MIAMI — Expectations are high for the Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College Golden Norseman football team with the approach Wednesday of national signing day, according to head coach Clay Patterson.
“We’re exited about both the quantity and the quality of high school players, transfers and walk-ons that we expect to sign on Wednesday,” Patterson said. “Number-wise, with the way we do our recruiting by letting our qualifiers to get get recruited, our recruiting is a fluid, ongoing process.
“Our numbers that we try to bring in is always going to be between 45 to 60 kids a year,” Patterson said. “A large part of our recruiting class are walk-ons because we treat them just like they are recruited and signed.
“Every year you’ll see us bring in as many as 60 guys, knowing that we’ll have three or four guys sign Division 1 scholarships every summer and will get to move on where they could have come back,” Patterson said. “Although I’m starting my second season as head coach, last year I wasn’t in on the beginning of recruiting like I am now.”
Under Patterson’s first season the Golden Norsemen finished in a four-way tie for second place in the Southwest Junior College Football Conference with a 4-3 record. NEO (5-5 overall) earned the fourth position in the conference post-season semifinals and lost 48-40 to Trinity Valley in Athens, Texas.
“To win the way we want to win and to play the way we want to play, a huge recruiting focus for us has been along both the O-line and D-line,” Patterson said. “We came in late last year as far as the O-line kids were concerned, so we didn’t get as big a class as what we needed.
“So, we’re going to have a very big class of quality O-line recruits come in during our summer session,” Patterson said. “We’re going to loose four guys that signed Division I scholarships this year and we’re probably going to loose either five or six guys along our D-line that will sign Division 1 scholarships before it’s all said and done.
“That means that we’re talking about 10 guys going on to play D-1 that we’ve got to reload along the front lines,” Patterson said. “That makes a huge focus there for our coaches.”
Three offensive linemen — Sammy Bernard, Larry Joubert, Davis Harker and Jonathan Palmer along with defensive linemen Tometron Griffis, Jaylon George, Jacques Penny and Lon Hampton — transferred at the end of December to four-year institutions.
A large group of returning players, transfers and walk-ons have started conditioning prior to the start of spring workouts. The spring practice session is slated to start in March and conclude with the traditional Blue-Gold scrimmage the first week of May.
“Through the spring, guys will see where they can fit in and where they can play,” Patterson said. “So, there will be a lot of times where we will switch players either to different line positions or the other side of the line.
“We already moved two guys from last year’s signing class from defensive line to the offensive side,” Patterson said. “As offensive coordinator, I want us to be athletic up front and have some size.
“The thing is that guys who play defensive tackle usually have some size and quickness,” Patterson said. “Therefore, we want to bring those qualities to our interior offensive line at either guard or tackle.”
Starting all-conference quarterback Nicholas Johns transferred to the University of Akron (Ohio) at semester.
“We’ve got an experienced quarterback and running back both coming back,” Patterson said. “But, here again, they’ve both garnered a lot of attention so we’re not sure they are going to come back.
“That means that we are going to sign an in-state quarterback and we’ll have a couple of out-of-state signees at both quarterback and running back,” Patterson said. “So we’ll have depth and a lot of talent and competition at both offensive backfield positions.
“Our second focus has been on guys with the skill set to play in the defensive secondary,” Patterson said. “Here again, we’ve already had a couple of guys sign D-1 and move on.”
Patterson and his staff also felt the need to recruit at the receiver positions.
“Last year we started with a large group of receivers, but we felt that we needed some D-1 speed and play-making ability at those positions,” Patterson said. “So we went out and got some guys that we feel can put us over the edge at these spots.”
Assistant head coach and defensive coordinator Zack Allen and his staff have focused primarily on linebackers and defensive backs.
“We had a good class of linebackers last year so we’re probably going to sign three or four linebackers to replenish at those positions,” Patterson said. “We wanted to really focus on speed and athleticism and create a little bit of competition at linebackers.
“At defensive ends we’ve got kind of a unique situation,” Patterson said. “We’ve still got two all-conference players on campus — Alton Robinson and Jamari Chisholm — that will probably sign Division 1 before we get to the fall semester.
“So, we’re going have two scholarshiped players returning at ends with three quality prospects coming in this summer,” Patterson said. “So we’ll have two or three Oklahoma high school recruits coming in at ends.
“We really focus on both the D-line and ends with out-of-state recruiting because we want guys that can pressure the quarterback,” Patterson said. “Speed and quickness will be our main focus.”
During the Christmas break, the Golden Norsemen brought in 15 new recruits to participate in the spring drills.
“Once we get to the signing date, we’ll be pretty much through with our recruiting except for our walk-ons,” Patterson said. “We’re always looking for difference-makers, so between now and our summer session we’ll focus on our walk-ons and the D-1 players that are signees that are looking for a two-year program to play in.
“We’re always going to brings guys in and out and trying to help them move on,” Patterson said. “When you have 30 guys to leave to go to Division 1 in 18 months, recruiting is year-round and like a revolving door.”