” Northeast head coach Ricky Smither said. “It is the second year of an open state.
“But for us at Northeast, with the new fieldhouse, and our facilities upgrade, I feel like we’ve had some success. But I don’t want to count our chickens before signing day.”
The Tigers are coming off a 3-6 effort, with a 2-4 mark in North Division play.
But for Northeast football, there is a little extra pep in the step these days with construction expected to begin within weeks on a new fieldhouse at the north end zone of the current football facility. And that project is currently slated for completion before the start of the 2013 season.
“I can’t explain the impact it’s going to have,” Smither said. “I think it speaks volumes on what’s going to happen here at Northeast.”
While freshmen dominated decisions for the 2012 season, there are the usual position holes every junior college faces each recruiting calendar.
“I think the offensive line is one of our main targets,” Smither said. And I think we need to find some running backs.
“On the defensive side, the loss of Lavon Hooks (DT, Ole Miss) left us with a pretty good gap. We have seven linemen coming back, but we lost our whole linebacking corp.”
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The ever-present two-year cycle of junior college sports weighs no less on Itawamba head coach Jon Williams, whose Indians are coming off a 6-3 2012, including a 4-2 North record.
“It’s junior college, and you have needs at every position,” Williams said. “Offensively, we lost some production at receiver, and we lost two Division I linemen. Defensively, we were decimated by graduation.
“I think we have gotten a great response from within our former district, and outside of it. We’re looking for a very solid class, the next days are the biggest of the recruiting season.”