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McNeese State head football coach Matt Viator. (American Press Archives)

McNeese State head football coach Matt Viator. (American Press Archives)

Viator scores big signing class for Cowboys

Last Modified: Wednesday, February 06, 2013 7:50 PM

By Alex Hickey / American Press

McNeese State brought in a big signing class Wednesday in more ways than one.

With a large senior class departing, 23 new Cowboys signed their National Letters of Intent to attend McNeese next year. Four of those players were already in the fold as transfers from Football Bowl Subdivision programs, and their ranks were joined by 19 high school players stretching from Texas to Miami.

“This is a great day for our football program,” said Cowboys head coach Matt Viator. “We’re very excited about this class. Everything went smoothly and according to plan.”

The biggest players on the field — offensive and defensive linemen — were a major point of emphasis. The Cowboys added five signees on the defensive line and four on the offensive line.

Two of the defensive linemen were on the Class 5A all-state team — 6-foot-2, 280-pound Anthony Yruegas Jr. from West Monroe and 6-foot, 275-pound Antonio McGhee from Parkway.

McGhee was one of the bigger “gets” in the class, picking McNeese over the likes of Ole Miss, Louisiana Tech, Memphis, South Carolina and Oregon State. He was the Class 5A Defensive MVP.

“He’s about as productive a defensive lineman as we’ve seen on tape,” Viator said. “He drew a lot of interest from a lot of places. We’re very fortunate to get Antonio in here. We think he’ll make a tremendous impact on our defense.”

McNeese was able to expand its reach into Florida thanks to the connections of offensive line coach Rob Sale, who previously worked for Nick Saban at Alabama. Two offensive linemen, Joe Jenkins IV of Miami (Northwestern HS) and Thor Miller of Bradenton, Fla. (Manatee HS) signed out of the Sunshine State.

“We expanded our geographic area of recruiting,” Viator said. “Coach Sale used his resources and contacts from working at Alabama and we were able to really get some good leads on guys in that area.”

McNeese also went big at quarterback, at least in terms of height. Grant Ashcraft, a 6-6, 200-pounder from Atascocita (Texas) High was one of the final pieces to join the class. McNeese was Ashcraft’s lone Football Championship Subdivision visit.

“We can’t quit smiling,” Viator said. “He’s a tremendous player who has a great upside. He’s been very well-coached. His pocket mobility is fantastic. He has the ability to move his feet in the pocket and keep his eyes downfield, which is something you usually have to work on with high school kids. And he can also run the ball in read-option type plays.”

The Cowboys went after defensive backs more than any other position, bringing six into the fold.

“Last year we had four senior defensive backs and this year we’ll lose three more,” Viator said. “So obviously that’s a big emphasis on what we’re trying to do. We did a good job getting guys who can play safety and corner.”

High school teammates are another popular theme in the class.

Evangel Christian teammates Austin Gilcrease (DB) and Jammerio Gross (DE) and St. Paul’s teammates Ed Duplessis (LB) and Jay Washington (DB) decided to stick together for college.

Wide receiver Bodhi Bell of Montgomery, Texa,s is rejoining a former teammate in quarterback Tyler Bolfing, while Texas-San Antonio transfer Ja’len James is reuniting with LaGrange High classmate Aaron Sam in the defensive backfield.

McNeese State 2013 Recruiting Class (23 players)

QB, Grant Ashcraft, 6-foot-6, 200 pounds, Atascocita High School (Humble, Texas)

WR, Bodhi Bell, 6-2, 190, Montgomery High School (Montgomery, Texas)

*WR, David Bush, 5-9, 180, John Tyler High School (Tyler, Texas)

DB, Carlos Carroll, 6-1, 175, Alexandria Senior High (Alexandria)

LB, Ed Duplessis, 6-2, 215,St. Paul's High School (Covington)

DB, Austin Gilcrease, 5-11, 195, Evangel Christian Academy (Shreveport)

DE, Jammerio Gross, 6-3, 220, Evangel Christian Academy (Shreveport)

**TE, Nic Jacobs, 6-5, 260, Many High School (Many)

***CB, Ja'Len James, 5-10, 175, LaGrange High School (Lake Charles)

OL, Joe Jenkins IV, 6-3, 285, Miami Northwestern Senior High (Miami)

DB, Erik Jones, 6-0, 170, Foster High School (Richmond, Texas)

DT, Antonio McGhee, 6-0, 275, Parkway High School (Bastrop)

OL, Thor Miller, 6-3, 286, Manatee High School (Bradenton, Fla.)

WR, Kent Shelby II, 6-3, 190, Archbishop Shaw (New Orleans)

DB, Callen Smith, 6-0, 185, Barbe High School (Lake Charles)

OL, Jalen Smith, 6-4, 280, Ouachita Parish High School (Monroe)

WR, Khalil Thomas, 5-9, 176, Catholic-Baton Rouge (Baton Rouge)

RB, Jontrey Tillman, 5-9, 200, West St. Mary High School (Baldwin)

DE, Kurt Viges, 6-3, 230, Eunice High School (Eunice)

DE, R.J. Walters, 6-3, 240, Rayville High School (Rayville)

DB, Jay Washington, 6-1, 195, St. Paul's (Covington)

DT/DE, Anthony Yruegas Jr., 6-2, 280, West Monroe High School (West Monroe)

OL, Adam Ziepke, 6-3, 300, South Terrebonne High School (Bourg)

KEY: * -- transfer from TCU. * -- transfer from LSU, *** -- transfer from Texas-San Antonio

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