By NEMS Daily Journal and wire reports
HATTIESBURG – First-year Southern Miss coach Ellis Johnson has signed a 25-player recruiting class, hoping to build off the momentum gained from the program’s 2011 Conference USA title.
“I’m very proud of the staff,” Johnson said. “I think they’ve done an exceptional job under the circumstances.”
Johnson took over the Golden Eagles in December after the departure of Larry Fedora, who took the North Carolina job. Johnson’s sizable recruiting ties in the area helped him land a letter of intent from quarterback Anthony Alford, who is four-star recruit according to Rivals.com.
It might be tough to get Alford to campus. The 6-foot, 200-pounder is also an elite baseball prospect and could be selected early in the Major League Baseball draft.
“I tried to recruit him at South Carolina because of his baseball/football interest,” Johnson said. “He is a great football player. He is a great baseball player, but more important than that, he’s an even better person.”
Outside of Alford, Southern Miss brought in a balanced class Wednesday that includes 14 defensive players.
“One conversation I had with Coach Fedora, he said, ‘I think you’re in pretty good shape, but you better get some linebackers.’ Linebacker was a big need for us, not in numbers, but in guys we felt like could come in with a shot to play some for us.”
One of those linebackers is Lelland Ducksworth, a Hattiesburg native who decommitted from Mississippi State a few days ago.
“We think he can make an immediate impact,” Johnson said.
Big QB on campus
LSU got their man at quarterback on Wednesday as Lafayette’s Jeremy Liggins signed with the Tigers.
“We were looking for a tough guy who can handle the position,” head coach Les Miles said. “We stayed on Jeremy all the way. He was a priority for us. He can throw the football and move his feet.”
The weight of the 6-foot-3 Liggins, listed as weighing anywhere from 270 to 280 pounds, was a topic for Miles’ in his signing day remarks.
“He might be a little lighter the next time he takes the field,” Miles said.
• The first recruiting class for new Arkansas State coach Gus Malzahn includes junior running back Michael Dyer, who rushed for 2,335 yards and 15 touchdowns in two seasons in Malzahn’s offense at Auburn. … The Red Wolves also signed DB Tres Houston, who mainly played receiver at Northeast Mississippi.
• The second recruiting class for Mark Hudspeth at Louisiana-Lafayette includes safety Darius Barksdale, the former South Panola standout who initially signed with Ole Miss. Two other former Rebels, WR T.J. Worthy and LB Delvin Jones, also signed with the Ragin’ Cajuns.
• The signing class for defending national champion Alabama includes defensive back Deion Belue, who previously signed with the Crimson Tide before playing at Northeast Mississippi.
• New Delta State University head Jamey Chadwell announced a 26-man recruiting class, including Starkville defensive lineman Eric Rodgers and two transfers from Northeast – receiver Donte Barksdale (Southhaven) and defensive lineman Devin Slate (Oxford).
• Bobby Wallace, who has returned for a second stint at North Alabama, unveiled a 41-man signing class that includes Northeast running back Jamarcus Goodloe.
• Byhalia offensive lineman Jamal Danley (6-3, 265) signed with Louisiana-Monroe. He’s the school’s first athlete to sign a D-I scholarship.
DBRyan Thompson (Pontotoc, ICC) to Indiana. … WR Erik Buchanan (Aberdeen, ICC) to Nicholls State. … OL Terry Johnson (Oxford, Northwest CC) to Louisiana-Lafayette. … OL Donald Hawkins (Rosa Fort HS, Northwest CC), who initially committed to Oklahoma State, to Texas. … WRLance Ray (Northwest CC), who began his career at Arkansas, to East Carolina.