Stephen F. Austin head football coach Colby Carthel gave Lumberjack faithful another reason to be optimistic for the future when his coaching staff turned in their second straight stellar recruiting class since he was hired to lead the program in December of 2018.
After vowing to build a championship program at SFA after securing an NCAA Division II national title at Texas A&M-Commerce in 2017, Carthel and his staff recruited the third-best FCS recruiting class last year, and followed that up with the top recruiting class in the Southland Conference for the second consecutive year, along with the seventh-best in the nation among FCS schools, according to 247Sports.com.
SFA, which finishes 3-9 under Carthel’s initial campaign last fall, signed 14 players — 10 offensive and four defensive — during the early signing period in December, then followed that up with 16 more signees — seven on offense and nine on defense — on Wednesday’s National Signing Day.
“We really appreciate the young men that signed on with us,” Carthel said at a Thursday press conference. “I feel like we’ve got a special group. We have some really talented and high-character players. And having a year to do some background work on them and know they are some high-academic athletes, I think it will prove to be a class that is fun to watch and fun to follow here at SFA and even beyond because there are some absolute winners in this bunch.”
Of the 30 players Carthel was able to get to put the ink on the dotted line, most of them were in the offensive and defensive line, which are areas that Carthel said his staff looked to concentrate on. During the recruiting period the Lumberjacks signed nine offensive and five defensive linemen.
“Now it’s time to roll up their sleeves and get to work,” Carthel added about the signees. “I think we addressed some real needs up front with big men. We had a large number of linemen in this class and we had a lot of double-sport athletes that will be competing in both football and track here at SFA.”
In addition to linemen added, the ’Jacks signed two running backs, five wide receivers and a tight end on offense, with two safeties, three cornerbacks and three linebackers on defense.
Some of the East Texas talent inked was Quinton Owens, a 6-3, 225-lb. defensive lineman from Carthage, Korbyn White, a 5-10, 185-lb. running back from Liberty Eylau High School in Texarkana, and Caleb Fox, a 6-3, 305-lb. defensive lineman from The Woodlands.
Carthel said he is still sold on his plan on building the program primarily through high school players, instead of loading the program with junior college transfers.
“We played 30-something freshmen last year, and the good thing is those guys are all sophomores,” the coach said. “And (current signees) will see a lot of playing time early. We’re building this for the long haul.
“There’s nothing wrong with transfers because they’re good too. But I think it’s important to have guys in the nucleus of your program that have been with you four or five years. That’s what you win with and that’s part of the reason we didn’t win a lot of games last year. This is a real man’s game. College football is won by 22 and 23-year olds and not 17, 18 and 19 year olds.
“Our administration is committed to build a championship program. And to do that our belief is you do that from the ground up, athletes that come in here and buy into what SFA is all about, who want to be in East Texas and understand there’s something special being built in the Pineywoods.
“We could have gone out last year and signed 30 transfers and been more successful, but we’re going to build thing so we can win forever.”
The Lumberjacks are set to open Spring drills on Tuesday, with 15 practices scheduled through next month, culminating with the Spring Game on Saturday, March 21.