By Jeff Nations
When Shenandoah University football coach Scott Yoder and his staff hit the recruiting trails to put together the Hornets' 2014 incoming class, their mission was both easy to visualize and hard to quantify.
The Hornets lacked size in Yoder's first year, for one thing.
"We targeted offensive line and big guys because we were so thin there last year," said Yoder, who announced his recruiting class on Tuesday morning. "We like what we were able to do."
Getting the bigs was big, then -- Shenandoah's 71-man recruiting class is dotted with sizable players, with 17 newcomers listed as either offensive or defensive linemen.
Passing the eye test was just one consideration for Yoder the rest of the Hornets' coaching staff -- getting the right kind of players, regardless of position, was just as important a mandate for Shenandoah's football program. It boiled down to a simple question.
"Are they good football players?," Yoder said of SU's recruiting focus. "As a young and really up-and-coming program, we don't have enough good football players. I don't know if you ever have enough good football players."
Hired in January 2013, Yoder had serious ground to make up in putting together his first recruiting class last year. Yoder said this year's recruiting season "was our first crack at a full year," and the stability of having a coaching staff in place and established in specific recruiting regions helped in putting this year's group together.
The class draws players from 10 states, with Virginia leading the way with 47 recruits. Shenandoah also continued to draw heavily from Maryland (12 recruits), pulled three players out of Pennsylvania and two each from West Virginia and Florida. The Hornets also added single players from Delaware, New Jersey, North Carolina, Tennessee and Texas.
Shenandoah maintained its strong presence in Maryland and northern Virginia, while making inroads in the Richmond area and crucial Hampton Roads region. The Hornets even turned up a handful of close-to-home prospects including linebackers Austen Butler and Kris Deal from Warren County, defensive tackle Tyler Hamilton (Sherando), offensive lineman Travis Siever (Skyline) and wide receiver Kevin Slaton (Randolph-Macon Academy).
The 2014 class has balance, with 35 offensive, 33 defensive and three kicking specialists joining the program.
This year's incoming class will bolster a group of 46 expected returnees from last season's 4-6 squad, including a 3-4 mark in the Old Dominion Athletic Conference.
"We're pretty solid for the first time through," Yoder said of this year's roster. "A lot of the guys with us were really key performers last year. We had some melt, and that was expected. But I like our numbers. We're probably always going to come in with 110 or 115."
Yoder said Shenandoah "always recruits kids to play," and that he expects as many as 15 to 20 newcomers to have an impact this season with special teams likely getting the biggest boost.
"The best kids are going to play," Yoder said. "Some of these freshmen are going to beat out some upperclassmen. That's just the way it's going to be."