For Sacramento State and UC Davis, success on the football field last fall paid off on national signing day.
Coming off of a 7-4 season and a program-best 6-2 showing in the Big Sky Conference, Hornets coach Jody Sears embraced the armload of letters of intent he received on Wednesday. Of the 15 who signed with Sac State, seven are linemen, which is a position of emphasis for a program that returns a wealth of starters this fall but not a lot of blockers or run stoppers.
Four of the eight who pledged to the Hornets in the December early signing period were linemen.
“We wanted to solidify our lines and we really went after some good ones,” Sears said. “Another emphasis was linebacker. We signed three good ones.”
Aggies coach Dan Hawkins reinforced a roster that is expected to return a wealth of talent. Seven student-athletes submitted papers to UC Davis, following 11 who signed in December. UCD went 5-6 last season and had its strongest showing in the Big Sky Conference.
Sears expects to continue the momentum of last fall, a bounce-back season that had the Hornets in the playoff picture and ended with a victory over UC Davis in the 64th Causeway Classic.
Sac State last fall became the first team in program history to record seven victories against Division I competition. The good vibes helped in recruiting, too.
“No question, we capitalized on some good timing,” Sears said. “There were a couple of kids we signed early that, in years past, I’m not sure we hold onto them. I feel as good as I ever have with this recruiting class.”
Sears and his staff stuck to his commitment to recruit California and the Sac-Joaquin Section.
The Hornets signed:
▪ Jeremy Harris, linebacker, Moorpark High School;
▪ Bryson Allen, receiver, Tulare Union High School;
▪ Armon Bailey, linebacker, Vanden High School in Fairfield;
▪ Parker Kernek, offensive lineman, Valencia High School;
▪ Marcus Aponte, cornerback, St. Mary’s High School in Stockton;
▪ Jesse Mercado, offensive line, Armijo High School in Fairfield;
▪ Lemusu Toailoa, linebacker, Carter High School in Rialto;
▪ Billy Edmondy Lutui, offensive line, Centennial High School in Corona;
▪ Davion Ross, defensive back, Inderkum High School in Sacramento;
▪ Derrick Valencia, kicker, Centennial High School in Corona;
▪ Darnay Smith, running back, Santiago High School in Corona;
▪ Brysen Klinefelter, offensive line, Oak Ridge High School/Sacramento City College;
▪ Peter Vadasz, offensive line, De Anza College;
▪ Jett Stanley, defensive line, Heritage High School in Brentwood;
▪ Jordan Stanley, defensive line, Heritage High School in Brentwood.
The Stanleys are twins. Bailey is a three-star recruit and the Fairfield Daily Republic Player of the Year.
Smith was limited to three games last season at Centennial due to injury but impressed a rival coach enough to reach out to Sac State.
Klinefelter went from second-team all-league at Oak Ridge to a dominating blocker at Sac City, where he earned first-time All-NorCal Division honors as a freshman and sophomore.
Vadasz could help right away at tackle after starting two seasons at De Anza with Sears adding, “We’re expecting him to come in and compete for the job.”
Ross’ 18 career interceptions set an Inderkum record.
Among the walk-ons committing to the Hornets: Sacramento High teammates Derek Shelton, a quarterback, and Jamie Cousey, a running back/safety, and Bee Defensive Player of the Year Tanner Ward of Folsom, a safety.