BOONE, N.C. — App State Football signed another stellar recruiting class with the addition of 14 high school seniors on Wednesday, the first day of December’s early signing period.
With head coach Shawn Clark, recruiting coordinator Justin Watts and the complete staff in south Florida in advance of the Mountaineers (10-3) playing in this weekend’s RoofClaim.com Boca Raton Bowl, App State assembled a class with the talent and makeup that’s enabled the program to win Sun Belt conference and division titles while producing the best FCS-to-FBS transition in college football history.
App State’s average player rating of 83.6 from 247Sports.com set a program record.
“We filled a lot of holes that we had to have and added a lot of great players,” Clark said. “We have a bunch that will come in mid-year, so we’ll see how that all goes, but (director of player personnel) Andrew Blaylock and Coach Watts did a great job. We’re excited to welcome those guys to App Nation.”
With signing day officially beginning at 7 a.m., App State had the paperwork from its 14th and final Wednesday addition before 9 a.m.
The signing class to date includes four defensive backs, four defensive linemen, two linebackers, one quarterback, one running back, one offensive lineman and one tight end.
Shelby defensive lineman Santana Hopper, the highest-rated recruit in App State history with an 87.1 rating, and Wallace-Rose Hill running back Kanye Roberts, MaxPreps.com’s national leader with 3,511 rushing yards and 64 touchdowns this past season, signed just four days after squaring off against each other in a high-profile state championship game.
On the same day, highly regarded quarterback Ryan Burger from Myrtle Beach, S.C., played in a prep all-star game that followed a career in which he threw for 6,474 yards with 70 touchdowns, including 32 (against just three interceptions) as a senior.
Another standout defender, lineman Donovan Spellman from Clayton, N.C., has the second-highest 247Sports rating (85.9) ever assigned to an App State signee. Along with Hopper and Spellman, the Mountaineers added fellow defensive linemen Markus Clark (Hoover, Ala.) and Josiah Wyatt (Buford, Ga.).
With departing experience along the line and in the secondary, the Mountaineers added defensive backs DJ Burks (Maryville, Tenn.), James Edwards (Clewiston, Fla.), Ethan Johnson (Huntersville, N.C.) and Omari Philyaw (Cornelius, N.C.).
The two newcomers at linebacker are Derrell Farrar (Loganville, Ga.) and Brodrick Gooch (Charlotte, N.C.). Gooch, Johnson and Philyaw all played for a Hough team that went 14-1 at the 4-A level in North Carolina and allowed single-digit points in eight wins.
With Burger at quarterback and Roberts at running back, the other offensive additions were lineman Chase Tillman (North Augusta, S.C.) and tight end Kanen Hamlett (Madison, Ala.).
The early signing class includes six players from North Carolina, two from Georgia, two from Alabama, two from South Carolina and one apiece from Florida and Tennessee.
“We were going in and at least trying to sign one player at each position, and we were able to do that,” Watts said. “Offensively and defensively, we were able to hit on all the spots we needed to. And then this class will continue to grow throughout the spring.”
CLASS OF 2022 SIGNEES
Ryan Burger — QB
Myrtle Beach, S.C. (Myrtle Beach)
BIO: Threw for 6,474 yards and 70 touchdowns while completing 65 percent of his passes in three varsity seasons at Myrtle Beach … As a senior, completed 70 percent of his passes for 2,304 yards with 32 touchdowns and just three interceptions for a 9-2 team that reached the third round of the 4-A playoffs … All-State selection by the South Carolina Football Coaches Association … Selected for the North/South Bowl and the Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas (which was canceled) … Also rushed for 433 yards as a senior … Led Myrtle Beach to a 7-2 record and a berth in the SCHSL 4-A lower state final as a junior, when he passed for 2,217 yards with 23 touchdowns … During Myrtle Beach’s 13-1 season in 2019, as a sophomore, stepped in for an injured starter during the playoffs and led team to four postseason wins to reach the state final … Passed for 900 yards during that playoff run … Played for coach Mickey Wilson at Myrtle Beach … Three-star prospect in the 247Sports Composite rankings.
DJ Burks — DB
Maryville, Tenn. (Maryville)
BIO: Helped Maryville go 53-4 over four seasons with a 6-A state championship as a sophomore … Finished career with 150-plus tackles and 15 interceptions as a two-way standout … As a senior, the all-region selection helped Maryville go 13-1 and reach the 6-A state title game … Totaled 59 tackles and one interception in 2021 … All-state performer with 101 tackles and nine interceptions as a junior, when Maryville reached the state semifinals and finished 13-1 … Also scored five offensive touchdowns (four as a receiver) in 2020 … Recorded three interceptions during Maryville’s championship season in 2019 … Coached by Derek Hunt at Maryville … Three-star prospect in the 247Sports Composite rankings.
Markus Clark — DL
Hoover, Ala. (Hoover)
BIO: Had 10 tackles for loss and two sacks while ranking as the fifth-best interior defensive lineman in Alabama as a senior … Helped Hoover go 33-6 with three state semifinal appearances in his final three years of high school, including 12-1 during his senior year … As a junior on an 11-2 team that also made the state semifinals, had 31 tackles with five sacks, three forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries … Older brother Markell played on the defensive line at App State … Played for coach Josh Niblett at Hoover … Three-star prospect in the 247Sports Composite rankings.
James Edwards — DB
Clewiston, Fla. (Clewiston)
BIO: As a senior, helped lead Clewiston to a regional final berth and an 8-3 record with three interceptions (including a 100-yard return for a touchdown) and two sacks … All-state honorable mention as a junior, when he had two interception returns for touchdowns as well as a special teams touchdown on a kickoff return … Coached by Pete Walker at Clewiston … Three-star prospect in the 247Sports Composite rankings.
Derrell Farrar — LB
Loganville, Ga. (Grayson)
BIO: In first seven games of an abbreviated senior season, had 90 tackles, 10 tackles for loss and two sacks to rank among the top 20 tacklers in Georgia … Helped lead Grayson to a 7-A state title during a perfect 14-0 season as a junior, posting 10 tackles in the championship game win against Collins Hill … Finished that season with 63 tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss and two sacks … Coached by Adam Carter at Grayson … Three-star prospect in the 247Sports Composite rankings.
Brodrick Gooch — LB
Cornelius, N.C. (Hough)
BIO: Emerged as a defensive threat at Hough, helping the Huskies go 14-1 and reach a 4-A state semifinal during his senior season … Totaled 45 tackles and six tackles for loss as a senior … Standout athlete began prep career as a productive receiver … Part of a dominant defense that allowed less than 20 points in all 14 wins, gave up single-digit points in eight wins and produced two shutouts … Played for coach Matthew Jenkins at Hough as a senior … Played at Hough with fellow App State signees Omari Philyaw and Ethan Johnson (both defensive backs) … Three-star prospect in the 247Sports Composite rankings.
Kanen Hamlett — TE
Madison, Ala. (Madison Academy)
BIO: As a standout tight end and linebacker, had two touchdown catches while blocking well for a run-oriented Madison Academy team that went 12-2 and reached the AHSAA 4-A state semifinals during his senior season … Also averaged more than seven tackles per game and picked off four passes in his senior year … All-region player as a junior … Helped the Mustangs go 22-3 over his final two prep seasons … Coached by Bob Godsey at Madison Academy … Three-star prospect in the 247Sports Composite rankings.
Santana Hopper — DL
Shelby, N.C. (Shelby)
BIO: Helped lead Shelby to two state titles and a 35-5 record over his final three seasons … As a senior in 13 games for a 15-1 state championship team, totaled 84 tackles, 14.5 sacks, 38 tackles for loss, three blocked punts and two forced fumbles … In last three years at Shelby, totaled 176 tackles, 24.5 sacks and 73 tackles for loss over 34 games … Had nine tackles, one sack and three tackles for loss in a state championship game win against Wallace-Rose Hill in 2021 … Multiple tackles for loss in 12 of 13 games, with a single-game high of 5.0 … Played for coach Mike Wilbanks to close career at Shelby … Three-star prospect in the 247Sports Composite rankings and a top-20 overall prospect in the state of North Carolina.
Ethan Johnson — DB
Huntersville, N.C. (Hough)
BIO: Had three interceptions and 32 tackles as a senior for a Hough team that went 14-1 and reached a 4-A state semifinal … Part of a dominant defense that allowed less than 20 points in all 14 wins, gave up single-digit points in eight wins and produced two shutouts … Intercepted passes in wins against Myers Park, North Meck and Mallard Creek before posting a season-high six tackles in the state semifinal loss to Chambers … Played for coach Matthew Jenkins at Hough as a senior … Teammates at Hough with fellow App State signees Omari Philyaw and Brodrick Gooch (both defenders) … Three-star prospect in the 247Sports Composite rankings.
Omari Philyaw — DB
Charlotte, N.C. (Hough)
BIO: Broke up four passes and had 27 tackles as part of a deep secondary that helped Hough go 14-1 and reach a 4-A state semifinal during his senior season … Part of a dominant defense that allowed less than 20 points in all 14 wins, gave up single-digit points in eight wins and produced two shutouts … Season-high six stops in a lopsided win against North Meck … All-area performer following an abbreviated junior season that included three interceptions as a standout at Myers Park … Played for coach Matthew Jenkins at Hough as a senior … Teammates at Hough with fellow App State signees Ethan Johnson and Brodrick Gooch (both defenders) … Three-star prospect in the 247Sports Composite rankings.
Kanye Roberts — RB
Teachey, N.C. (Wallace-Rose Hill)
BIO: On the MaxPreps list of national leaders, No. 1 in the country with 3,511 rushing yards and 64 touchdowns (58 rushing) as a senior … Averaged 219.4 rushing yards per game and 12.3 yards per carry for a 13-3 team that reached the 2-A state championship game in 2021 … In 47 games over four seasons, totaled 7,318 rushing yards, 8,808 all-purpose yards and 113 touchdowns (104 rushing) … While averaging 155.7 rushing yards per game over his career, also had 633 receiving yards and 857 return yards … Rushed for 867 yards in eight games during an abbreviated junior season after gaining 1,558 yards in 12 games as a sophomore and 1,382 yards in 11 games as a freshman … Had 253 yards and five touchdowns in the state title game as a senior … Ranks second in NCHSAA history in single-season rushing touchdowns (58, behind just the 68 from T.A. McLendon in 2001) and overall points scored … Played for coach Kevin Motsinger at Wallace-Rose Hill.
Donovan Spellman — DL
Clayton, N.C. (Clayton)
BIO: Finished with 148 tackles, 33.5 sacks, 43 tackles for loss and 52 quarterback hurries in last two seasons at Clayton … As a senior, had 73 tackles, 15 sacks, 17 tackles for loss, one interception, one defensive touchdown and 36 quarterback hurries as a senior …
Averaged eight tackles per game as a senior at Clayton, with five multi-sack games in the first half of the season …Selected for the Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas (which was canceled) while being the conference defensive player of the year … During an abbreviated season as a junior, had 75 tackles for an 8-2 team that reached the state semifinals … Played for coach Shane Handy at Clayton … Three-star prospect in the 247Sports Composite rankings.
Chase Tillman — OL
North Augusta, S.C. (North Augusta)
BIO: Two-time Dream 16 preseason pick by The Augusta Chronicle … Attended same high school that produced standout App State offensive linemen Parker Collins and Victor Johnson during the FBS era … Received an invite to the Football University National Underclassmen Combine in San Antonio after his sophomore season and had an injury-shortened season as a junior … Played for coach Brian Thomas as a senior at North Augusta … Three-star prospect in the 247Sports Composite rankings.
Josiah Wyatt — DL
Buford, Ga. (Buford)
BIO: Helped lead Buford to three 6-A state championships and a 41-3 record over his final three years of high school … All-region performer as a senior, highlighted by 2.5 sacks in a state semifinal win … Had 36 tackles, nine tackles for loss, six sacks and 11 quarterback pressures as a junior for a 13-1 title team … Played for coach Bryant Appling at Buford … Three-star prospect in the 247Sports rankings.