MIAMI — Despite a late change in head coaches, recruiting at Northeastern A&M hasn’t missed a beat.
New head coach Zach Allen expects to make quite a haul on Wednesday, Feb. 7 — National Signing Day 2018.
“The state has been extremely receptive,” Allen said. “I think our staff deserves all the credit: Coach (Dustin) Landry, Coach (Gerald) Howse and Coach Rice (former Miami High School head coach Andrew Rice) jumping on ship pretty quickly and seeing faces. I think all the coaches in the state are essential to our success. They know the way we have done here and make sure we treat their kids the right way.
“Word keeps getting passed down to where we’re able to go into some really, really, really nice schools and great programs to recruit their best players. They see this is a good opportunity and will continue to be.”
A domino effect last month in a matter of days saw Clay Patterson resign to take a job at the University of Minnesota and Allen, a longtime NEO assistant, being promoted to head coach.
Rice then was added as offensive coordinator, duties he handled both at MHS and at his previous job, Bartlesville.
Allen said there would be a smaller class of signees — 30-some — than the last couple of years.
“There’s a couple of reasons: we brought in a few more mid-year transfers that we felt would help us, guys we had connections with that we felt could not only bring talent, but bring something to the locker room,” Allen said. “That took up a few spots that normally would be reserved for the February signing day.”
Allen said there also would be several recruited preferred walk-ons that “we want to make sure that they are recognized as well.”
The success of the past couple of seasons also has helped.
The Norsemen are coming off their first Southwest Junior College Football Conference title since 2002 and their first bowl appearance since 2012.
NEO joined Independence (Kansas) Community College in kicking off the inaugural Midwest Classic Bowl.
The Pirates earned a 30-20 win before a crowd of 4,230 at Red Robertson Field.
Twelve members of the team were early signees with four-year schools.
Allen said recruits are excited when they get to talk to NEO coaches.
“Over the past five or six years, everyone has a story, everyone knows someone who has had success,” he said. “They see that the process works.”
Two areas that have been receiving special attention during the recruitment process are the offensive and defensive lines and wide receiver.
“We’re always looking to fill the offensive and defensive line,” Allen said. “We had a lot of offensive linemen, a couple key starters, that are going to move on to the Division I level.
“We know we have some qualifiers here on campus that are getting closer and closer to being ready to play at the FBS level. Sooner or later, folks are going to find that out and we will have to replace them.”
“We lost a lot of production at the wide receiver position. We’re lucky that those are two of the best position for talent in the state of Oklahoma this year, so it’s worked out really well.”