Georgia Southern fills needs for offense, secondary on signing day

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STATESBORO, Ga. — Nardo Govan just felt like he belonged at Georgia Southern. He got that feeling after spending a recruiting trip weekend in Statesboro.

“All the guys are really close and they make you feel like a brother,” said the versatile Savannah Christian star. “I can imagine if I was family.”

Wednesday, he became part of the Eagle family.

Govan was one of 24 football signees for Georgia Southern on National Signing Day – the first day a high school senior can ink a scholarship to play for the upcoming season.

The Eagles also had two transfers already enroll at school – linebacker Tevin Thomas from Copiah-Lincoln Community College and cornerback Valdon Cooper from Illinois.

Georgia Southern began the recruiting process trying to replace 22 seniors off an 11-3 squad and a Final Four participant in the FCS playoffs. The Eagles had 18 scholarships to give out.

“Everybody excited about the guys who they’ve signed,” Georgia Southern coach Jeff Monken said. “If they’re not excited, they’ve signed the wrong ones. We feel like we have the right ones for us at Georgia Southern.”

Getting Govan, the Eagles staff may have not only been excited but maybe a little giddy.

The 6-foot-2, 230-pound Govan played linebacker, safety, slotback and tight end while helping Savannah Christian win a Class A state championship. He averaged more than 12 yards a carry with 10 touchdowns for the Raiders.

“We have no idea where we’re going to put him, but we’ll find a place for him to play,” Monken said.

According to respected internet recruiting site, Govan was one of three three-star athletes landed by Georgia Southern on Wednesday.

Two were quarterbacks – Matt Dobson of North Florida Christian in Tallahassee, Fla., and Vegas Harley of Mount Dora in Florida.

Defensive end Tre Griffin from North Cobb was also a three-star recruit, according to ESPN.

Dobson, who has 4.54 40-yard dash speed, threw for 2,509 yards and 26 touchdowns and ran for 828 yards and 15 touchdowns.

Harley, who considered offers from Memphis and remained uncommitted until the final day, ran for 1,384 yards and passed for 1,328 yards.

Georgia Southern signed three quarterbacks Wednesday, filling a big need because two-year starter Jaybo Shaw finished his eligibility. In the spring, Jerick McKinnon and Ezayi Youyoute will battle for the starting job heading into the fall.

Another key need for Georgia Southern was in the secondary. Four players who started the 2011 season in a nickel pass package against Samford won’t be back along with a top reserve Riyahd Jones.

But the Eagles signed four defensive backs, including speedy Tay Hicklin of South Pointe and Grady Redding of Cocoa.

Cooper should also step in and compete for a starting job, Monken said.

Georgia Southern took four offensive linemen and five defensive linemen. Griffin, a 6-2, 235-pound defensive end, had 19 tackles for losses and 10.5 sacks at North Cobb last season.

Southern hit the jackpot while recruiting South Pointe High School in Rock Hill, S.C. South Pointe was South Carolina’s Class AAA state champion after beating local powerhouse Bluffton in the state championship game.

Hicklin and Corey Neely played defensive back. Montay Crockett was a receiver who averaged 22.4 yards a catch.

Devonte Wheaton from Etowah and Shun Tribble of Woodruff High in Enoree, S.C., strengthen the stock of slotbacks.

James Dean of Glynn Academy and Irving Huggins of Hargrave Military Academy should provide depth at fullback.

“We feel like we’ve got very good high school players,” Monken said. “Hopefully, they’ll be very good college players. We’re anxious to get them here and develop those kids, get them on the field and help contribute to our success here.”

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