Bucs sign what could be bumper-crop of prep talent

By Matt Hill
STAR STAFF

   JOHNSON CITY- There's a radio ad campaign going on in this state that uses the slogan "Tennessee sounds good to me."
   East Tennessee State head football coach Paul Hamilton must have heard it because he sure did recruit Tennessee very heavily this signing season.
   Ten of ETSU's 25 signees are from the state of Tennessee, as the Buccaneer recruiting class was announced to the local media Wednesday afternoon.
   The metropolitan areas of Knoxville, Nashville, Chattanooga, and the Tri-Cities were all represented in this year's crop.
   "I really believe it's very important in our football program to be
   able to go within our own state, and be able to win the recruiting battles." Hamilton said.
   The local kids include Dobyns-Bennett quarterback Scott Butler and Greeneville tight end Ben Cooper. Also in the mix is Tennessee transfer Jonathan Godfrey, a place kicker from Science Hill who comes back to Johnson City after being a walk-on for the Vols.
   Butler was an honorable mention All-state selection during his junior and senior seasons for the Indians. He holds the school record for most career passing yards with 2,965, and for touchdowns with 44 TD strikes.
   "We felt like he could be very well suited for what we want to do," Hamilton said. "We feel very fortunate to get him."
   Cooper is a 6-5, 240 pound tight end that caught 39 passes for 550 yards, and scored eight touchdowns during his senior season.
   "He's very athletic," Hamilton said. "We had no idea how big he was until he made his visit. I think if he had been playing in another state, he would have been recruited by a lot of folks."
   Another quarterback the Bucs signed Wednesday was Alcoa's Michael George. He did a lot of his damage on the ground by rushing for 2,122 yards last season en route to winning the Class 2A Mr. Football award.
   Jeffery Mitchell is another prized recruit from the Knoxville area. He rushed for 2,334 yards and scored 25 touchdowns as a senior at Knox Fulton.
   "Adding Jeff Mitchell gives us a chance to be deep at tailback,"
   Hamilton said.
   Knox Powell running back Andrew Tudor will also join the Bucs next season.
   Chattanooga was also good to the Bucs. ETSU grabbed offensive linemen Quinton Hale and Eric Losey from that area, as well as defensive back Tyrus Ward.
   "We really feel like with those three guys in-state we were able to go down to Chattanooga and steal some guys out of there," Hamilton said. "I think that's a credit to our program."
   Hamilton's biggest accomplishment of the recruiting season might have been signing a Nashville area product. Centennial High School defensive lineman Tony Haynes inked with the Bucs, which is a little surprising considering the Nashville area has not been a hotbed for ETSU players.
   "It came down to us and Tennessee Tech," Hamilton said. "We felt like it was certainly a plus to go into Nashville and sign a player like him. He's a defensive lineman that can really run."
   Rounding out the list of Tennessee recruits is quarterback Jason
   Davis, who is a transfer from Virginia Tech that played at Seymour High School.
   Another mid-semester transfer that the Bucs are very high on is
   Scottsdale Community College's Brock Pittman. He's an offensive lineman that Hamilton believes can challenge for a starting job.
   "His movement and strength has been something that maybe we weren't quite aware of," Hamilton said. "I thought he was a good player watching him on tape, but I think he can really be a bonus to our football team."
   Offensive lineman Matt Palmer and running back Gaven Varner are transfers from Georgia Military College that could both end up getting a considerable amount of playing time.
   ETSU received a lot of signees from Georgia this season. Probably the biggest catch from there is Mike Cullen, a 6-0 205 pound linebacker that totaled 356 tackles during his career at Roswell High School.
   "We put him on our board immediately," Hamilton said. Another area ETSU usually recruits heavily is South Carolina, and
   that was no exception this year. Quarterback/defensive back Terrance Scurry and wide receiver Stanton Yarborough headlines a group of six players from the palmetto state to sign with the Bucs.
   Southwest Virginia usually produces its fair amount of talent, and Marshall Doss fits that billing. He signs with the Bucs following a senior season at Marion High School where he rushed for 1,704 yards and scored 21 touchdowns. Doss also averaged 11 tackles a game as a linebacker.
   Hamilton believes a lot of recruits decided to sign with ETSU because of the progress the football team made last year. The Bucs won four of their final five games, which includes a win over top-ranked Georgia Southern.
   "Anytime you beat the No. 1 team in the nation I think it brings
   credibility to what you're trying to be about," Hamilton said. "There's no question whether it's the in-state kids or the kids in Georgia or South Carolina, I think that they were all aware of what we accomplished."
   Overall, Hamilton believes this recruiting class stacks up very well
   with the other teams in the Southern Conference. "I really do feel like we've hit on a special group this year," Hamilton said.
   ETSU NOTES: The Bucs will start spring practice a little bit earlier this year. Spring practice will begin on February 28.