Recruiting The Blacklands, 2023: Retool and Reload

Greetings, Lion fans, and other than Labor Day weekend which generally opens football season, and late November/December, which brings the playoff and championship race, early February is the day that college football fans look forward to. National Signing Day. Who did your team sign, and how will they help your program?

It’s been a blur of activity around Commerce, America. Head Coach Clint Doelzel was just named in early December, well into the recruiting season, and is still in the process of assembling a staff. Progress is being steadily made, adding Lion legend Bob Bounds as Director of Player Personnel, Dave Ewart as offensive line coach, and John McWilliams as director of Strength and Conditioning, the process is moving forward.

Without much time to spare, Dolezel and his staff brought in a total of 29 signees so far, including the early signing period, taking full advantage of the transfer portal. According to sources within the athletic department, there are sure to be more additions to this new pride of Lions, and when we get that information, we’ll pass it along. For now, though, here’s what we have….

In a word, as far as linemen go the Lions got BIG on both sides of the ball. The Lions added a tremendous amount of size and strength. Overall, the 2023 class broke down like this:

Defensive Backs- 5

Running Backs- 4

Wide Receivers- 4

Tight Ends- 2

Quarterbacks- 3

Offensive Line- 5

Linebacker- 4

Defensive Line- 2

We’ll have a breakdown on each signee, but here are the ones that particularly stood out to us so far:

Tramar Gilbert, LB (Peaster HS, 6’2″ 205 lbs.)- Great speed, can make plays sideline to sideline. Solid tackler, athletic, an aggressive rusher. Like most talent in the smaller classifications, they are asked to play both offense and defense. Gilbert has good hands and instincts.

Sloan Hubert, TE (El Campo HS, 6’3″ 250 lbs.)- Aggressive blocker with good technique. Finishes the play. Big target with soft hands. Catches the ball well, although he was primarily a blocking tight end. Likes contact.

Preston Kilgote, TE (Terrell HS, 6’4″ 210 lbs.)- Reminiscent of NFL legend Kellen Winslow of San Diego; Tall, thin target, with good speed and hands. Has lots of upsides, could fit at wide receiver as well. Would seem to benefit from a redshirt year to gain size and strength.

Josh Magana, QB (Reedley College, 6’2″ 205 lbs.)- Mobile and elusive in the pocket. Not great speed, but able to avoid the rush and extend plays with his feet. Accurate passer with good pocket presence.

Jason Otah, DL (Bellaire Episcopal HS, 6’3″ 230 lbs.)- Good speed and quickness, aggressive edge rusher. Should remind Lion fans of Michael Onoha.

Devin Matthews, WR (Seguin HS, 5’8″ 165 lbs.) Good speed and hands, elusive runner after the catch; excels with the slip and jailbreak screens. A natural fit at a slot or inside receiver.

Peter Parrish, QB (East Mississippi Community College 6’2″ 205 lbs.)- Was on 2019 National Championship roster at LSU, spent one year at Memphis, the East Mississippi. His journey that brings him to Commerce is very similar to that of Miklo Smalls. Accurate passer, strong arm that can make all the throws. Mobile in the pocket and a tough runner; good decision maker.

Rodney Searles, WR (Clear Lake HS, 6’2″ 195 lbs.)- Big target that can run; Soft hands, and an aggressive blocker. Lots of potential.

Matthew Welch, OL (Lake Worth HS, 6’4″ 275 lbs.)- Nephew of Lion assistant coach Jack Welch; Great size and strength, solid footwork and technique. Finishes the block and plays with a nasty streak.

And the rest of the newest members of the Lion family are:

Noah Baker, DB (Austin LBJ HS, 6’0″ 175 lbs.)- Good athlete, with good speed and hands. Can play both wide receiver and defensive back. Starter on 2021 4A D2 finalist, and 2022 5A D2 area finalist.

Lake Bennett, QB (Rockwall HS, 6’0″ 220 lbs.)- Accurate arm, mobile. Throws a very catchable ball. Good decision maker who isn’t afraid of contact. Strong arm with room to develop.

Kyle Bruce, OL (Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College 6’4″ 315 lbs.)- Good footwork and technique; good strength, finishes blocks.

Elias DeLeon, OL (Bethune Cookman, 6’4″ 310 lbs.)- Natural fit at guard; Great size and strength with nice footwork.

Matthew Goldman, LB (Frisco Independence HS, 6’2″ 215 lbs.)- Good hands; pursues well, makes plays sideline to sideline; solid tackler. Plays with a fast motor.

Jordan Hamilton, RB (Frisco HS, 6’0″ 175 lbs.)-Good speed an instinctive runner; saw time at defensive back, and is a solid tackler; seems to be a natural fit at defensive back.

Nehemiah Hernandez, DL (San Antonio Wagner HS, 6’3″ 250 lbs.)- Good strength and hand technique, pursues well; fights off of blocks, can fit in anywhere on the defensive line.

Dwight Jones, Jr. DB (Lancaster HS, 5’11” 175 lbs.)- Good speed and instinctive runner. Very aggressive blocker that finishes the play. Good hands that is a big hitter at defensive back. The kind of player that coaches find a way to get on the field.

Relvin Kelly, DB (Pinkston HS, 6’0: 180 lbs.)- Good hands and speed, needs time to develop.

Chris Lewis, WR (Wylie HS, 6’4″ 190 lbs.)- Very fast; good hands, and a tough runner after the catch; very reminiscent of former Lion Andrew Armstrong.

Naszae Otieno, RB (5’10” 190 lbs. Arlington Seguin HS)- Tough runner with quick feet. Instinctive, solid tackler on defense.

Travis Roman, DB (6’0″ 190 lbs., Nederland HS)- Great speed, good hands at wide receiver; decent tackler, never gives up on a play.

Shamenski Rucker RB (5’10” 190 lbs., Southeast Missouri)- Good speed and quickness; good hands and could be a fit at wide receiver or running back; tough runner with good size.

Cole Thrift OL (6’8″ 325 lbs. Richardson Pearce HS)- Dominating blocker, good footwork; good quickness for a big man.

Nate Washington III DB (5’10” 160 lbs. Waco LaVega HS)- Good speed and quickness, solid tackler.

Brady Wasurick WR (6’4″ 206 lbs., Caddo Mills HS)- Good hands and acceleration; tough runner after the catch.

McKinley Wilson LB (6’3″ 190 lbs., Klein Oak HS)- Sure tackler that fights off the block; Good speed that plays with a fast motor.

Logan Wylie OL (6’2″ 300 lbs., Stetson)- Aggressive blocker, with good footwork; Punishing blocker that plays with a nasty streak.

Wesley York, Jr. LB (6’1″ 195 lbs., Austin Bowie HS)- Good hands, and a solid tackler; plays the ball well.

All in all, a solid first effort for Clint Dolezel and his staff, given the lack of time to get a process together. Spring practice should be a real proving ground for the transfers like DeLeon, Bruce, Rucker, and Wylie.

Speculation in and around the program is that returning starter Eric Rodriguez will miss most of the spring season recovering from injury. This provides a great opportunity to see what transfers like Magana and Parrish can do, and for returning players such as Tyson Oliver to see just how much progress they’ve made.

A new era has dawned in Lion Nation, and we can’t wait to see what Clint Dolezel and his staff have in store.

Now, just when is that spring game?

Roar Back Here.....

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