By ANDY WOLF
Any recruiting class is just the beginning.
It’s also the continuation of a high standard sought after by Rob Keys.
The nine-year University of Findlay football coach is no stranger to the process.
His latest class of 30 players that signed letters of intent on Wednesday’s national signing day is no different on paper in his eyes than recent years.
The group represents nine different states including Hawaii, California, Arizona and Georgia.
“The thing that separates this class from other classes is the growth potential and length,” Keys said, noting the physical size of plenty of his recruits.
After completing their sixth winning season in seven years, Keys and his coaching staff sat down to examine the figurative big voids in the returning roster.
Two obvious ones were at quarterback and punter.
The Oilers lose not just one senior gunslinger, but two in Rhys Gervais and Adam Bertke.
Gervais made 38 starts as a four-year starter and owns nearly every major UF passing record. His 2018 season was done after Week 4 to injury.
Bertke filled in and helped the Oilers cap an 8-3 overall finish.
“There’s some uncertainty in that position, because you’re going to have a new guy there, but it’s the same position we were in four years ago when Rhys signed at midyear,” Keys said.
Keys brought in two quarterbacks to compete.
Jay Vanderjagt (6-foot-2, 180 pounds) is a junior college transfer from Ventura College, which reached the title game in the California Community College Athletic Association.
He’s already with program and will go through the spring activities.
Tyler Trent (6-1, 185) will join on in the fall as a recruit from Carmel High School (Indiana) who also will get an opportunity at the job.
So far in Keys’s eight-year tenure, every game has been started by a Division I transfer quarterback.
The Oilers also lost a four-year starter in punter Patrick Rusher.
Mitchell Hebenstreit of Hamilton Southeastern (Indiana) will have the opportunity in the fall to step in and potentially be another four-year starter at the position.
Regardless of the voids, Keys is always looking to strengthen the roster regardless where a guy is projected.
The coaching staff also hit the JUCO route to gain more immediate help.
Austyne Carvalho Toloai (5-11, 187) is a Hawaii native and linebacker transfer from Scottsdale (Arizona) Community College.
Wide receiver Malik White (6-1, 173) transfers in from Fresno City (California) College.
UF also added three players from Georgia.
Logan Goins (5-10, 175) and Brennan Perry (5-10, 170) are both defensive backs while Ben Ranke (6-2, 250) is one of four new offensive linemen.
“If the standard isn’t in your backyard, then you’ve got to go whenever you need to go to find that standard,” Keys said.
Seventeen of the 30 players are Ohio products.
McComb’s do-it-all athlete Tanner Schroeder is the only area signee. The 5-10, 180-pounder is listed at wideout for UF.
Schroeder was a man of many hats in leading the Panthers to a Division VII state football championship. He was their leading passer and rusher, spent a few games at receiver, punted, kicked — returned both — and started at defensive back.
Keys is more impressed with his intangibles.
“His competitive nature, his toughness, his team-first attitude,” Keys said. “That’s some of the things that attracted us to Tanner.”
McComb head coach Kris Alge also has UF ties as a two-year starting quarterback and four-year punter from 1982-85.
Other Northwest Ohio signees include Anthony Wayne wide receiver Max Bradfield (6-3, 210), Lima Perry running back Nylan Cannon (5-11, 200) and Toledo St. John’s offensive lineman Marek Toerne (6-5, 300).
Another recruit with ties to the program is Centerville long snapper Nick Reibly (6-0, 225). His brother and senior Matt Reibly has held the short snapping duties the last two seasons.
“We’re always excited when you can have the legacy of a family come through and multiple siblings,” Keys said.
Keys will keep the opportunity for all signees to compete for playing time and contribute in any way as freshmen.
Just last season, four freshmen defensive linemen played heavily in the rotation of the nation’s 28th-best rushing defense.
To Keys, it’s all about production.
He noticed the fact of playing freshmen does attract more competitive players in the recruiting process.
“If you’re a true freshman and you’re the most productive player, you play,” Keys said. “It’s a double-edged sword.
“Our juniors and seniors know, it doesn’t matter how long you’ve been here or how much you’ve worked; it’s who gives you the best chance to win every single game.”