Football expects small class for National Signing Day

Story by Bryan Edwards, Staff Writer

Although the season is over, the Murray State football team wasted no time with its offseason schedule by preparing for the upcoming spring scrimmage and bringing in some new faces for the approaching season.

The Racers finished their 2016 campaign with a 4-7 regular season record and a 4-4 record in OVC play.

Head Coach Mitch Stewart said he was pleased with how his team played this season but expects bigger things this offseason and moving forward into next year.

“We’ve got a lot of work to do,” Stewart said. “We lost a couple big players this year, but we have a lot of people coming back and we’ll be able to have spring practice because of that and all of the coaches are excited to get everything ready for next season.”

After the season ended, the Racers began building their roster for next season, which included a Division 1 transfer and verbal commitments from one high school quarterback and two junior college transfers.

The Racers received two verbal commitments from players that will be transferring to play for Murray State for the upcoming season in offensive lineman J.R. Burns from Northwest Mississippi Community College and defensive end Kenney Wooten from Itawamba Community College.

Burns started in 20 games for the Rangers, helping them win the 2015 National Championship. The Corinth, Mississippi native anchored a Northwest Mississippi offense that averaged 30.1 points per game last season.

Wooten started in 19 games during his career at Itawamba, recording 49 tackles over two seasons. Last year, Wooten recorded 5.5 sacks and 8 tackles for loss.

The program also received word that they would be adding two quarterbacks to the roster. Wayne County High School quarterback Preston Rice and Old Dominion University quarterback Shuler Bentley will be enrolling in classes and beginning their Murray State careers this spring.

Bentley, a redshirt junior, threw for 1,498 yards and 12 touchdowns in his last season at Old Dominion and was a four-star recruit coming out of high school

Rice threw for 3,075 and 37 touchdowns while running for 739 yards and 16 touchdowns. Rice finished his career with over 10,000 passing and holds the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association record for total touchdowns with 141 (93 passing, 48 rushing).

“The class is great so far,” Stewart said. “We had some needs that we needed to take care of and it’s a good thing that we could pull in some players in between semesters so we can see them make mistakes before there is anything on the line for them in a game.”

With National Signing Day approaching on Feb. 1, Stewart said he expects to have a smaller class.

“We’re looking at about 20 recruits for next season,” Stewart said. “Our recruiting staff has come up with some creative ways to use some numbers and scholarships in different ways to help maximize the number of people we will be bringing in, and if we bring in 20 players for next year I’ll feel really happy with the class and where we are for the next season.”

Stewart also talks about how helpful the other staff and faculty are to help in the recruiting process.

“The greatest recruiting tool we have at Murray State is the people,” Stewart said. “We have many professors that are willing to come out on a Saturday and talk to the players about their majors and what to expect, and we have a staff that loves hanging out and developing players to their full potential both on the football field and in the classroom.”

The Racer football team hopes to see many new faces come to wear the blue and gold when National Signing Day rolls around.