IUP FOOTBALL: Crimson Hawks' recruiting class is the 'strongest ... in three years'
The excitement was clear in Curt Cignetti’s statement Wednesday.
“This is,” he said, “our strongest recruiting class in three years.”
That’s saying quite a bit considering what kind of success the team has had since Cignetti took over in 2011. Since being hired away from Alabama, Cignetti has guided the Crimson Hawks to a 28-7 record and back-to-back Top 25 finishes in the American Football Coaches Association Top 25 poll.
Those three good years were accomplished using a mix of recruits and transfers, and now the Crimson Hawks are reloading after another solid year. IUP went 9-2 in 2013, and finished strong with four consecutive wins.
And on Wednesday, the first day of the National Letter of Intent signing period, Cignetti announced the names of 22 players who had signed to play with the Crimson Hawks.
“I really can’t say enough about the assistant coaches’ efforts and the cooperation we received on campus in assembling this class,” Cignetti said. “It was a total team effort. I am excited about these young men and their potential impact on campus and on the football field.”
At first glance, the list of recruits is heavy on linemen: six offensive and three defensive, which is a good thing considering those are two of the biggest concerns for IUP during the offseason.
Among those linemen is Kidus Woldeyes, a native of Lorton, Va., who was picked for the Class 6-A all-state team after his senior season, when the 6-foot, 260-pound Woldeyes helped lead a South County High School offense to more than 45 points per game. His coach, Gerry Pannoni, told the website rivals.com that Woldeyes was “the top offensive lineman on one of the top offenses in the state.”
Also on the list is Jason Inks, a beastly 6-5, 305-pound tackle from Thomas Jefferson High School. According to rivals.com, Inks was initially being recruited by several Division I FBS schools at the end of his senior season.
Other offensive players who could make an impact include: running back Luigi Lista-Brinza, who was a standout back for Class AAAA power Pittsburgh Central Catholic; Running back Jordan Brown, who had 1,488 total yards of offense and scored 19 touchdowns in his career at Chambersburg High School; Walt Pegues, a speedy football and track standout from Philadelphia Central High School, who was originally being recruited by several Division I FBS schools for both sports; and Tristan Davis, a shifty 5-9, 151-pound receiver from Huber Heights, near Dayton, Ohio.
One of Davis’ teammates, linebacker Diamond Jones, is a key member on defense of this recruiting class. The 6-0, 225-pound Jones was a first-team all-division pick out of Wayne High School, and figures to help immediately at a thin position.
Also on defense, the Crimson Hawks added two notable defensive tackles: Jemal Averette, of Good Counsel (Md.) High School; and Justin Weldon, of Easton. According to rivals.com, Averette previously had scholarship offers from Charlotte, Iowa and Toledo. Weldon had nine sacks and 45 tackles his senior year at Easton.
The recruits will officially join the team in August, when the Crimson Hawks open preseason training camp.
With the recruiting complete, Cignetti said he will now turn his attention to finding an opponent to open the season with. Last year’s season-opening opponent, Southern Connecticut State, will play Gannon this fall.
The Crimson Hawks begin their conference-mandated schedule Sept. 13, at Kutztown.