The February signing deadline has become an important time for college football programs to fill gaps in their recruiting classes.
With many of the nation’s top recruits from the 2022 class signing in December, patience has been an important virtue for some in recent months — especially quarterbacks and special-team standout performers.
Three of the region’s top quarterbacks announced their collegiate picks on Feb. 2 last fall, with Hilliard Darby’s Blake Horvath signing for the Navy, Reynoldsburg’s Dijon Jennings for Akron, and Dublin Scioto’s Amare Jenkins for Walsh.
National Signing Day List:Central Ohio athletes make official commitments
Horvath threw for 515 yards and five touchdowns but was better known for his running skills, finishing with 1,722 yards and 28 touchdowns from the Panthers’ option offense.
Navy traditionally operates the triple option.
“Obviously I’m familiar with the system they run, so that was a small part of it, but I really felt like Navy was the best place for me to grow as a person, a player and a leader,” Horvath said . “(The triple option is) a system that I know very well. I feel like I can bring a lot to the table as a runner and still learn to develop my skills even further.”
Jennings, who threw for 2,254 yards and 25 touchdowns for the Raiders, will look to help Akron rebuild under new coach Joe Moorhead after posting a combined 3-24 the last three seasons.
“Akron offers career opportunities that I’ve wanted to study with many programs to find success beyond playing football,” Jennings said. “That suited me best.”
Jenkins set program records for touchdown passes in a career (48) and season (32) and threw for 2,515 yards last fall.
Two of Jenkins’ teammates, long snapper Nico Crawford and wide receiver Tysen Boze, signed for Illinois and South Dakota, respectively, a Football Championship subdivision program.
Crawford is a walk-on but has been told he could start earning scholarship money as early as this fall. He has snapped long since the end of his freshman season and was ranked No. 2 in the nation at that position by Kornblue Kicking.
“[Playing college was]my dream since I was 11,” Crawford said. “I’m one of a small number of central Ohio players who can play in the Big Ten and I’m happy to be a part of it at this moment.”
Another specialist with a chance at a major college-level scholarship is Upper Arlington kicker Zac Yoakam, who will play for Notre Dame.
New Albany’s Brock Kidwell (QB/DB) and Olentangy Berlin’s Bennett Lawrence (WR/DB) both signed with Dayton from FCS.
Others committed to FCS programs included Pickerington Central defenseman Roman Pearson (Bucknell), Hartley wide receiver/defensive back Trey Saunders (Colgate) and Hilliard Bradley wide receiver Tayshaun Mayfield (Robert Morris).
Division III District Defensive Player of the Year, Hartley two-way lineman Daniel Tooson, signed with Division II Slippery Rock.
Two of the area’s best running backs, New Albany’s Jadyn Garnes and UA’s Carson Gresock, signed with the University of Charleston and Tiffin in Division II, respectively.
New Albany tight end Chris Pepper and Reynoldsburg two-way lineman Souleymane Sall will join Gresock at Tiffin.
Others who signed with Division II programs included Pickerington North’s Carl Allen (WR) at Saginaw Valley State; Pickerington Central’s Kyle Imboden (OL) and Khalil Walker (OL), Gahanna Lincoln’s Jaylon Williams (RB) and Darby’s Hayden Gladden (OL/DL) with Ashland; Olentangy Orange’s Rico Franklin-Davis and Gahanna’s Jabez Hill (DL) with Ohio Dominican; Gahanna’s Tyree Johnson (LB) with Arkansas at Pine Bluff; Gahanna’s Alipate Tuitavuki (LB) with West Liberty; Reynoldsburg’s Markez Gillam (WR) and Olentangy Liberty’s Nick Johnson (DB) with Indianapolis; Upper Arlington’s Doak Buttermore (DB) with Findlay; Orange’s Connor Kemmerling (OL) with Grand Valley State; Harvest Prep’s Edjay Sumo (LB) and Bradley’s Caden VanVorhis (DB) with Walsh; and Delaney Wilburn (DB) of Groveport Madison with Notre Dame College.
Africentric defenseman Kayln Spence, who ran in the state champion’s 800-meter relay last spring, has signed on to compete in football and track at Central State.
It goes further
After winning the 3,200 at the 2021 Division I State Girls track meet, Gahanna senior followed Alyssa Shope to winning the State Cross Country title last fall.
She has chosen Indiana, where she will compete in both sports.
“The environment, the team, the coaches and the campus were just right for me and I am absolutely confident in my decision,” said Shope.
Another athlete committed to Indiana is Worthington Kilbourne baseball player McKay Whitaker.
Dublin Jerome Senior Raegan Ernst, an outstanding gymnast and runner, will compete on the track for Dayton.
Liberty Senior Diver Anthony Sciulli, a two-time state qualifier, will compete for the Navy.
Wellington’s senior Joy Neal committed to Clemson for rowing.
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