With improved depth, Falcons target positions of need

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  • BOWLING GREEN — Football coach Dave Clawson and his staff have recruited five sets of athletes to Bowling Green State University.

    But Clawson admitted that the route he and his staff took to put together the 24-man group that signed Wednesday with the Falcons is different from the previous four.

    “This is the first time since we have been here as a staff that we did not have the full 25 [scholarships] to give,” he said. “Our numbers now are built up to the point that we didn’t have 25 scholarships to give.”

    Because of high retention rates in previous seasons, Clawson said he and his staff originally projected that the Falcons would have just 16 scholarships available in the recruiting cycle that ended Wednesday.

    “Then [this year’s] class started to grow a little bit,” he explained. “We had some fourth-year juniors that had the ability to graduated early … and decided to forego their fifth year [of eligibility].

    “We had some positional needs develop because of attrition and injury. And because of our recent success, we found we had some really good players who wanted to come to Bowling Green, so there may be a handful of players who don’t join us until January.”

    One player who fits that description is Findlay’s Joseph Davidson, who eventually will become BG’s punter. Unless a scholarship opens up before the start of fall practice, Davidson will grayshirt and join the program in January as the replacement for senior-to-be Brian Schmiedebusch.

    Clawson said that because the class grew in size late in the recruiting process, Florida recruits were the best fit to fill the unexpected openings.

    “The trend in the midwest is that players pick their schools early in the process,” he explained. “Two-thirds of the players in our class are from what I would call the ‘State of Bowling Green’ – Ohio [four], Michigan [four], Illinois [four] and Indiana [two].

    “A lot of our early commits were local. When we had five, six or seven more scholarships than we anticipated, a lot of the uncommitted players were from Florida.”

    That’s the major reason eight signees were from the Sunshine State, at least twice as many as any other state.

    Another difference from years past is that the Falcons, with 19 of 22 starters returning, could recruit more to fill specific needs. Clawson said the position with the greatest initial need was running back, hence the four running backs in this class.

    “With Anthon [Samuel] leaving, with John Pettigrew graduating, and with some injuries at that position that clearly became a position of need,” Clawson said. “We think we have some young men who will be able to help us at that position right away, and they will get the opportunity to do that.”

    The running backs who signed with BG are all from Florida: Fred Coppet of St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Fort Lauderdale; two Orlando natives in Brandon English of Evans High School and Eric Harrell of Dr. Phillips High School; and Marcus Levy of Fort Pierce Central High School in Fort Pierce, Fla.

    After that Clawson said the Falcons could look ahead to “anticipated” needs. For example, after next season BG will lose two tight ends, so the Falcons signed two replacements. On defense, positions with anticipated needs are defensive tackle, linebacker and safety. That’s the reason BG’s recruiting class has three defensive linemen, three linebackers and three safeties.

    One thing that Clawson said never changes is the combination of excitement and relief that comes with the end of the recruiting process.

    “This is the end of a long process,” he said. “We expected 22 letters, and we got 22 letters …

    “When that letter comes in, it’s a relief. We’re happy and excited, but there’s also a feeling of relief. And recruiting is getting moved up earlier and earlier. We’re consumed with the 2014 class already. We’re already evaluating those guys.”

    Contact John Wagner at: jwagner@theblade.com, 419-724-6481 or on Twitter @jwagnerblade.