National Signing Day a success for the Clan

Jalen Jana, a Division II transfer, played football at STMC in Burnaby.

February 3 marked the NCAA’s National Signing Day, the first day that a high school student can sign a binding letter of intent with an NCAA school. Since then, with a stable coaching staff, SFU Football has announced 30 new members of the team.

The announcement of 27 new players on Signing Day is up from only two last year — one of whom rescinded his national letter of intent in order to play with UBC.

Also, by March 9, 2015, the team had announced four new recruits, while in 2014, the team waited until May 8 to announce their first 11 prospects.

On National Signing Day 2016, the names just kept coming, creating the kind of excitement that elite American schools must feel on National Signing Day, or that hockey fans feel during the NHL Draft.

In large part, this is because this recruiting season was the first full one with a head coach in place since 2012/13, after former head coach Dave Johnson was dismissed in December 2013 and Jacques Chapdelaine left the program in December 2014.

“Recruiting is the lifeline of your team, so it was extremely important to hit the ground running, and put together a class that both had depth in talent and depth in numbers, to try and rebuild this roster,” said Head Coach Kelly Bates. “It’s no secret up here what people have gone through the last few years with coaching turnover — it has hurt recruiting tremendously.”

The recruiting class contains 16 BC high school seniors and two NCAA transfers.

Bates was particularly excited about three local players who will play receiver for the Clan: Gavin Cobb, AAA player of the year at Mt Douglas in Victoria; Nathanael Durkan, who played quarterback at John Barsby in Nanaimo; and Rysen John, a six-foot-seven wide receiver and BC provincial all-star.

“Those three guys bring in a mix of size and athletic ability, are committed to getting better, and are just great young kids,” said Bates.

At quarterback, SFU added three players: Jack Graham of Long Beach, CA; Patrick Pearson of Kinmount, ON; and Conner Richardson, a transfer student coming from Pima Junior College in Tucson, AZ.

Richardson, who was a back-up at NCAA Division I Eastern Washington before transferring to Pima, will likely get the starting position.

“We tried to get him last year from Eastern Washington, but their head coach contacted me [. . .] we really wanted him last year, but he really wanted to give Division I opportunity another try, and I didn’t expect to see him this year,” said Bates. “What really sticks out about Conner is that he’s just a good man off the field, and when you combine that with his competitiveness, his skillset, everything he brings to the table, it’s a complete package.

“Right now we’re fairly inexperienced at the quarterback position — going into spring ball, we’ve only got one quarterback on the roster, and he’s not seen a snap of game time action yet. Conner, with the experience he has, will be named the starter to begin with. However, recruiting isn’t done yet, and Conner welcomes competition.”

The Clan also added running back Jalen Jana, a Division II transfer from Cheyney University, who played at St. Thomas More Collegiate in Burnaby two years ago.

With 30 new players coming, SFU has added quite a bit of depth, something the team lacked last year. However, recruiting season is not quite over, as Bates is still looking for some more talent.

“We’re still looking for offensive linemen — it’s tough to find lineman on either side of the ball [. . .] but that’s no different than any other team.”