By ANDY WOLF
Rob Keys hit the recruiting trail for the 10th time as head coach of the University of Findlay football team.
Things have gradually changed for the better within the University of Findlay football program.
“This year, specifically, there were specific situations where we wanted to get guys to make us better for 2020,” Keys said.
The latest recruiting class for the Oilers contains 43 players who signed their national letters of intent on Wednesday.
The process started when the season ended in November.
Keys and his coaching staff logged countless hours in December and January, going to recruits’ homes and also bringing them on campus.
“Their families don’t see them much in the months of December and January — a lot of credit goes to the staff,” Keys said. “Not just our staff, everybody on campus: athletic department, cafeteria, financial aid.”
Keys noted specific needs and targets in the class — two large ones being the offensive and defensive lines, as well as improving speed at wide receiver and depth at running back and in the secondary.
The Oilers, 7-4 last season, graduated three of five starters on one of the best offensive lines in Division II. That unit helped Findlay rank 20th nationally in yards per game (463.2), 21st in scoring (37.7 ppg) and 24th in rushing (221.4 ypg).
All three were at least three-year starters. Center Neal Davis was a four-year starter with 45 career starts.
On the flip side, Keys prefers to rotate 9-10 players along the defensive line to stay fresh and by situation.
Regardless of position, Keys wants his recruits to have the mindset of being able to make an immediate impact.
For the junior college recruits, Keys holds higher expectations of doing exactly that.
UF landed two junior college transfers in running back Joshua Booker (Itasca Community College) and defensive lineman Isaiah Dunston (Orange Coast Community College).
Last season, Booker’s 19 touchdowns led the National Junior College Athletic Association. He rushed for 1,024 yards in 12 games.
Former Findlay High two-sport standout Kyle Nunn is also transferring in from the University of Pittsburgh with his teammate and fellow linebacker Grey Brancifort (Pickerington Central). UF landed another Division I transfer in wide receiver Jaret Pogliani (Eastern Kentucky).
Nunn redshirted in 2017 with the Panthers and totaled five tackles over the past two seasons.
At Findlay High, Nunn was a two-time all-Ohio selection on the gridiron and a second-team all-Ohio pick in basketball as a senior.
Keys said Nunn has added 30 pounds to his 6-foot-3 frame from high school and weighs in at 230 pounds.
“He looks the part; He’s had a great winter so far,” Keys said.
Also joining on from Findlay High is another two-way player in Aidan Eubanks.
Eubanks earned special mention all-Ohio for Division I at linebacker. He recorded 78 tackles, 19 for loss, with three sacks and two fumble recoveries as a senior.
Eubanks also was a first-team all-Three Rivers Athletic Conference pick as a running back (370 yards, 7 TDs).
“He’s physical, he’s extremely strong for a high school kid. At linebacker, you see him, he shows up on film,” Keys said of Eubanks.
Keys said, for now, Eubanks will begin as a linebacker but to “don’t discount his ability to run the football” as the fullback in a regular part of Findlay’s offense.
The area footprint extends a bit farther.
Inside the Blanchard Valley Conference, UF picked up Liberty-Benton standout Marshall Rose, last year’s BVC Offensive Player of the Year. Rose (5-7, 171) was recruited as a slot receiver. Two McComb standouts in quarterback Aaron Davis (5-11, 160) and offensive tackle Kyle Wasson (6-0, 260) are part of the recruiting class.
Branching out to the Northwest District, offensive players include Tiffin Calvert wide receiver Mitch Nielsen (5-10, 177), Anthony Wayne wide receiver Mason Alberts (6-1, 170) and Allen East offensive lineman Brennan Davies (6-4, 294).
Defensive players from northwest Ohio include Toledo Central Catholic cornerback Randy Williams (5-10, 165), Toledo St. Francis cornerback Rashad Craig (5-11 165), Clyde defensive lineman Jack Morrison (6-4, 215) and Evergreen defensive lineman Nick Beemer (6-4, 269).
“That’s great to be able to win your backyard and get those kids to commit to you,” Keys said.