Pearl River football fired up about 2021 signing class
While the COVID-19 pandemic complicated the way teams can recruit, Smith is confident the class will shine over the next two years for the Wildcats.
"We are extremely excited about our first full signing class," Smith said. "We've had over nine months to evaluate these guys and also evaluate our needs for the 2021 team moving forward. We feel like we are bringing in an extremely talented group that will help us address those needs. These young men will have an immediate impact in helping us continue to elevate our program back to a championship standard.
"Today truly is a great day to be a Wildcat."
The class features 26 total players, including 19 on the defensive side of the ball.
K, Michael Owens (5-10, 162 pounds; Oak Grove High School)
Punted and kicked in high school … Helped lead Oak Grove to the 6A state title in 2020 … Averaged 48 yards per punt his senior year while also going 12-for-12 on field goals with a long of 47 … Coached in high school by Drew Causey.
"We think we're getting the best kicker in the state with Michael Owens," Smith said. "He's a Division 1 talent that comes from a championship program."
WR, Jordan Ware (6-2, 205 pounds; Northwest Rankin High School)
Played receiver and defensive back in high school … As a senior caught 23 passes for 354 yards and four touchdowns … Coached in high school by Toby Collums.
"Jordan is a big athletic receiver at 6-3 with great hands and is very physical," receivers coach Michael Mosby said. "He is a smooth athlete who has no problem mixing it up with corners at the line of scrimmage and in the air. He has an extremely high ceiling."
QB, Dwight Williams (5-10, 165 pounds; D'Iberville High School)
Played quarterback in high school … As a senior threw for 1,348 yards and 10 touchdowns … Coached in high school by Larry Dolan.
"Dwight is a fantastic dual threat quarterback," co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Bo Wallace said. "He is extremely athletic, accurate and has a very strong arm. He is a tremendous young man with great leadership qualities at his position."
WR, Antonio Gayden (5-11, 155 pounds; West Jefferson High School, LA.)
Played receiver in high school … As a senior, Gayden had 1,500 All-purpose yards with 16 receiving touchdowns … He was also named to the first team All-district team … Coached in high school by Willie Brooks.
"Antonio is a very athletic receiver with great speed and big play ability," Mosby said. "He is smooth in his routes and is a great competitor. Antonio offers an explosiveness in and out of breaks and finding open space in the coverage."
WR, Quavonte Swanigan (5-10, 175 pounds; West Marion High School)
Played receiver and defensive back in high school … As a senior caught 40 passes for 627 yards and eight touchdowns … Coached in high school by Brad Duncan.
"Qavonte is an explosive player who is going to bring a playmaking ability from the slot," Mosby said. "He has great speed and great work ethic to the group. He is also very physical in the slot position and will make great catches in traffic."
OL, Matthew Greenough (6-0, 270 pounds; East Central High School)
Played offensive line in high school … Coached by Eric Collins.
"We are excited to get Matthew on campus and get him plugged into our program," offensive line coach David Chatham said. "Matthew is a very explosive and experienced lineman who will add depth to our group immediately. He is also a player who understands the culture that we want to create here so he will fit seamlessly into our program. His high school O-line coach, Sam Huff, is one of the best in the state and has players sprinkled in programs all over the Southeast, so he will be ready to play day one."
OL, Caiden Keys (6-3, 280 pounds; Greene County High School)
Played offensive line in high school … Coached by Rotch Dungan.
"We feel like we got a huge steal when we signed Caiden," Chatham said. "He is a big kid who can move and has started in a lot of football games. He will play tackle for us and will solidify us up front with his size and ability."
OL, Ladner Davis (6-5, 315 pounds; George County High School)
Played offensive line in high school … Coached by James Ray.
"Lad is a great lineman who we were fortunate enough to get enrolled early on campus," Chatham said. "He has already made huge gains since he has been here. He is a tall kid at 6-6 who has great length and enormous potential."
DL, Byron Whitehead II (6-2, 230 pounds; Bartlett High School, Tenn.)
Played defensive line in high school … As a senior had 35 tackles and 7.5 sacks … Coached in high school by Lance Tucker.
"Bryan fills an immediate need at defensive end," Smith said. "He has tremendous speed and is highly explosive off the edge. He's an out of state guy that can be an impact player for us."
DL, Theo Hudson (6-0, 270 pounds; Holmes Central High School)
Played defensive line in high school … As a senior had 66 tackles, 15 tackles for loss and seven sacks. Had 28 sacks over a four-year span … Coached in high school by Marcus Rogers.
"Jack is a technician with great hands at defensive line," Defensive line coach Lorenzo Breland said. "He's a three-year starter with a great football IQ and is a very explosive kid that knows how to find the ball carrier and the quarterback."
DL, Michael Montgomery (6-0, 305 pounds; Vicksburg High School)
Played offensive and defensive line in high school … Coached by Todd McDaniel.
"Big Mike moves well down the line of scrimmage and is very athletic," Breland said. "He might be one of the strongest kids in the state which shows on the field. He will be able to come in and make an immediate impact."
DL, Jadarrius Granger (6-3, 230 pounds; Adams County Christian):
Played defensive line in high school … Coached by David King.
"J.D. brings speed and quickness to the defensive line," Breland said. "He'll be able to compete from the day he steps on campus."
LB, Marcus Thomas II (6-1, 205 pounds; Nettleton High School)
Played linebacker in high school … Had 466 career tackles including 55 tackles for loss … Coached by John Keith.
"Marcus is a very versatile player," defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Ty Trahan said. "He can play into the boundary or to the field. He is a very explosive player with tremendous instincts and speed."
LB, Justin Jefferson (6-2, 215 pounds; Bartlett High School, Tenn.)
Played linebacker in high school … Had 116 tackles his senior season …
Coached by Lance Tucker.
"Justin is an extremely gifted athlete," Trahan said. "He can run really fast, tackle, and cover. Everything you look for in a linebacker he's got it. He's very versatile as well and could play all of our linebacker spots."
LB, Ethan Baxley (6-2, 185 pounds; Enterprise High School)
Played defensive back in high school … Coached by Jeremy Wilkins.
"Ethan is a tackling machine with tremendous athletic ability," Trahan said. "He played safety in high school so has tremendous cover skills as well. He is a tremendous tackler and will hit you when he gets there."
LB, D.J. Carney (6-0, 195 pounds; St. Martin High School)
Played defensive back and wide receiver in high school … As a senior had 27 tackles and 17 catches … Coached by Eddie Whitehead.
"D.J. played cornerback for St. Martin," Trahan said. "He has an upper hand in pass coverage because of his corner background. I expect he will make a smooth transition to our stinger position, which is our overhang linebacker to the field."
LB, Davontez Lynn (5-11, 200 pounds; Velma-Jackson High School)
Played defensive back and running back in high school … Had 79 tackles his senior season and rushed for 388 yards and 5 touchdowns …
Coached by Quentin Eull.
"Davontez a very quick and instinctual linebacker," Trahan said. "He is very versatile and has played all three linebacker spots at some point in his career."
LB, Cameron Shaw (6-1, 210 pounds; Presbyterian Christian High School)
Played linebacker and running back in high school … Had 196 tackles over his last two seasons and ran for 613 yards as a senior … Also had seven interceptions his senior year … Coached by Derek White.
"Cameron has all the tools to be a Division 1 - linebacker," Trahan said. "He is very big and fast. His father played running back for the New England Patriots so football is in his blood."
DB, Jaydon Slater (6-1, 160 pounds; Ridgeland High School)
Played defensive back in high school … Coached in high school by Kip Klein.
"Jaydon is an athletic corner that offers great length and cover skills," defensive backs Coach Ta'ron Sims said. "He has good footwork, and plays well in press-man at the line of scrimmage and off-man coverage. He continued to grow throughout his senior year, and is a hidden gem."
DB, Micah Cherry (6-3, 180 pounds; Petal High School)
Played defensive back and receiver in high school … Had 33 tackles and caught 38 passes for 667 yards his senior season … Coached by Marcus Boyles.
"Micah is a corner with very good size at nearly 6-3," Sims said. "He's athletic, instinctive, a very good tackler, and an ultimate competitor. He offers versatility at corner and anywhere in the secondary."
DB, Keon Marion (6-2, 170 pounds; Theodore High School, Ala.)
Played defensive back in high school … Coached by Eric Collier.
"Keon is a long, athletic safety whose main position was corner in high school," Sims said. "His cover skills, natural athletic ability, and ball skills make him a well- rounded defensive back suited for either safety position."
DB, Markis Hawthorne (6-0, 170 pounds; Moss Point High School)
Played defensive back and receiver in high school … Had 47 tackles his senior season … Coached by Eugene Harmon.
"Markis is an athletic safety that offers a plethora of versatility," Sims said. "His background as a corner shows his cover skills, but he is physical enough that he was asked to play linebacker at times as a senior. He is a 'jack of all trades.'"
DB, Ken Irving (6-1, 185 pounds; D'Iberville High School)
Played defensive back and receiver in high school … Had 17 tackles and an interception his senior season … Coached by Larry Dolan.
"Ken is another, 'corner turned safety.'" Sims said. "Ken was also a wide receiver as well. He has so much potential at safety due to his offensive background combined with his intelligence, size, and superb athleticism."
DB, Malik Knight (6-3, 160 pounds; George County High School)
Played defensive back and receiver in high school … Coached by James Ray.
"Malik offers amazing length at 6'2 and has the athleticism of a half-field safety," Sims said. "His background as a basketball player has developed his footwork. Pair this with his ball skills and instinctive, natural playmaking ability, and he has 'special' potential."
DB, Kerry Martin (6-3, 190 pounds; West Jefferson High School; La.)
Played defensive back in high school … Coached in high school by Willie Brooks.
"Kerry is a kid that has it all," Sims said. "He's 6-3, 180 pounds and is a freakish athlete. He has amazing ball skills on the hash, and is a very physical tackler of the ball carrier. He can play any position in the secondary and will bring versatility."
DB, Hoesea Singleton (6-2, 175 pounds; Bay St. Louis High School)
Played defensive back, quarterback and receiver in high school … Had 47 tackles his senior season and caught 13 passes for 165 yards … Coached by Jeremy Turcotte.
"Hosea is a former quarterback, turned defensive back in his last year of high-school football," Sims said. "His intelligence and understanding of football, combined with his natural athleticism, ball skills, and length equates to play making ability on the hash."
DB, Jailyn Pruitt (6-2, 175 pounds; Heidelberg) Played defensive back and receiver in high school … Coached by Marchello Evans.
"Jailyn is a long athletic cover corner with good speed," Sims said. "He's a smooth, fluid athlete that likes to challenge wideouts at the line of scrimmage. He has a frame to grow and a very high ceiling."