NEW ORLEANS — The Appalachian State football program's first full day in New Orleans coincided with the first day of the early signing period. For the Mountaineers, it most definitely delivered.
App State (12-1) signed 17 players, flipping two players and losing one to a Power Five program as they approached the New Orleans Bowl on Saturday against Ala.-Birmingham.
“We're a top-20 program,” head coach Shawn Clark said. “Appalachian has a great tradition of extraordinary players, and we want the right kind of guys — the guys that want to be here and want to get a great education and win championships."
The Mountaineers managed to sweep up two players who were expected to sign elsewhere: Austin Reeves of Lake Norman, who was originally committed to Connecticut, as well as Mike Smith, a defensive back from Florida who was formally committed to Central Florida. They also lost Charlotte Vance star Marqui Lowery, who was scooped up by Louisville and former Appalachian coach Scott Satterfield.
All in all, it was a strong day for App State. The program assembled the highest-rated recruiting class in school history, according to 247Sports. Every new Mountaineer was a three-star athlete. The early signing period will end Friday, but most of App State’s work is already done.
“Today went pretty much how we planned it was going to go,” recruiting coordinator Justin Watts said. “. . . It stings a little bit when you lose one and they go somewhere else, but that’s part of it. The only bad thing about today was it started an hour earlier since we're in a different time zone.”
Here’s a look at all the guys who signed with App State on Wednesday:
Ronald Clarke | Mill Creek (Ga.) | Defensive back | 6 feet, 185 pounds
Clarke received heavy Ivy League interest, including offers Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard, Princeton and Yale, according to 247Sports. Clarke’s high school team finished 10-3, falling in the quarterfinals of the Georgia 7A playoffs.
Damion Daley | Georgia Military College (Ga.) | Offensive tackle | 6 feet 4, 260 pounds
App State’s lone junior college signee, Daley comes to Boone from Georgia Military College. The Mountaineers have signed a handful of former Georgia Military standouts since joining FBS, such as former defensive linemen Dezmin Reed and Tee Sims.
DeAndre Dingle-Prince | Lee County | Defensive tackle | 6 feet 2, 253 pounds
Dingle-Prince is coming straight out of a state title game. Lee County lost to Weddington in the 3-AA state title game, 34-14. He had 92 total tackles with 12 sacks and eight quarterback hurries.
Stan Ellis | Gaffney (S.C.) | Defensive back | 6 feet, 180 pounds
Ellis signed at App State with his Gaffney classmate and teammate, Je’Mari Littlejohn. He had three interceptions this season for a 10-4 team.
Kevon Haigler | Hartsville (S.C.) | Outside linebacker | 5 feet 11, 220 pounds
Haigler joins App State from one of the best high school programs in South Carolina. Hartsville is a constant threat to win a state championship. This season, they lost in the Class AAAA semifinals to eventual title winner Myrtle Beach.
Christan Horn | Westwood (S.C.) | Wide receiver | 6 feet 1, 165 pounds
Horn is a quick-twitch athlete, finishing second last season in the Class 4-A 400-meter dash with a time of 48.96 seconds. He was the first to sign with the Mountaineers.
Je’Mari Littlejohn | Gaffney (S.C.) | Outside linebacker | 6 feet, 220 pounds
Littlejohn was one of thee linebackers to join the App State program. He also held offers from Coastal Carolina, Georgia Southern and Georgia State.
Jalen McLeod | Friendship Col. Academy (D.C.) | Inside linebacker | 6 feet 2, 220 pounds)
McLeod helped anchor a defense for a 10-3 team. He’ll join a position group that will lose both starters: Akeem Davis-Gaither, the Sun Belt Conference defensive player of the year, and Noel Cook, a former walk-on turned scholarship player.
Stephen Passeggiata | Wellington (Fla.) | Defensive end | 6 feet 2, 225 pounds
Passeggiata was a terror for Wellington. During his junior season, he racked up 68 tackles, 14 sacks and 27 tackles for loss.
Austin Reeves | Lake Norman | Offensive tackle | 6 feet 6, 250 pounds
Reeves was part of an offensive line that helped Lake Norman rush for 226.6 yards per game. Six Wildcats had at least four rushing touchdowns this season. Reeves was originally committed to Connecticut.
Jamar Rucks | Lanier (Ga.) | Defensive end | 6 feet 2, 255 pounds
App State picked up Rucks’ commitment on Monday, the first under new head coach Shawn Clark. He had 49 total tackles and nine sacks for the 10-2 Longhorns.
Markell Samuel | Fayetteville Smith | Defensive end | 6 feet 4, 215 pounds
Samuel will be a towering addition to a defensive line that’s known more for compact power. App State and Charlotte were the only FBS programs in the state to offer him.
Navy Shuler | Arden Christ School | Quarterback | 5 feet 11, 195 pounds
Shuler saw his stats dip this season, throwing for 2,095 yards and 20 touchdowns. As a junior last season, he had 4,112 yards and 44 touchdowns. Christ School was under a first-year coach, Nick Luhm. He replaced Tommy Langford, who was hired as an assistant at Charlotte before the season.
Mike Smith | First Coast (Fla.) | Safety | 6 feet, 183 pounds
Smith was a signing day flip for App State. He was originally committed to Central Florida. He also had offers from South Florida, Florida Atlantic and East Carolina, among others.
Seth Williams | Statesville | Center | 6 feet 3, 315 pounds
Williams will make the short trek from Statesville to Boone. He helped the Greyhounds go undefeated in the regular season. The team averaged 40.7 points per game and rushed for more than 200 yards.
Eli Wilson | Wren (S.C.) | Tight end | 6 feet 3, 212 pounds
Did App State just find its next Collin Reed? Much like App State’s senior tight end, Wilson brings a strong and tall frame to Boone. And much like Reed, Wilson is a South Carolina native. Wilson caught 91 passes, 1,677 yards and 20 touchdowns for Wren.
Tommy Wright | Southwest DeKalb (Ga.) | Defensive back | 6 feet, 170 pounds
Wright might be the biggest prize of this signing class. According to 247Sports, he’s the highest-rated recruit to sign with App State. He received a late offer from Tennessee but held through on his commitment from the summer.