Sanford caps first signing day as head coach

Mike Sanford meets with members of the press and fans after being announced as the new head football coach for Western Kentucky University on Dec. 14, 2016 at L.T. Smith Stadium in Bowling Green, Ky.

Evan Heichelbech

WKU head football coach Mike Sanford has his first recruiting class under his belt, as he signed 23 players to his 2017 class on National Signing Day on Wednesday.

After losing 17 recruits who previously committed to the Hilltoppers under former head coach Jeff Brohm, Sanford and his staff were hard-pressed for time with National Signing Day falling exactly seven weeks from the day the former Notre Dame offensive coordinator was introduced as WKU’s new head coach.

 “The pursuit was definitely aptly named for, really the last 27/28 days since our staff reported on the night of Jan. 3,” Sanford said. “It’s something that we wanted to set a tone for every aspect of our program.”

Sanford was able to retain six Brohm-commits, and was responsible for finding an ample number of players to round out the 2017 class in a little over three weeks’ time.

“We certainly understood that we would have some shoes to fill in terms of recruits that had been committed and had pre-existing relationships with previous coaches which was not a surprise to me whatsoever,” Sanford said. “The one thing we knew when we took this job was that we were going to get the best 20 to 25 players to populate this recruiting class and to, in turn, matriculate into this football program that would really fit what we were looking for in this program going forward.”

WKU undersigned on Wednesday, leaving two of the 25 eligible spots empty for “wiggle room” for possible late signees and graduate transfer players. Sanford and his staff signed players from eight different states in all, bringing in 11 recruits from Georgia and just two from Kentucky.

“We’re not going to be last to the party offering players and we’re certainly not going to take our home state for granted,” Sanford said of how he will recruit the Bluegrass State moving forward. “We want to build a fence around this state and we want to compete with Louisville and UK across the board in this state, and we really believe that we can.”

Leading the Hilltoppers’ 2017 class are a pair of three-star ESPN recruits in tight end Mik’Quan Deane and offensive lineman Preston Mixon.

Deane is a 6-4, 240-pound tight end from Tulsa, Oklahoma, and he chose WKU over Oregon and New Mexico, among others. A transfer from Northeastern Oklahoma A&M, Deane is a consensus top-100 JUCO recruit across all major recruiting services and was rated the No. 4 junior college tight end by

Mixon, a 6-4, 295-pound offensive lineman from Montgomery, Alabama, picked the Hilltoppers over Purdue, Illinois and Conference USA rival Middle Tennessee. Mixon is rated as a three-star prospect by ESPN and, and is a top-170 offensive tackle in the nation.

Other notable players that signed with the Hilltoppers on Wednesday include defensive linemen Calder Marria and Jaylon George, running back Josh Samuel, linebacker Juwuan Jones, offensive lineman Cole Spencer and the lone quarterback in Sanford’s inaugural class, Davis Shanley.

“The biggest thing I learned is that there’s so much to sell about this university,” Sanford said at the end of his first National Signing Day as a head coach. “That was one thing our staff did from the first day that we showed up on campus. We took a full staff tour within our first four days being on campus because I wanted our staff members to realize that were not just selling WKU football, we’re selling a tremendous brand, we’re selling a tremendous campus with great facilities and a great on-campus collegiate experience for students here.”

WKU National Signing Day Class of 2017

Carson Jordan, DL, 6-3, 265, Poplarville, Mississippi

Jaylon George, DL, 6-3, 260, Atlanta, Georgia

Jordan Meredith, OL, 6-3, 295, Bowling Green, Kentucky

Roger Cray, DB, 5-10, 170, Lake City, Florida

Tariq Young, WR, 5-11, 180, Lakeland Florida

Kris Leach, TE, 6-6, 225, Bealeton, Virginia

Kyle Bailey, LB, 6-0, 205, Bremen, Georgia

Caleb Etheridge, OL, 6-2, 290, Forsyth, Georgia

Juwuan Jones, LB, 6-3, 235, Buford, Georgia

DeAngelo Malone, DL, 6-3, 210, Ellenwood, Georgia

Calder Marria, DL, 6-4, 225, Jonesboro, Georgia

Jakairi Moses, RB, 5-9, 185, Palm Beach Gardens, Florida

Ben Reeder, LS, 6-2, 210, Greenville, South Carolina

Dionte Ruffin,DB, 6-0, 180, Dallas, Georgia

Josh Samuel, RB, 5-11, 200, Lawrenceville, Georgia

Davis Shanley, QB, 6-2, 190, Cumming, Georgia

Cole Spencer, OT, 6-4, 285, Louisville, Kentucky

Steven Witchoskey, TE, 6-3, 240, Plant City, Florida

Mik’Quan Deane, TE, 6-4, 240, Tulsa, Oklahoma

Preston Mixon, OL, 6-4, 295, Montgomery, Alabama

Latheron Rogers-Anderson, DB, 6-1, 190, Columbia, South Carolina

Jacquez Sloan, WR, 5-9, 165, Atlanta, Georgia

Antwon Kincade, DB, 5-11, 195, Valdosta, Georgia