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February 7, 2013

Valdosta State head coach Dean pleased with new signing class

VALDOSTA — David Dean admitted that he and his Valdosta State football coaching staff faced an uphill climb in recruiting this offseason, after playing for the NCAA Division II national championship.

In the end, though, Dean and his staff were still pleased with their 2013 signing class, which was announced on Wednesday.

“It is easier (to recruit) when you talk to the kids, because they realize what your players just accomplished and what your program has just done. But it is hard from the standpoint from the actual face-to-face recruiting, because we finished on Dec. 15 and then you try to get out and try to recruit and schools are out for Christmas break. Trying to establish the face-to-face contact with the recruits and their families is very difficult.”

After losing five starting offensive lineman from last season’s championship team, there was much speculation that the Blazers would recruit and sign a large number of linemen. In the end, the Blazers signed just one lineman on signing day.

“We really did not recruit, and I know this sounds crazy, we didn’t recruit any offensive linemen,” Dean said. “A lot of the linemen we are recruiting are wrestlers and they all want to do something after signing day     because they are involved in wrestling. Obviously, we are going to bring a couple in and try to sign some junior college guys that can come in and give us an immediate help.

“I’d like to have more linemen on that list, but I’m not panicking. I feel pretty good.”

One position the Blazers did focus on was defensive back. After losing seniors Harrison Dreiling and Jeff Jones in 2011 and Matt Pierce and Alex Webster in 2012, the need to fill voids in the defensive backfield was a must.

“Over the course of two years, we were losing four players. So we signed some good ones last year and feel good about them, but you have to sign more so you can have that depth since they play so much,” Dean said. “You can never have enough defensive backs in my opinion, because they can do so many things for you in your nickel and dime packages.”

At linebacker, Co Jackson, a 6-foot-3, 240-pound prospect, is expected to qualify late for school, but make an impact for the Blazers.

“He actually grew up in the same house as Chris Pope,” Dean said. “They grew up together. He is probably going to qualify easily, but late. We have been very quiet about him. He is going to be a steal.”

Locally, Valdosta State was able to acquire three signatures from Lowndes High School. Among the signatures was running back Nick Burgman, who led the Vikings in rushing and receiving this past season.

“That is a big hit. That was big,” Dean said. “We didn’t think we were going to have a chance to recruit him. A lot of bigger schools, the 1-AAs, were on him and just fell aside and we just stuck with him. Really, about the time they had that all-star game is when we really knew we had an opportunity to really get him. We are real excited about him....Obviously, with him being a local guy, we made a hard push for him.”

Of this year’s signing class, over 40 percent are from Gwinnett County, an area formally recruited by offensive coordinator Robby Brown, who took a job at Northwestern State (La.).

Since Brown’s departure, Dean took over Gwinnett, landing several recruits thanks to his long relationships with various coaches in the hot-bed football region.

“We separated his area and kind of broke up his area, and I know a lot of coaches in the Gwinnett area,” Dean said. “I coached them either here or at West Georgia. So I took over the Gwinnett area and spent about a week and a half up there recruiting guys. We are very fortunate.”

Normally sitting in his office evaluating film, Dean said he enjoyed being back on the road and walking back into high schools and speaking with players and coaches.

“To actually get out and go into the schools again, it was different but it was fun,” Dean said. “It was fun for me to take over Robby’s area. I was likely because I got, what I think, are three players.”

One major aid in recruiting this season for the Blazers was the use of social media. Through Twitter, coaches were able to tweet information to recruits, including poster-like pictures describing the success of the program, its players and previous coaches.

“I don’t understand all that, but fortunately for me, we have a great coaching staff that understands those things,” Dean said. “The two guys that kind of responsible for that are Seth Wallace and Tilmon Clark. I give them a tremendous amount of credit.

“It is amazing how well received it is. I went to the (Georgia Athletic Coaches) luncheon yesterday and Kirby Smart, who is a very good friend of mine, came up and he said, ‘Man, who does all y’all’s tweets? That is incredible.’ So for a guy like that, the defensive coordinator at Alabama, is getting those tweets, then you know guys you’re recruiting, coaches and future players, are all seeing the same thing.”

The Blazers open spring practice Feb. 15.

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