DELAND, Fla. - The third edition of football signing day for Stetson head coach Roger Hughes and his coaching staff was a much different experience than the first two years.
The signing period for the Hatters in 2012 produced 108 players, while the 2013 version harvested more than 50.
Signing day in 2014 was a little quieter, with 17 players faxing in their National Letters of Intent to attend Stetson University and play football for the Hatters.
“Nothing really changed for us this year, but our volume has gone down, simply because of where we are in the process,” Hughes said. “We can be more selective since we are only going to take between 25 and 30 kids.”
And Hughes emphasized that National Signing Day, which has become such a media frenzy around the nation, is only the beginning of the signing period, not the end.
“While we can only have 56 visits before the signing day, we can have a total of 70 because we are non-scholarship,” Hughes said. “We have plenty of visits left. If you look back, we signed Donald Payne in late March, almost April. We think that is going to continue to happen and we want to make sure we save some slots for those guys.”
All Payne did for the Hatters in 2013 was earn first team All-Conference honors in the Pioneer Football League while being named the league Freshman Defensive Player of the Year. He was also named to numerous Freshman All-America teams.
Hughes said the big difference this year is the focus on filling specific needs.
“We’re very excited with our recruiting class so far,” Hughes said. “We made a big emphasis on linemen and we feel like we took a major step with today’s signees. The number of recruits we signed in this class was much lower than our previous two classes and, therefore, we were more selective.
“We are pleased with both the overall academic and athletic quality of this class. These players will great additions to our team and the Stetson community at large.”
The focus on the line of scrimmage produced six offensive linemen in the class of 17 and another four defensive linemen. The rest of the class includes three running backs, two linebackers, a defensive back and a tight end.
The group of 17 includes seven players from out of state. The Hatters inked a pair of players from Arizona and Georgia as well as players from Pennsylvania, Oregon and Oklahoma.
But the recruiting process is far from over for the Hatters, who have official visits scheduled with more players this weekend. Hughes said he expects more players to reach out in the coming days.
“We are already getting calls from kids who thought they were going to get a big offer and didn’t,” Hughes said. "When you are recruiting at this level that is what happens. You end up being a great alternative for kids if things don’t work out and we want to be able to provide that opportunity for them.”
Like other non-scholarship programs, the true day of decision for the Hatters is May 1. That is the day that most students, athletes and otherwise, have to have their deposits in by in order to have a spot in the freshman class.
“That is the official commit for a non-scholarship school,” Hughes said. “That is the reason we can’t release anything and the process takes a little longer. Signing day is not quite as crucial to us as it is at a lot of other places. Signing day is just the first day you can sign. There will be players signing long after today.”
But national signing day is still a milestone in the recruiting process and, if the smile on Hughes face late Wednesday afternoon is any indication, the Hatters’ coach is happy with where they are this year.
“I think we are right where we want to be right now,” Hughes said. “Considering the quality of players who may be coming in at the end, and some of those other guys who might have gotten lost in the shuffle, we think we are going to be in good shape.”