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College football: Catawba adds a dozen recruits

By Mike London
mike.london@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — A frazzled, injury-wrecked 1-10 season was hard to live through, but it may be a positive thing for Catawba College as far as football recruiting.

There are high school seniors from North Carolina to Louisiana who saw opportunity to play early and play often for the Indians, who were so shredded by the end of the 2019 season that they were struggling to compete, much less win, in the South Atlantic Conference.

Quarterbacks were not a priority for Catawba on Signing Day. If everyone returns healthy, they’ve already got three with talent, experience and lots of eligibility.

The kicking game also should be in good shape for years to come, but help was needed just about everywhere else.

Catawba had five senior offensive linemen in 2019, all of whom played when they were in one piece, so that was the most critical area to beef up.

“We added three that we’re very excited about, young men with size as well as ability,” Catawba head coach Curtis Walker said.

Catawba cast a wide recruiting net to land that trio  — Florida’s Kanyon James, Georgia’s Richard Stavely and Louisiana’s Jonathan Hill.

James and Staley are listed at 6-foot-3, 290 pounds, with Hill checking in at 6-2, 270.

James, who has a baseball background as an imposing left-handed pitcher, played in the Jacksonville area for a school that took on elite teams from Georgia as well as Florida, so he’s faced serious competition. He picked Catawba over Tusculum, among others.

Stavely is an interesting guy who plays the guitar. He’s been devoted to football since he was 7. He played on very good teams against stout competition in Georgia and probably has a future as a starting guard for the Indians.

Hill has been a tackle. He’s a multi-sport athlete who experienced success as a wrestler and track thrower as well as being an all-district football player.

Catawba’s running backs were battered by injuries last season. None of those backs were seniors and they did the job when healthy, but Catawba has recruited a back who could be important right away.

Kujuan Pryor from Burns High in Lawndale is on the small side, but he’s dynamic.

“We’re always looking for that explosive guy in the mold of (former Indian) Kenyatta Greene, and Kujuan has a chance to be a playmaker for us,” Walker said. “He’s a little guy, but he’s  lightning in a bottle. He was a top priority for us for a long time.”
Pryor starred for a 12-3 Burns team that suffered two of its losses against 2AA state champ Shelby, including a setback in the fourth round of the state playoffs.

As a senior, Pryor rushed 248 times for 2,433 yards and 24 touchdowns. He bolted for 431 yards against a strong Hibriten team in the playoffs. He had 200-plus yards against South Point, Newton-Conover and East Lincoln. He added six receiving touchdowns and one kickoff return TD. He was the Southwestern Conference’s Offensive Player of the Year, and that league includes Shelby.

Catawba loses Gavin Rose, but has added a pair of receivers in Florida’s Quanteris Gaines and West Iredell’s Zachary (Zack) Carr.

Walker compared Gaines, a 6-footer who played in Pensacola, to former Catawba receiver Keyon West. Gaines has fine hands to go with excellent wheels and is a possible return man. He had 213 return yards in one game this season.

Gaines has excelled as a hurdler and jumper in track and field.

Carr isn’t big, but he’s tough, and he has good speed. He made numerous big plays for West Iredell as a receiver and returner. He also plays baseball for the Warriors.

Catawba subtracts Josh Smith from its tight end corps, but will add two highly regarded newcomers.

Christian Loving (6-2, 245) is from Alabama. He has a history as an offensive lineman and defensive end, but he runs quite well. He moved to tight end late in his career. He’s potentially a powerful blocker.

Loving is an old-school football/basketball/baseball athlete. He’s coachable and mature and gets rave reviews for his aggressiveness.

“He can play attached (to the offensive line) or detached,” Walker said. “We think he’ll benefit our running game and our passing game.”

Austin Biggs (6-4, 225), from Wheatmore High, about 35 minutes north of Salisbury, is taller than Loving, but not as thick. He had 23 catches for 288 yards as a senior.

Biggs was a three-time All-Randolph County player, probably shining even more as an inside linebacker than he did as a tight end.

Catawba loses a steady lineman in Cameron Davis, but recruit Michael (Mike) Jones, from Columbus, Ga., could be his future replacement.

“He was at the very top of our list,” Walker said. “He’s got good size and he’s athletic. He’s an excellent prospect.”

Jones (6-2, 260) is nimble enough that he plays basketball.

Catawba hopes that Jones’ Twitter handle — havocmike1 — will prove prophetic.

Catawba picked up two local recruits to help the defense.

North Rowan linebacker Jordan Goodine, who also plans to play baseball for the Indians, had a stellar senior football season that included Yadkin Valley Conference Defensive Player of the Year honors. His father, Rodney Goodine, was a Catawba All-America linebacker in 1988 and 1989 and is in the Catawba Sports Hall of Fame. Goodine will help replace starting linebacker L.J. Melvin.

Donavan Corpening, a Salisbury DB who made four interceptions, including two in the state playoffs, was “scouted” almost every Friday by Coach Walker, because Walker’s son, Jalon, is a standout linebacker for Salisbury.

“Donavan developed a lot, really came on as a senior,” Walker said. “He could play corner or safety.”

Catawba loses corner Cris Page, one of the team’s best players, but hopes Corpening, an All-Rowan County player, can help replace him.

Denoris Wardlow, from Winston-Salem’s Parkland High, should be a major addition to the secondary. He made the Winston-Salem Journal’s All-Northwest team.

Wardlow played free safety for Parkland and had eight interceptions and 11 breakups as a senior. He also returned punts. He has exceptional ball skills for a DB and catches the ball like a receiver.

Wardlow’s older brother, Antonio, played for the Tennessee Vols and was his position coach at Parkland.

“We had a chance to go up and see Wardlow play basketball, and he’s very tough and competitive,” Walker said. “Coach (Tim) Pangburn did a good job of building a relationship with him and recruiting him.”

Recruiting will continue for the Indians and their competitors. Many more names will be added to the Catawba roster before all is said and done, but these first 12 players will form the core of the 2020 recruiting class.

There’s still work to do, but Walker likes the results so far.

•••

Catawba recruits

Mike Jones — DL – 6-2, 260 – Columbus, GA/W.H. Shaw

Jordan Goodine — LB – 6-0, 220 –  North Rowan
Denoris Wardlow — DB – 5-11, 170 –  Parkland

Donavan Corpening — DB – 6-0, 165 –  Salisbury

Kanyon James — OL – 6-3, 290 – Orange Park, FL/Trinity Christian
Richard Stavely — OL – 6-3, 290 – Augusta, GA/Jefferson County

Jonathan Hill — OL – 6-2, 270 – Pearl River,LA/ Pearl River

Kujuan Pryor — RB – 5-6, 155 –  Burns

Zachary Carr — WR – 5-9, 150 –  West Iredell

Quanteris Gaines — WR – 6-0, 160 – Pensacola, FL/West Florida
Austin Biggs — TE – 6-4, 225 –  Wheatmore

Christian Loving — TE – 6-2, 245 – Hamilton, AL/Hamilton

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