2014 Pulitzer Prize Winner

Air Force football recruiting class

Published: February 6, 2014, 12:58 am, by Brent Briggeman

Here is the Air Force recruiting class as pieced together by The Gazette. The academy is not allowed to release a list of players who have committed (they don’t technically sign on “Signing Day”), so this is cobbled together from various recruting sites like Rivals, Scout and 247sports as well as social media and other sources.

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Alex Backenstoe  DE/TE/FB, 6-1, 230, Hilliard, Ohio (Hilliard Davidson)
With 4.75 speed in 40-yard dash, a 300-pound bench press and 485 squat, he’s got the tools to provide toughness in a variety of positions, which is what he did in high school, playing a hybrid position that was once manned by Michigan starter Keith Heitzman. He said Air Force’s weight room was a major draw, saying it compared favorably with the few Big Ten weight rooms he had visited.
Video: http://www.maxpreps.com/athlete/alex-backenstoe/9TdbqvTyEeKZ5AAmVebBJg/hudl.htm

Brody Bagnall  OLB, 6-3, 230, Vancouver, Wash. (Evergreen HS)
Had offers from several FCS schools in the Pacific Northwest. Could play linebacker or move up to a defensive end spot. Lists GPA at 3.8. Can run a 4.7 40 and boasts a 36-inch vertical leap.
Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oHVkSJ9Ew3A

Byron Baker  LB, 6-2, 220, San Jose, Calif. (Valley Christian HS)

Played tight end and defensive end in football as well as power forward in basketball. Was named the MVP in his league, helping a defense that held four opponents to 10 or fewer points.
Video: http://www.hudl.com/athlete/o/1622547/byron-baker

Jake Barnhorst  OL, 6-4, 250, Cincinnati (Sycamore HS)
Two time all-academic honoree in his league and a first-team performer as a senior. Runs a 5.1 40. Member of the National Honor Society.
Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NGASQ7o91o0

John Batch  DB, 5-11, 180, Merritt Island, Fla.
A punishing hitter in the defensive secondary. Runs the 40 in 4.4, making him the fastest recruit in the class. Made 104 tackles last season with four interceptions.
Video: http://www.hudl.com/athlete/597721/highlights/70765376?autoplay=1

Marcus Bennett  WR, 5-11, 170, Marietta, Ga.
Finished in the top three in his high school’s history in receptions and receiving yards. Also was the county long jump champion. Owns a 3.9 GPA and is a leader of the Young Organizers United to Help.
Video: http://www.hudl.com/athlete/o/535975/marcus-bennett

Oliver Black DB, 5-9, 175, Miami (Westminster Christian School)
Tremendous strength for a defensive back (315-pound bench press, 455-pound squat) and looks a little like Air Force safety Christian Spears in pads. Lacks elite speed (4.61 40), but shows a knack for the ball and seems to have speed that translates onto the field.
Video: http://www.hudl.com/athlete/492078/oliver-black#

Dillon Browne  OG, 6-4, 240, Tampa, Fla. (Freedom HS)

It is believed his frame could take him up to 275 pounds. Also held an offer from Western Kentucky. Lists running time at 4.81 in the 40. Has a “weighted” GPA of 4.9.
Video: http://www.hudl.com/athlete/970370/highlights/58941375?autoplay=1

Robert Bullard  DB, 5-9, 180, Covington, Ga. (Alcovy HS)
Extreme strength with a 515-pound squat and a knack for the ball as a cornerback. Could likely profile as a kick or punt returner as well.
Video: http://www.hudl.com/athlete/876921/highlights/91662383?autoplay=1

Tyler Carver  FB, 6-0, 230, Frisco, Texas (Wakeland HS)
Can bench press 375 pounds. Played linebacker and fullback. Other interested schools included Navy and Rice.
Video: http://www.hudl.com/athlete/1157896/highlights/85020400?autoplay=1

Levi Cecil  DT, 6-4, 265, Longmont (Silver Creek)
The in-state recruit made 69 tackles, earning all-state honors. According to PrepColorado.com, he received the offer on a Thursday afternoon and made the commitment that evening. He does not come from a military background.
Video: http://www.hudl.com/athlete/712760/highlights/115208375?autoplay=1

Nick Colson  TE, 6-4, 225, Gilbert, Ariz. (Higley HS)
Will go on two-year LDS mission and enroll in 2016. Caught 60 passes for 1,079 yards and 10 touchdowns. Had offers from several Division 1 programs, including Nevada.
Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D30oX3DczsY

David Collins  S, 6-1, 185, Smyrna, Ga. (Campbell HS)
A 4.4 40 runner who can run the 300 hurdles in 41.9 seconds.
Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P5n6PGKTDbY

Keenan Curran  ATH, 6-2, 170, Federal Way, Wash.
Flipped commitment from San Jose State to Air Force in late January. Also had an offer from Wyoming. An athlete who plays multiple skill positions on offense and at free or strong safety defensively.
Video: http://www.hudl.com/athlete/929743/highlights/69477401?autoplay=1

Ryan Darby  DE, 6-2, 255, Houston (Westbury Christian HS)
High school coach was Charlie Ward, the Heisman Trophy winner at FloridaState. An explosive player off the end. Runs the 40 in 4.9. 

Zach Davies  DT, 6-2, 245, Austin, Texas (Lake Travis)
Recorded 11 sacks as a senior for a defense that allowed just 14.3 points per game and went 12-2, falling in Texas’s Class 5A Division II playoffs to the eventual state champion. One of his high school teammates has committed to Texas A&M, others to Columbia and Harvard.
Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hjpsBYIMJaQ

Josh Davis  DL, 6-3, 270, Cumming, Ga. (West Forsyth HS)
Had an offer from Navy, according to Scout.com, which also indicated interest from Michigan State and Tennessee. Rated as No. 105 offensive guard, should he play on that side of the ball.
Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oypn6ptEKqo

Peyton Dole  LB, 6-4, 225, Eagle Point, Ore.
Also a basketball player. Possesses 4.6 speed in the 40. A quality high school tight end, Air Force envisions Dole gaining 10-15 pounds and contributing early at outside linebacker.
Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=giQkwiIl9gA

Nasiir Edwards  DB, 5-10, 200, Lithonia, Ga. (Arabia Mountain HS)
Perhaps the best all-around athlete in the class, with a  4.52 40, 38-inch vertical and 505-pound squat. Jumped on recruiter’s radar with a 4.25 shuttle time, but Air Force proved to be his only offer. A recruit of former assistant Charlton Warren.
Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dbpqB5eHezg 

Jason Elenberger  ATH, 6-0, 175, Carmichael, Calif. (Jesuit)
His high school background – speedy receiver-turned quarterback – suggests he’s in the mold of Air Force quarterback Kale Pearson, just perhaps a tick taller and a tick slower. With a sidearm style he threw for 25 touchdowns as a senior, his only year to see regular time at the spot. His academic credentials form a long list and he has been a high school class president.
Video: http://www.ncsasports.org/football-recruiting/ca/carmichael/jesuit-high-school/jason-elenberger

Jack Flor  LB, 6-2, 210, Seattle (O’Dea HS)
Held offers from Army and Wyoming. Scout.com lists ranks him No. 77 among middle linebackers. Had 103 tackles – including 11 for loss and five sacks – and ran for 773 yards and 12 touchdowns on 75 carries as an all-league performer at linebacker and fullback. Also plays basketball and runs track.
Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IdN3C-YMjYg

Nicholas George  OL, 6-2, 270, Green Cove Springs, Fla. (Clay HS)
According to 247sports.com he held offers from, among others, Army and Marshall. Played for the 5A Florida runner-up, earning All-North Florida and all-county honors.
the 5A Florida runner-up, earning All-North Florida and all-county honors.
Video: http://www.hudl.com/athlete/o/256199/nick-george

Mike Gibas  OL, 6-3, 275, Hampshire, Ill.
Turned down opportunity to play for Miami (Fla.) as a preferred walk-on. Helped an offense that ran for 2,045 yards and threw for 1,091 yards this past season. Serves as his class president. Lists time in the 40 at 4.9.
Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fcZLjxl3EP8

Melvin Gowl  OL, 6-3, 260, Severn, Md. (Spalding HS)
Can play tight end, offensive line or several spots in the box on defense. Also a lacrosse player and wrestler. An all-state selection in football.
Video: http://www.hudl.com/athlete/o/1760837/melvin-gowl

Brandon Gurley  DB, 5-10, 175 Huntsville, Ala. (Madison County HS)
An elite high school playmaker at receiver, defensive back and in the return game. Had offers from Alabama-Birmingham and Western Kentucky.
Video: http://www.hudl.com/athlete/1832082/highlights/36799379?autoplay=1

Cole Hansen OT, 6-4, 280, Derby, Kan.
The recruiting class’s biggest body and boasts a 360-pound hang clean. A first-team 6A All-State selection in Kansas for a team known as a traditional power.
Video: http://www.hudl.com/athlete/o/328347/cole-hansen

Seth Hill  DB, 5-9, 155, Columbus, Ohio (Worthington Kilbourne HS)
Quick (4.5 40) corner who received his first offer from Air Force and later apparently garnered interest from Navy and Purdue. Served as kick and punt returner while playing both ways.
Video: http://www.hudl.com/athlete/o/97063/seth-hill

Malcolm Hills  DE, 6-4, 260, Jacksonville, Fla.
Made 24 tackles this past season, including two for a loss in his final game.
Video: http://www.hudl.com/athlete/o/1385366/malcolm-hills

Tanner Hughes  RB, 6-1, 215, El Dorado Hills, Calif. (Oak Ridge HS)
Tough runner at fullback, he committed to the Falcons in August. Lists his 40 time at 4.52 and vertical leap at 33.9 inches.
Video: http://www.ncsasports.org/football-recruiting/ca/el-dorado/oak-ridge-high-school/tanner-hughes2

Matt Jacques  DE, 6-4, 240, Encino, Calif. (Crespi Carmelite HS)
Had committed in July to Fresno State, which he chose over San Jose State, before switching to Air Force late in the process. Could also fit it in at tight end, where he caught 20 passes as a senior.
Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ec4KJTw7LgI

Daniel Khan  WR, 5-11, 160, Sherman Oaks, Calif. (Notre Dame)
Held offers from virtually everyone in the Ivy League. Told Scout.com that academics were the most important factor, but he also wanted to be a contributor. Caught 61 passes for 954 yards and 11 touchdowns during his junior and senior seasons
Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fn7GSgK1M4Q

Alex Kofskey TE, 6-6, 250, Huntsville, Alabama (RandolphSchool HS)
Plays football, basketball and baseball. Lined up at receiver, tight end and defensive end. Runs the 40 in 4.7, carries a 4.06 GPA and has been on dean’s list each semester. His grandfather was a brigadier general in the Air Force.
Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_mSFsz90cUw

Jalil Kuku  OLB, 5-11, 195, Kennesaw, Ga. (North Cobb HS)
Had offers from Air Force and several FCS teams. Carries all the measurables: 4.5 speed, 450-pound squat, 325-pound bench press and 38-inch vertical. Had 12 tackles for loss and 9.5 sacks as a junior.
Video: http://www.hudl.com/athlete/496272/highlights/87028376?autoplay=1

Jake LaCoste  RB, 5-9, 200, West Albany, Ore.
Led West Albany to its first state title since 2008 – when his brother Anthony, an Air Force standout, was leading the way. Ran for an eye-popping 7,462 yards and 96 touchdowns in his prep career.
Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i-HNcu1ZECc

Matt Lawler  TE, 6-6, 220, Ramona, Calif.
Ranked as the No. 94 tight end in the nation. Sees his strength as a blocker. Also plays basketball and volleyball. Chose Air Force over an offer from San Diego State.
Video: http://www.hudl.com/athlete/o/1351554/matt-lawler

Zack Lindsey  FB, 5-10, 219, Redlands, Calif. (Redlands Senior HS)
A member of his school’s gifted and talented program and a 2012 Scholar Athlete Award recipient. Lists architecture as a potential major.
Video: http://www.hudl.com/athlete/o/190364/zack-lindsey

Boadie Matts  FB, 6-1, 240, Jacksonville, Fla. (Sandalwood HS)
Primarily used as a lead blocker at fullback and at middle linebacker. Has also played center. Air Force coaches were attracted to his physical style and offered him last spring.
Video: http://rivals.yahoo.com/video/recruiting-football/Rivals-Spotlight-Boadie-Matts-1115835;_ylt=AhKsScyEsb6ysi1hHh9ERU5HPZB4

Darion McElhannon  RB, 6-0, 185, San Antonio (Johnson HS)
Elite speed (4.5 40, 10-9 100) and a member of the National Honor Society who lists engineering as a potential major. All-district selection.
Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YlDQB1-WWyA 

Ernie McQuade  OL, 6-2, 270, Aledo, Texas
Likely profiles as a center. Runs the 40 in 5.6, benches 300 pounds and squats 465 pounds. All-State selection.

Zephaniah Miller  QB, 5-11, 175, Pickerington, Ohio (Pickerington HS North)
Dual-threat quarterback also considered Morehead State, Mountain Union, St. Francis (Pa.) and Siena Heights, according to The Columbus Dispatch. Led his team to an 8-2 record this past season.
Video: http://www.hudl.com/athlete/1484236/highlights/65753379?autoplay=1

Matt Moskowitz   P, 5-11, 180, Milton, Ga.
Was listed just outside of the top 100 in the national punter’s ranking system. Online highlights include a 79-yard punt with 5.0-second hang time.
Video: http://www.hudl.com/athlete/2106417/highlights/80871375?autoplay=1

John Oliver QB, 6-3, 205, Woodstock, Ga. (Etowah HS)
A dual-threat quarterback and another recruit of Charlton Warren, he chose Air Force over Army and Charleston Southern. A tidbit from GoBlackKnights.com provides a glimpse into his personality – he missed the chance to watch the Army/Air Force game (the two teams recruiting him) this past year so he could go hunting with his dad.
Video: http://www.hudl.com/athlete/o/1371220/john-oliver

Hayden Owen  OG, 6-3, 270, Lindale, Ga. (Pepperell HS)
Only other FBS offer came from Georgia State, which is Air Force’s Week 2 opponent. He is listed as the nation’s No. 135 guard according to 247sports.com, though differentiating between high school players – particularly at that position – is often a futile effort when going that deep.
Video: http://www.hudl.com/athlete/o/471672/hayden-owen

Will Patterson  DE, 6-4, 265, El Paso, Texas (Burges HS)
Was recruited by each of the service academies before selecting Air Force.
Video: None available

Tyler Rapp  C, 6-0, 270, The Woodlands, Texas
Helped his team to a 10-3 record. One of 25 finalists from the Houston area for a scholar-athlete award. Says Air Force coaches plan to keep him at center.
Video: http://www.hudl.com/athlete/o/809295/tyler-rapp

James (JC) Rast   OT, 6-4, 275, San Antonio (Johnson HS)
Held offers from Army, Navy, several Ivy League programs and New Mexico State. The Army writer for Rivals.com listed Rast as a “heavy Army lean” prior to Rast’s in-home visit with Air Force coach Troy Calhoun.
Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5upieFCSKmo

Ryan Reffitt  WR, 6-5, 205, Galloway, Ohio (Hilliard Bradley)
Caught 27 passes and picked off three passes as a two-way player during his senior year. Showed a go-over-the-defender style with his tall frame, as indicated by a nickname that is apparently, “The Tree.” Also plays baseball and basketball. Earned scholar athlete award and was his school’s homecoming king.
Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MlTF38As4PE

C.J. Riazzi  TE, 6-3, 215, Churmiwade, Ohio (Chaminade-Julienne HS)
Caught 54 passes for 834 yards this past year. Runs a 4.5 40 and has a 35-inch vertical leap.

Antanas Riskus  DE, 6-4, 240, Darien, Ill. (Hinsdale South HS)
Told Scout.com that coaches would like to see him grow to about 260 pounds. Plans to some day go into politics.
Video: http://www.hudl.com/athlete/1264648/antanas-riskus#

Miles Rivera  OT, 6-6, 240, Longmont
Helped the Trojans to a 7-3 record and made a big play defensively to send the team to the playoffs. Was named to the Denver Post’s all-Colorado team.
Video: http://www.hudl.com/athlete/o/834599/miles-rivera

Michael Shaw  OL, 6-3, 270, Creekview, Ga.
Lists his 40 time at 4.7, which is quick considering his size. Was a first-team all-county selection twice and played in the 2013 Northwest Georgia All-Star Bowl.
Video: http://www.hudl.com/athlete/o/947071/michael-shaw

Jacob Sipes  WR, 6-5, 185, Oak Ridge, Calif.

Caught 40 passes for 387 yards as a senior. Played a little quarterback as a sophomore. Has career track bests of 10.94 in the 100, 22.34 in the 200, 49.72 in the 400 and 37.77 in the 300 hurdles – so he could help more than one Air Force program if he’s interested.
Video: http://www.hudl.com/athlete/o/677868/jacob-sipes

Andrew Smith  ATH, 5-8, 160, Gainesville, Ga. (North Hall HS)
Ran for 1,057 yards and 18 touchdowns as a senior. Regional player of the year.
Video: http://www.hudl.com/athlete/818747/highlights/36638373?autoplay=1

Darelle Smith  ATH, 6-0, 178, Fleming Island, Fla.
Held offers from Holy Cross, Lafayette and Lehigh. Runs the 100 in 11.1 seconds, but it’s his shifty moves that make him look even faster. Played receiver and defensive back in high school.
Video: http://www.hudl.com/athlete/2130733/highlights/73530376?autoplay=1

Emmanuel Soto  WR, 6-1, 170, Fort Lauderdale, Fla. (University School)
Was offered by Purdue, Central Florida, Hawaii and Marshall, among others. Runs a 4.85 40.
Video: http://rivals.yahoo.com/video/recruiting-football/Soto-high-on-Vandy-1112897;_ylt=AhyX2m06a45YgxWudT0yctxHPZB4

Caine Watlington  S, 6-0, 190, Clarkston, Mich.
Caught 40 passes for 694 yards and six touchdowns as a slot receiver in helping team to first state title in school history. Made 62 tackles with three interceptions and a fumble recovery.
Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NysYy8odzz8

Carter Wilson  WR, 5-11, 185, Warren, Mich. (De La Salle Collegiate)
Runs a 4.5 40. Played cornerback and receiver in high school. Reports a 27 on the ACT.
Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c6H5lpl69JU

Alec Wirtjes QB/TE, 6-4, 190, Colorado Springs (Discovery Canyon)
The only local recruit out of the group. He might eventually settle in as a tight end if quarterback doesn’t work out. Led the Thunder to an 18-4 record over the past two seasons.
Video: http://www.hudl.com/athlete/o/152886/alec-wirtjes

Aaron Zanin-Banks  WR, 5-11, 170, Las Vegas (Las Vegas HS)
Caught 72 passes for 1,159 yards and 15 touchdowns this past season, helping his team to the region semifinals. A sprinter in track, he has posted times of 11.44 in the 100, 23.28 in the 200 and 52.24 in the 400.
Video: http://rivals.yahoo.com/video/recruiting-football/Sunrise-Offensive-Highlights-1121868;_ylt=AhKsScyEsb6ysi1hHh9ERU74SZB4