The COVID-19 pandemic caused one of the strangest football recruiting seasons Steve Buckley can remember.
“It’s been crazy because we did not go out,” said Buckley, the head coach of the Jones College Bobcats. “We were probably the only junior college who made the decision not to go out on the road because of COVID and I don’t regret that decision. I thought our coaches did a tremendous job of pulling it all together. We did a lot of Zoom calls, phone calls and Facetime calls.
“It hurt us to the point that we did not get to go out and visit with the high school coaches like we always like to. I’ve talked to all the high school coaches and they understood it and I think they were kind of appreciative that we weren’t all up in their school and offices during this pandemic.”
But Buckley was quite pleased with the future Bobcats who all signed on the morning of Feb. 3.
“It’s strange because we have 11 sophomores coming back,” he said. “We could have signed 24, but we did not want to. We signed 19. We had 19 kids targeted on signing day and that’s the 19 that signed with us and we are excited about it.”
Along the defensive line, Jones signed tackle Devon Smith (Biloxi) and ends Kenderius Burke (Leake Central), Kamarius Husband (West Marion), Marcus Dickey (Biloxi) and Corrterrious Shaw (Jackson Lanier). Inside linebackers who signed are Miguel Evans (Newton County) and Ja’Marcus Eiland (Louisville). Secondary players are Ricky Willis (Harrison Central), Daylin “DK” Metcalf (Greenville Christian), Lardarius Webb Jr. (Jackson Academy) and Semaj Robertson (Hancock).
On the offensive line, the Bobcats added JaGarrion Butler (Kemper County), Weston Kropp (Biloxi) and Ethan Hibley (West Marion). Jones signed three wide receivers, including Kam Reynolds (South Pike), Chad O’Neal (Biloxi) and Jordan Cavitt (Northwest Rankin). Running back Robert Henry (Lumberton) and quarterback Alan Follis (West Jones) round out the class.
Buckley said this group has a chance to be special.
“Overall, we hit every need we were looking for,” he said. “Not only is this a very athletic class, it’s a great character class. All of them take the classroom seriously and I’m just excited about this class. It’s a small class, but it’s one of the best we’ve had since we’ve been here.”
Buckley added the Bobcats currently on campus are going through off-season workouts with an eye on spring practice in several weeks. He said it’s also an important time for the players to concentrate on classroom work.
“It’s the first time we’ve had some in-depth time with these guys working on speed and agility and they need it,” he said. “We are also focusing on academics because the spring semester is your hardest semester here academically. We are in a routine of breakfast, class, tutor, study hall and working out right now. It’s a very important semester for the returning guys to get them ready for the next level.”
Coach Buckley’s comments on each signee:
Devon Smith: “Devon is a 6-foot-5, 315-pound tackle. He is a great kid and a really, really strong academic kid. He’s got a chance to be a really good football player. He had a little knee problem last year and had some major surgery on it. It was not an ACL. It probably hurt his recruitment a little bit, but we are excited about Devon.”
Kenderius Burke: “Kenderius (6-1, 240) is a really explosive kid. He reminds me a lot of Chei Hill who played for us a couple of years ago. He has a great twitch off the ball and is going to be a good ballplayer.”
Marcus Dickey: “Marcus (6-3, 235) double signed with us and Army. When we get a kid that has a chance to go to a military academy we do not try to talk him out of that. He’s got some hard decisions to make. If he is ready to make that fulltime commitment, I completely understand it. That’s an honor for anybody. Marcus is a long, explosive kid.”
Kamarius Husband: “Mookie Husband (6-4, 215) is a defensive end, probably more of an outside linebacker. He is very, very athletic. We really like players from West Marion because their coaching staff coaches toughness. He is a very explosive kid.”
Corterrious Shaw: ‘Corterrious (6-3, 230) is a defensive end/outside linebacker. He did not get to play his senior year at Lanier because they were canceled because of COVID. He is the starting point guard on their basketball team. He has great upside.”
Miguel Evans: “Miguel (6-0, 215) reminds me a lot of (former JC linebacker) Daylen Gill. He is a really, really smart kid with a high football IQ. He made a lot of plays and played in the (Bernard Blackwell) All-Star Game.”
Ja’Marcus Eiland: “Ja’Marcus (6-1, 210) reminds us a lot of K.J. Cloyd who played for us a couple of years ago. He is long, athletic and can play inside and outside the box. When he gets in the weightroom and continues to develop, the sky is the limit.”
Ricky Willis: “Ricky (6-0, 200) is a big safety. He played running back as a junior in high school.”
Daylin Metcalf: “D.K. Metcalf (5-11, 190) – I know that name sounds familiar, but he goes by ‘D.K.’ – is a cornerback from Greenwood. He ended up playing this year at Greenwood Christian after Greenwood (High School) canceled their season because of COVID. He has the same traits as Travor Randle, a kid that plays for us now.”
Ladarius Webb Jr.: “Ladarius (5-11, 175) played at Jackson Academy for Lance Pogue, who is a good friend of our staff. His Dad (Ladarius Webb Sr.) played nine years in the NFL (Baltimore Ravens). Coach Pollard (Jones defensive coordinator Lytrel Pollard) coached his Dad at Southern Miss for a year or two. He is an explosive athlete who loves contact. He played both sides of the ball and was also a kick returner. He is very athletic.” Webb was a one-time commit to Nebraska.
Semaj Robertson: “We signed Semaj (6-0, 175) as an athlete. He is probably the most versatile athlete we signed. He can play corner, safety or nickel on defense and can play slot receiver, too. He has great feet and is explosive.”
JaGarrion Butler: “We really like JaGarrion’s (6-4, 275) athleticism.”
Weston Kropp: “Weston (6-4, 300) is probably a five-position player. He can play center, guard or tackle for us. He has a very high football IQ and is academically sound. I think he made 30 on the ACT.”
Ethan Hibley: “Ethan is a gigantic kid at 6-4, 335. He has great hips and bends very well for a big man. We are excited to watch his development.”
Kam Reynolds: “Kam (5-7, 165) is a lot like (former Bobcat) Manny Jones. We are very excited about him. He is short in stature, but big in heart and makes big plays. He is dynamic with the ball in his hands.”
Chad O’Neal: “Chad is Jervin Smith’s brother, who plays for us now. Chad (6-3,175) ended up missing his senior year because of shoulder surgery. He was a quarterback at Biloxi, but has played receiver before. He is long and can stretch the field.”
Jordan Cavitt: “Jordan (6-2, 200) was a highly recruited kid that has a chance to special on the outside for us.”
Robert Henry: “We were very fortunate to get Robert (5-10, 185) from Lumberton. He was the 2A Player of the Year and won a state championship. He is just a dynamic running back with long speed, quickness and explosiveness. I just like everything he does as a running back.”
Alan Follis: “Alan (6-1, 185) won many games in his career at West Jones. He is a state championship quarterback and I like quarterbacks who are winners. Alan checks every box for us as a quarterback, from football IQ to toughness to feet to fast enough to arm strength. He just fits in well with what we do here.”