BOONE — Wednesday signaled the completion of Eliah Drinkwitz’s first recruiting class as head coach of Appalachian State.
The Mountaineers completed National Signing Day by adding nine players, bringing the total for the 2019 signing class to 18.
Drinkwitz was hired Dec. 15, giving him and the App State coaching staff roughly two months to both retain committed players while filling the remaining scholarship spots.
That situation put an extra premium on each interaction with prospects. And when a player seemed like a likely scholarship candidate, Drinkwitz had to develop a relationship carefully while trying to lock in a future Mountaineer.
“The first thing, anytime you’re building relationships, you have to build trust and respect,” Drinkwitz said from behind a podium. “And it’s got to be a mutual trust and respect. They’ve got to trust that they have your best interest at heart, and they respect the work you do, and you respect the work that they do.
“And so, whenever we tried to fit the right fits for Appalachian State, as soon as we targeted them and they showed interest, as quick as we can, we would try to build trust and respect.”
The Mountaineers’ nine February signees featured two players from North Carolina (they had six N.C. players sign in the 2019 class), three from Georgia, and one each from South Carolina, Florida, California and Arizona.
Drinkwitz’s pursuit of quarterback David Baldwin-Griffin and offensive lineman Craig McFarland, who are from Compton, Calif., and Phoenix, respectively, led App State into an unfamiliar territory. But even though the Mountaineers brand might not be as recognizable there, the coach said the program benefited from his track record.
Drinkwitz coached quarterback Ryan Finley at both Boise State and N.C. State. Finley played high school football at Paradise Valley in Phoenix, Ariz. He’s also worked with players from California.
“I tell you what, it’s all about connections,” Drinkwitz said. “I’ve actually recruited Arizona, I’ve recruited California … so I would say credibility was instant when I walked in.”
The other members of App State's group of February signees are: wide receiver Raykwonn Anderson (Folkson, Ga.), linebacker KeSean Brown (Bamberg, S.C.), offensive lineman Larry Dowdy (Belmont), defensive back Emmanuel Jenkins (Canton, Ga.), long snapper Christian Johnstone (Loganville, Ga.), defensive back Milan Tucker (Lehigh Acres, Fla.) and running back Ben Williams (Charlotte).
Nine members of App State’s 2019 class signed during the early signing period in December. Of those nine, six are already enrolled at App State: Tre Caldwell, Dashaun Davis, Brendan Harrington, Jourdan Heilig, Nicholas Ross and Luke Smith. Smith was the first commit of the class.
Drinkwitz said Smith’s dedication shows he deserved to be part of App State’s program.
“He’s a focused young man who knows exactly what he wants, and what he wants to be about,” Drinkwitz said. “We’re excited that he’s here and look forward to his development.
“The thing that we told all these players, and I think again it goes back to building trust and respect, is we promise these young men nothing other than an opportunity. And the day they step foot on campus -- the journey of 1,000 miles begins with one step. This is just that first step.”