GVSU football inks 31 signees to 2017 recruiting class

GVSU football inks 31 signees to 2017 recruiting class

Beau Troutman

Grand Valley State football took over the Midwest this National Signing Day.

The Lakers officially announced their 2017 recruiting class Wednesday, Feb. 1. The class features 31 total signees, 17 of which are from out of state. The class was highlighted by 16 offensive players, 13 defensive and two specialists.

It was the first major step toward the 2017 football season.

“We have a tank of gas recruiting philosophy,” said GVSU coach Matt Mitchell. “We’re going to recruit in areas that you can get to on a tank of gas, and that’s Michigan, Indiana, Illinois and Ohio. I think we went out to those spots and found guys that fit our program.”

Mitchell and his recruiting staff set out to fill spots that weren’t as much of a priority in the 2016 recruiting class, which had 23 members, and they believe they did that well. On the offensive side, skill positions were the biggest priority. The Lakers got National Letters of Intent from three running backs, six wide receivers and four tight ends.

“When you take a look at our wide receivers and our running backs and you look at the statistical performance and production that they have, it’s pretty eye-popping,” Mitchell said.

The three running backs are Jack Provencher (Shelby Twp., Mich.), Aryuan Cain-Veasey (Michigan City, Ind.) and Jaden Walker (Lima, Ohio). Though all three were standouts at their respective schools, Provencher’s accolades stack up. As a senior, he broke the Utica Eisenhower High School record for rushing yard in a season (1,579), had 25 rushing touchdowns and was named to the Detroit Free Press Dream Team.

In the group of receivers, another name sticks out from the rest: Andy Foley of Perry High School in Ohio. The 6’2”, 195 lb. Foley caught 70 passes his senior year for 1,346 yards and 15 touchdowns. Not only did he excel on offense, but Foley intercepted 10 passes on defense and was named the Ohio Defensive Player of the Year.

Though his name won’t jump out at you on paper, tight end Jack Driscoll of South Bend Adams high school in South Bend, Ind. impressed Mitchell for his raw athleticism and versatility. He had 254 receiving yards his senior year, but recorded eight sacks on the defensive side of the ball, earning All-State honors as a defensive lineman.

“When you get to some of those other guys that aren’t stat related, that’s when you see them play basketball, workout, that’s when it’s eye-popping to me,” Mitchell said. “Jack Driscoll, I’m not sure you would find at 6’4”, 245 lbs. a better athlete at that size that we’ve had here for a while.”

Defensively, GVSU welcomed six new linemen to the program, tied for the most of any position group. The Lakers are losing senior linemen Mark Rosenquist (4 tackles for loss, 1 interception), Alton Voss (4.5 sacks) and Sydney Omameh (10.5 sacks), and knew they would need to reload at this position.

One player to watch for in the D-line group is Josh Jones out of Bloomfield Hills High School in Michigan. Jones had a Matt Judon-like 17 sacks as a senior, earning him a Detroit Free Press All-North Honeree plaudit.

A player not found on the list of 31 recruits is incoming graduate transfer Ethan Cortazzo from Utah State. Cortazzo, though a Division I player, recognized he had two seasons of eligibility left at the Division II level. He followed several DII coaches on Twitter, including Mitchell, who followed him back and was impressed by Cortazzo’s highlights. GVSU offered, and Cortazzo committed.

Though he saw little playing time at Utah State, Cortazzo could be an impact player at the DII level.

Mitchell said GVSU gained no late-commitments from anyone, and signing day went about as planned. They did lose verbal commitments in the weekend leading up to NSD, but Mitchell doesn’t necessarily look at that as a negative.

“We lost them to some offers from MAC schools, we lost them to some opportunities at Big Ten schools,” Mitchell said. “All that tells me is I’m on the right guys. We also had kids that signed with us (on signing day) that had some of those same offers and opportunities that chose to stick with Grand Valley, and I’m excited about those guys.”

Though the Division II tag might deter some borderline DI players, GVSU has had the benefit of building a reputation of a school that can send players to the next level. Defensive end Matt Judon was drafted by the Baltimore Ravens last spring, and offensive lineman Brandon Revenberg was drafted by the CFL’s Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

Mitchell says GVSU is not a place where professional football hopes end, and sells the GVSU brand to incoming recruits.

“We have a very realistic, big picture view of their career,” Mitchell said. “We’re selling that in the recruiting process, not a bunch of things that are quick to fade once the work starts settling in.”

In addition to GVSU being the right fit for prospective recruits, Mitchell and his staff are looking for players who are the right fit for GVSU. Though gaudy stats and measurables are easy things to quantify, it’s the character side of players that Mitchell does his best to hone in on.

“Probably more importantly, the subjective intangibles—competitiveness, work ethic, character, being a great teammate—that’s difficult in the recruiting process,” Mitchell said. “That’s where you vet and spend time so you don’t miss, but that’s an inexact science. I’ll be the first to admit you miss on that stuff sometimes.

“At the end of the day, that’s what your culture is built around.”

National Signing Day is notorious for being a day that sees ego, hype and drama before any real football activity begins. Though GVSU is in DII and the built-up of players isn’t as extreme as DI, Mitchell says it’s prevalent at all levels of football.

He has one message for the 2017 GVSU recruiting class.

“One of my quotes I say is, ‘Don’t let your signing day press conference be the highlight of your college career,’” he said. “You see it plenty at all levels. A kid signs, and you never see him. Whether it’s social, academically can’t handle it or he doesn’t earn a spot.

“I hope they recognize that this is just the beginning of their collegiate career.”