Panther’s football 2016 class wins big with 25 newcomers

Utah graduate transfer Conner Manning is among early enrollees at Georgia State this Spring. Photo Submitted By | University of Utah
Utah graduate transfer Conner Manning is among early enrollees at Georgia State this Spring. Photo Submitted By | University of Utah
Utah graduate transfer Conner Manning is among early enrollees at Georgia State this Spring.
Photo Submitted By | University of Utah

The Georgia State football program got even bigger for the upcoming 2016 season, as the team had 25 players enroll on National Signing day. After going on a four game winning streak, and making it to their first ever bowl game, the Panthers are only going forward with these 25 signees.

The Panthers signed seven lineman, five receivers, four linebackers, three defensive backs, two running backs, two athletes, one quarterback and one tight end. Out of all 25 signees, only three of the players were ranked at least three stars (according to ESPN and 247Sports), but rankings mean nothing according to Trent Miles at the signing day press conference.

“We don’t get caught up in the rankings,” Miles said. We trust our eyes and our evaluation. I’ll just throw out the words ‘Penny Hart’.”

Coach Miles was referring to unranked freshman Penny Hart, who had a phenomenal season last year with 71 receptions, 1,099 yards and eight touchdowns. Hart also won 2015 Sun Belt Conference Freshman of the Year and was named to the FWAA Freshman All-American Team. Based on Hart’s success, Miles appeared to continue to keep trust in his team’s evaluations for the 2016 recruiting class.

Even though Miles doesn’t get caught up in the rankings, it doesn’t mean the three ranked players he recruited aren’t any good at all. The Panthers got a 3-star safety,  according to ESPN Rankings. , Kendrec Grady (6-foot-2, 209) who had 44 tackles and one interception his senior season. Darius Stubbs, rated 3-stars on ESPN, is known for his versatility as he had 147 carries, 1026 rushing yards and 10 total touchdowns in his high school career. Kwon Williams is a three star safety, according to 247Sports, who had 55 tackles, three interceptions, one forced fumble, and one defensive touchdown as a senior.

Filling positional needs

The Panthers have nine starters on defense and seven starters on offense that are returning for the 2016 season. The Panthers were in need of running backs, wide receivers, offensive lineman, a linebacker and a quarterback. Trent Miles feels the team got exactly what they needed with their 25 new signees.

“You always want to be able to bring in speed, and we did that,” he said. “We brought in some offensive lineman who could really help us, we needed wide receivers because of the sheer numbers, and we brought in a transfer quarterback to add to the mix.”

  • Running Back: The Panthers needed a running back since last season rushing attempts were split by three different players and only came out with 3 yards per carry. Bringing in 3-star Darius Stubbs should help out the team, since he averaged 7 yards per carry in his high school career.
  • Wide Receiver: In addition, they needed wide receivers as one of the top 3 options from last year’s team, Donovan Harden, graduated. The Panthers signed five wide receivers to see if they can find a replacement for those key players to go along with Penny Hart. Three of the wide receivers are above 6 foot tall and two of them are taller than 6 ft 3, which should prove as a good advantage when facing smaller corners.
  • Offensive Lineman: The Panthers added four offensive lineman to their team and all coming in at great weights. All taller than 6-foot-2 and have an average weight of 268 pounds, which means these big men are lean and should be able to speed it up as Miles intended.
  • Linebacker: Losing Joseph Peterson, the heart and soul of that Panthers defense, is a big blow to the team defensively. The Panthers have signed Andrew Everett, a former starter at Old Dominion, who looks more than likely to fill Peterson’s role, as he sat out the fall season but still practiced with the team.
  • Quarterback: The Panthers have a big role to fill at the quarterback as senior Nick Arbuckle had the best season of his career throwing for over 4,300 yards and 28 touchdowns. Conner Manning is the transfer quarterback Miles was referring to Manning broke many records at his high school that were previously held by NFL quarterback Matt Barkley. He will be competing with redshirt freshman Aaron Winchester and sophomore Emiere Scaife for the starting quarterback position.

What’s next?

Now that the Panthers have finally reached a bowl game, what is the next step for the program in terms of determining a successful season? Miles has a lot more goals in sight rather than just bowl games and signing these 25 recruits is just the first step in that direction.

“This is the next step in the process of becoming a program that competes for championships and is not just trying to get in a bowl game. It’s been a process, but you are seeing the program develop right before your eyes,” Coach Miles said.

The Panthers have already gone to a bowl game even though the football program has only existed for six years. It can only get better from this point on for the program as their spring practice is scheduled to begin on March 24. Only then will Miles be able to determine if this recruiting class was truly a successful one.

Chart of signees (according to Georgia State Communications)

Offensive line: Nick Meyer (6-foot-5, 270), Malik Besseck (6-foot-4, 275), Zeke Pernell (6-foot-5, 275), Quion Gilmore (6-foot-3, 265)

Defensive line: Terry Thomas (6-foot-3, 245), Clifford Amazan (6-foot-2, 315), Tavis Malakius (6-foot-2, 320)

Wide Receivers: Jawan Nobles (6-foot-3, 245), Eric Elder (6-foot-1, 177), Bryson Duckworth (6-foot-4, 212), Jonathan Ifedi (5-foot-11, 188), Matlin Marshall (5-foot-9, 188)

Linebackers: Peyton Moore (6-foot-2, 225), Andrew Everett (6-foot-5, 240), Javonte Lain (6-foot-2, 220) Charlie Patrick (6 foot, 220)

Defensive backs: Cedric Stone (5-foot-11, 180), Kendrec Grady (6-foot-2, 209), Kwon Williams (6 foot, 202)

Running backs: Darius Stubbs (5-foot-10, 188), Tra Barnett (5-foot-10, 170)

QB: Conner Manning (6-foot-1, 205)

TE: Hunter Atkinson (6-foot-4, 250)

Athletic Position (multi-purpose): Devin Gentry (5-foot-10, 180), Trey Chapman (5-foot-11, 180)