An air of confidence not felt in years graced McCauley Hall last Wednesday. “We’re gonna be real good,” coach Phil Serchia said with an assured smile.
The Javelina coaching staff might forgive their fans for not sharing their positivity. After all, last year’s squad saw zero improvement in the win column from 2014. Yet, according to Coach Daren Wilkinson, there is a lot more to the 2-9 record. “Two years ago before our staff got here… we averaged in losing games 48-17. This last year we averaged 35-31, so we were in ball games.”
Wilkinson and Co. have been out on the road, focusing their recruitment efforts to a triangular area between the Valley, San Antonio, and Houston.They have signed 40 players, 14 more than the 2014 class.
“We went to every high school in that triangle, and that’s not something that’s been done in the past with A&M Kingsville. And just getting our name out there, getting our brand out there and having people know who we are…we’re starting to make some headway there,” Wilkinson said.
The are only a few spots to fill for the 2016 roster, mostly on special teams, but for this year’s class Wilkinson looks toward building depth and establishing a strong base for future seasons.
Speed is one area the coaching staff wanted to dial in on and improve. “We needed team speed at every position,” Wilkinson explained.
Those who attended the press conference were handed a sheet a paper listing all the players who had signed up to that point, with their position, height, weight, hometown, and school listed to the right. However, to the right of Brandon McClinton’s name were the letters “ATH,” athlete. Wilkinson emphasized the athleticism of the Alamo Heights senior. “He’s going to have the opportunity, if nothing else, in his first year run down some kickoffs and punts and give us some plays on offense or defense to where he is going to make a difference with his speed and his athleticism.”
Size matters as well. The 2015 squad was a scrappy bunch, a bit undersized compared to the rest of the Lone Star Conference. This year’s recruiting class features seven players standing 6’3” or taller, including a 6’5” 220 pound punter out of Spring, Texas named Dillon Scherer. “The way we play offense and defense we want to be more physical than the opponent on both sides of the ball,” Wilkinson said. One such player is Brandon Artis out of Port Arthur. The 6-foot-3-inch, 300-pound defensive tackle squatted over 600 pounds as a powerlifter at Memorial High School. Wilkinson hopes he can utilize his size and speed on the line to control gaps and stifle the opponent’s run game.
On the offensive side, Serchia is looking for “maulers.” A towering pair out of Langham Creek High School in Houston offer that. “Size-wise, right, they have the ability to play for us on the offensive line,” Wilkinson said
First is Narciso Grimaldo, standing at 6 feet 5 inches, and 310 pounds; though, don’t mistake him as a lumbering o-lineman.
“He’s got skinny ankles…when you got skinny ankles you can move around because you’re athletic,” Wilkinson said.
Coming in at 320 pounds, Tyler Kellar received multiple FCS offers, but chose TAMUK for its Wildlife Management program. When Wilkinson visited his house, he discovered how well Kellar did his research. “He was recruiting me. He was so fired up about the
Wildlife Management bachelor program and the things our school has to offer.”
A common thread among the 2016 signees is that many come from championship high school programs from North Shore High School in Houston, to the always venerable Katy High School. “You’d be hard-pressed to look at this list and tell me guys that really just come from dumpy programs, they’re all winners,” Wilkinson said. “It’s bred in them in winning programs to be leaders and we expect them to bring that here as well.”
Cameron Brown certainly fits the bill of a winner, playing for the 6A Championship North Shore. Wilkinson speaks highly of the two-time all-district team member. “He’s a great leader, he’s well-coached and he’s the type of player who is ready to play now.”
Oftentimes, local talent in the Corpus Christi and Rio Grande Valley area can be overlooked in favor of the larger schools in the Houston and Dallas areas. However, as Wilkinson put it, “It’s just like fishing… you don’t want to throw the line as far as you can if there’s fish underneath you. There’s guys there, and we want to make sure we sign the best kids in Corpus.”
Hailing from San Benito, Joseph Partida finished in the top 5 percent of his class, and academically is classified as a sophomore thanks to dual credit courses. The offensive lineman plans to major in engineering.
From Flour Bluff comes the rangey safety Kai Youngberg. Wilkinson appreciates his intelligence and sees him contributing very soon. “He’s one of those guys you can see for the first year or two being the special teams captain and by junior, senior year he might be the best player on our defense.”
Hondo Harris is one of the three quarterbacks recruited in this year’s class. He threw 6,000 yards in two seasons for Orange Grove under Coach Bomar. “If he were at a bigger school, we really wouldn’t have a shot at [him],” Wilkinson said
He’s going to face tough competition from Cade Dyal out of Kerrville. He is the son of Mike Dyal, a former Javelina football player. At Kerrville-Tivy, he broke quarterback records from none other than Johnny Manziel. Wilkinson hopes Dyal can bring some of the “Tivy fight never dies” attitude to Javelina Stadium.
The Javelina coaching staff has put a hard sell on this year’s recruiting class and the 2016 football team.
“I don’t know if I’ve ever been as excited as I am right now for a football team,” Wilkinson said. “We cannot wait to get out there in August.”
Neither can Javelina football fans. August will tell if there is any substance to the hype.
Follow Robert Breedlove on Twitter @breedloveTCB