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Cardinals add 28 to roster

BEAUMONT, Texas – The Lamar University Cardinals signed 22 high school standouts to National Letters of Intent, and added six transfers (including three FBS transfers) announced head coach Ray Woodard at a press conference in the Dauphin Athletics Complex Wednesday afternoon.

The signing class put a focus on defensive talent with 14 of the signees expected to contribute on the defensive side of the ball. LU also added 11 players on offense, two specialists and one athlete (Kendrick King – Hamshire-Fannett HS).

“Obviously, we are very excited about this incoming group of players,” said head coach Ray Woodard. “We filled some immediate needs with this group, but at the same time are adding quality student-athletes. These are young men who have succeeded on the field and in the classroom. I think our coaching staff did a great job of finding talented athletes, who also work hard in the classroom, and will fit our system. It was really more of a snowball effect. We had nearly half this class committed before we even got into the official visit phase of the recruiting process.”

“We lost some defensive players this year, and we will be losing more next year and didn’t want to put the complete burden of trying to fill those needs in next year’s class. We felt like we needed to get a little deeper on the defensive side, with the rest of the class we just went to where the talent was,” added Woodard.

The position breakdown of the class consists of four defensive linemen (three ends and one tackle), five linebackers and five defensive backs. On the offensive side of the ball, LU added three offensive linemen, three receivers, two quarterbacks, two running backs and a tight end. The Cardinals also added a punter and deep snapper on special teams.

A source of pride for Woodard since bringing back the program has been his ability to keep local Southeast Texas talent close to home. The 2016 class is one of the Cardinals largest since the program’s rebirth. Big Red inked nine players from the region, including four from the Golden Triangle. The Southeast Texans include Jalen Barnes (Port Arthur, Texas), Shane Hudson (Crosby, Texas), King (Beaumont, Texas), Austin Krautz (Nederland, Texas), Christian Langston (Port Neches, Texas), Kanon Mackey (Silsbee, Texas), Adam Morse (Groves, Texas), Mason Sikes (Lumberton, Texas) and Caisen Sullivan (Port Neches, Texas).

“I think coming off an 8-4 season in 2014, we were able to target a lot of local players,” said Woodard. “They were able to come to games, they like what they saw and what we have done in the past. We had a number of local players commit early and they held their commitments through the recruiting process.”

The 2016 class also expanded beyond the reach of just the Lone Star State, even to the point of adding an international flare. The incoming class represents Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Georgia and Australia (Mitchell Gray – punter).

Similar to the 2015 class, there are several family connections with the incoming class of recruits. Lagrange running back Markell Hawthorne is the younger brother of LU receiver Martell, while Krautz’s parents both attended LU and his brother, Justin, ran track for the Red and White. Langston is the son of current LU offensive coordinator Chuck Langston.

“Christian is not coming here because he is Chuck Langston’s son,” said Woodard. “He is a very good long snapper, and that is a position you don’t appreciate until you don’t have one. We only have one coming back on the roster, and this is one of those need areas that you have to have. He is a very good one and we are fortunate to have signed him.”

Despite losing only one quarterback from the 2015 campaign, the Cardinals added two for 2016. Following a season that saw LU’s top three quarterbacks miss significant parts or all of the 2015 season, the coaching staff understands the need for depth. Big Red added Morse (Port Neches-Groves HS) and Clayton Turner (Miami). Morse was one of the state’s top signal callers, and is a finalist for the Willie Ray Smith Award, while Turner will be returning to the quarterback spot after being converted to receiver with the Hurricanes.