A combination of the COVID-19 pandemic and a small departing senior class meant that Northwestern State’s signing class Wednesday wouldn’t be bulky, but coach Brad Laird expects sizable impact.
NSU inked four players Wednesday, adding to the eight signees from the early signing date in December as the defensive theme continued for the 2021 group.
All four of Wednesday’s signees can play on defense and eight of the 12-member class can be featured on coordinator Mike Lucas’ side of the ball.
“Recruiting as we all know has been different, and it’s a credit to the young men who have gone through the process because everything was virtual – from Zoom and FaceTime calls not just with the student-athletes but also their family members,” said NSU head coach Brad Laird, who wrapped up his second full recruiting class as he enters his third season at the NSU helm. “There wasn’t going to be a lot of replacement with our seniors because we have a small class and they all have an extra year from the NCAA.
“But no doubt that this class is still important. These four signed today can play at different levels of our defense, and they are versatile players with most having state championship experience.”
Three of the four signees have Louisiana ties, including two that ended their high school careers in Turpin Stadium playing for state championships.
Many High’s Zequarrius Rhone quarterbacked the Tigers to the Class 2A championship, but he’ll likely be a safety at NSU after playing mostly cornerback on Many’s defense.
“When you’re the quarterback for the Many Tigers, you know not just the type of football player you’re getting but the type of person,” Laird said. “And that can be said about all four of these (signees).
“’Cadillac’ is flexible and can play multiple positions for us.”
The three-time all-district player and academic all-state member accounted for 1,500 yards and 15 touchdowns this past season and has more than 4,400 career offensive yards.
Linebacker Makarios “Junior” Brown sprinted all over Turpin Stadium in Byrd’s purple and gold as the Yellow Jackets fell in the Division I title game at Turpin Stadium.
Brown totaled 141 tackles and 27 for loss in his three years as a starter for a Byrd defense that’s one of the best units in the state. His 13 tackles for loss as a junior ranks 10th on Byrd’s all-time single-season list.
“Brown can be a linebacker in the 3-4,” Laird said. “With so many seniors that we have coming up at that position, it’s vital to get a linebacker that has the versatility to play inside or out.”
Laird targeted Gilmer High athlete Dylan Fluellen initially on defense, but Fluellen made offensive waves with 1,300 receiving yards and 18 touchdowns as a senior to earn his district’s offensive player of the year honor.
The all-state receiver has traditionally been a strong defensive back, intercepting five passes as a senior to pair with 60 tackles.
“Here’s another guy that played for a state title in Texas,” Laird said. “We were looking at him on defense, but he showed how versatile he is and that he can be a young man that can do a lot of different things down the road.”
Defensive lineman Theron Bellard highlighted his own versatility despite Cisco College not playing a season during the pandemic.
The Opelousas native who played his high school ball at Arlington High in Texas appeared in nine games with nine tackles as a freshman at Cisco College.
“When you look at his film, you can see that he can play inside or outside,” Laird said. “He adds flexibility to what Lucas and (defensive line coach LeDell Love) want to do on the line.”
With the addition of Rhone and Fluellen, five of the 12 signees could be in the secondary.
Seven signees will bolster the defense, four on the offense with Fluellen possibly playing either.
Junior college transfers Bellard and early signee Kel Williams are eligible to play immediately when NSU opens its season Feb. 20 at Lamar because they didn’t participate in a fall season.
2021 Northwestern State Signing Class (Wednesday)
Theron Bellard, DL, 6-2, 270, Opelousas, La., Cisco College/Arlington HS
Makarios “Junior” Brown, LB, 6-1, 207, Shreveport, La., C.E. Byrd HS
Dylan Fluellen, ATH, 6-2, 195, Gilmer, Texas, Gilmer HS
Zequarrius Rhone Jr., DB, 6-2, 190, Many, La., Many HS
Early Signing Class
Landon Blubaugh, OL, 6-3, 260, Keller, Texas, Keller HS
AJ Burns, CB, 5-11, 170, Waco, Texas, La Vega High
Kareame Cotton Jr., QB, 6-2, 195, North Little Rock, Ark., North Little Rock HS
Jaylon Glosson, TE, 6-3, 225, North Little Rock, Ark., North Little Rock High
Coby James, OL, 6-3, 260, Midlothian, Texas, Midlothian Heritage HS
Ara Rauls III, S, 5-10, 175, Waco, Texas, La Vega HS
Chase Underwood, OL, 6-3, 265, Mangham, La., Mangham HS
Zitavious (Kel) Williams, FS, 5-10, 180, Starkville, Miss., East Miss. CC (Starkville HS)
CREDIT: Chris Reich/NSU Photographic Services