BOWLING GREEN — When talking about the 2014 recruiting class for the Bowling Green State University football team Wednesday, new coach Dino Babers quickly gave credit to those who put it together.
“We need to make sure we give credit where credit is due, and the majority of this class was recruited by coach [Dave] Clawson and his staff,” said Babers, tipping his cap to the coach he replaced.
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Credit also goes, to a degree, to the players themselves. Many of them had committed to the school before Clawson left in December to become the coach at Wake Forest. Babers said Twitter and Facebook played a role in keeping the group together.
“[Athletics director] Chris Kingston did a fabulous job of being the ‘interim’ head coach and giving them a rallying point,” Babers said. “They started getting together on social media and spending a lot of time talking to each other during the [hiring] process.
“They created some camaraderie and created their own bond. Once I was named head coach, they already had their own circle — and they adopted me into their circle.”
Babers said he likes the integrity the class showed by staying together in a situation where it would have been easy to leave.
“The character they showed, and the commitment they showed — the way they fought off late-comers trying to disrupt this class — was really astounding for people their age,” he said.
“We’ve got some kids with some great character. We’ve got some leaders in this class.”
Babers said he didn’t have to do much to re-recruit the group after he was named coach — thanks again to social media.
“They knew more about me, thanks to social media, than I could tell them in a phone call,” he said. “It wasn’t as difficult to [keep them committed to BG] as you might think.”
Babers and his new staff also deserve credit for adding some interesting pieces to this class. Among the high-profile signees with Bowling Green on Wednesday was Nilijah Ballew, a defensive back from Cincinnati.
Ballew is a four-star recruit by Rivals.com — the only four-star recruit by that service to sign with a Mid-American Conference school. He originally committed to Louisville before visiting BG last weekend and committing to the Falcons a few days ago.
Two players also brought in by the new staff are high school teammates Roger Lewis and Marcus Milton. Lewis verbally committed to Ohio State in 2012 but did not sign with the Buckeyes out of Pickerington Central High School, playing last year at Jireh Prep Academy along with Milton, a defensive back.
Both committed to the Falcons just before enrolling in school before classes started in January.
Another newcomer is Clayton Nicholas, a quarterback from Abilene, Texas, who transferred from Texas Tech to BG. Nicholas also enrolled in January but will have to sit out a year per NCAA transfer rules.
Ballew and Milton are two of seven defensive backs in this class, more than double the number of players at any other position. The 18-member class includes two quarterbacks, one wide receiver, three offensive linemen, three defensive linemen, and two linebackers.
“We really had to concentrate on the defensive backfield with all of the graduations we had there,” Babers said.
BG’s class this year also is heavily based on Ohio recruits. Of the 18 newcomers, 13 are from the Buckeye State while three hail from Michigan.
“This is the state we need to recruit,” Babers said. “We live in this state, and we need to live off this state. And we are absolutely committed to doing that.”
Nicholas is from Texas, while the only Florida recruit is wide receiver Clint Stephens, who played on a Class 7A state title team at Dwyer High School in West Palm Beach, Fla.
Stephens had offers from schools such as Tennessee before an ankle injury and a broken finger during his senior season cut into his playing time.