BOONE, N.C. — The addition of nine student-athletes on National Signing Day capped an exciting week for Appalachian State Football.
The week included the hiring of new head coach Eliah Drinkwitz last Thursday, a 45-13 win in the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl on Saturday and the official Boone introduction of Drinkwitz on Monday.
Two days after his arrival at Kidd Brewer Stadium, Drinkwitz announced the signing of, in alphabetical order, defensive back Tre Caldwell, wide receiver Dashaun Davis, outside linebacker Brendan Harrington, linebacker Jourdan Heilig, offensive lineman Lyle Hiers, tight end Ricky Kofoed, defensive back Nicholas Ross, defensive lineman Luke Smith and wide receiver Christian Wells.
Possessing the nation’s third-youngest roster in 2018, the Mountaineers had only 13 seniors on an 11-2 team that won a third straight Sun Belt Conference title before improving the program’s bowl record to 4-0. All nine signees have a three-star rating from either the 247Sports composite rankings or Rivals, and the 247Sports average grade of 81.30 per recruit would rank second among Sun Belt teams.
“I’m thrilled with the guys that we were able to sign today,” Drinkwitz said. “You can definitely tell the kids who were committed to the Appalachian State tradition and culture. It recruited itself. They have a special bond with the Appalachian State family.
“When I took over as head coach, I wanted to contact all of these young men and their families and let them know that the mission of Appalachian State Football will still be the same – to continue the tradition of winning and to graduate our players.”
The nine signees all completed their paperwork by noon Wednesday, with Heilig’s arriving first for a 7:17 a.m. announcement. After this signing period ends, a spring one begins Feb. 6.
Of the small number of seniors on the current App State roster, the offense had just one senior starter and the defense had three senior starters, with one apiece coming from the defensive line, the linebacker corps and the secondary. App State’s Class of 2019 signees to date include two defensive backs, two linebackers, two receivers, one defensive lineman, one offensive lineman and one tight end.
The current class includes four in-state prospects, three Florida prospects, one prospect from Georgia and one prospect from Tennessee.
“I’m very excited about the length and athleticism that we’re adding,” Drinkwitz said. “We also have some explosive athletes. We added some much-needed depth at key positions to continue to enhance our roster.”
Harrington is an outside linebacker from Northwood High School in Pittsboro, where he posted 64 tackles, 14 tackles for loss, five sacks and one interception in being named an all-conference defender for the third straight year. He was also versatile enough to score 18 offensive touchdowns as a senior. Heilig made 176 tackles in his final season as a linebacker at Concord High School, while Caldwell played cornerback for 3-AA state runner-up Southeast Guilford and had two interceptions in the first seven games of an injury-shortened 2018 season.
Ross, the other defensive back in the class, recorded 69 tackles during an 8-2 regular season for Kell High School near his hometown of Kennesaw, Ga., and Smith’s dominant senior season on the interior defensive line at Friendship Christian in Lebanon, Tenn., featured 31 tackles for loss to lead a 10-3 team.
Offensively, the two receivers are Wells (University School in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) and Davis (Deerfield Beach High School just north of Fort Lauderdale and Miami). Wells averaged roughly 30 yards per catch as a senior on an 11-2 team that reached a Class 4-A state semifinal in Florida, while Davis was a big-play standout on a 12-2 team that made the semifinals of the Class 8-A playoffs.
Kofoed won back-to-back NCISAA state titles as a tight end at Charlotte Christian, where he had 80 catches for 1,218 yards and 14 touchdowns over a three-year stretch with a 31-3 record, including an 11-0 mark as a senior. Hiers, a four-year offensive lineman at Lake Wales High School in central Florida, was a senior leader on a 10-2 team that averaged 35.4 points and 226.5 rushing yards per game.
CLASS OF 2019 SIGNEES
* Tre Caldwell – DB
Greensboro, N.C. (Southeast Guilford)
BIO: Before suffering a season-ending injury, played in seven games as a senior, totaling 37 tackles, two interceptions, three breakups, one quarterback hurry and three tackles behind the line for a 14-2 team that reached the state 3-AA final … Also had 14 catches for 256 yards with two touchdowns and 14 carries for 78 yards with one touchdown … Had two interceptions in a 27-8 win against Southern Alamance in Southeast’s seventh game of the season … All-region and all-conference as a junior on a 9-3 team … Coached by Kennedy Tinsley … In track, was all-conference in the 4×100 relay (seventh in the state) and 4×200 (fourth in the state) … Considered a three-star prospect by the 247Sports composite rankings.
DRINKWITZ ON CALDWELL: “Tre Caldwell has good length and will hit. He’s recovering from injury, but we’re excited to get him in and getting him learning the defense.”
* Dashaun Davis – WR
Deerfield Beach, Fla. (Deerfield Beach)
BIO: Standout receiver as a senior for a Deerfield Beach team that went 12-2 and reached the semifinals of the Class 8-A playoffs in Florida … Had a 26-yard touchdown in a regional final victory against Palm Beach Central … Coached by Jevon Glenn … Played as a junior at Blanche Ely High School in Pompano Beach … A three-star prospect by Rivals and two-star prospect based on 247Sports’ composite rankings.
DRINKWITZ ON DAVIS: “Dashaun Davis is athletic with great speed and makes people miss. He will be able to do multiple things with the ball in his hands.”
* Brendan Harrington – OLB
Pittsboro, N.C. (Northwood)
BIO: Versatile player who had 64 tackles, 14 tackles for loss, five sacks and one interception as an all-conference linebacker during his senior season at Northwood … Also a key contributor at running back, had 840 rushing yards with 16 TDs and 322 receiving yards with two TDs in eight games offensively … Three-time all-conference pick as well as a two-time all-region pick from the News & Observer and a two-time team captain … Honor roll student who was a four-year starter in football while also playing basketball and running track at Northwood … A president of Northwood’s chapter of My Brother’s Keeper, a program that focuses on academic achievement for minority students … Coached at Northwood by his uncle, Brian Harrington, and was on a 7-5 team as a senior … Had four interceptions, including two touchdown returns, during a junior season in which he totaled 949 all-purpose yards and was an all-conference defensive back … Also an all-conference defensive back as a sophomore, when he scored on one of his four interceptions and also had a punt return for a touchdown … Intercepted two passes and had 10 breakups as a freshman … Considered a three-star recruit by the 247Sports composite rankings.
DRINKWITZ ON HARRINGTON: “Brendan Harrington is long and physical and runs well. He will hit, and he played multiple positions in high school. He’s physical at the point of contact and can set an edge. The sky is the limit for him. He will be a really good player in our 3-4 scheme.”
* Jourdan Heilig – LB
Concord, N.C. (Concord)
BIO: The two-time All-South Piedmont Conference selection had 176 tackles, seven tackles for loss, one sack, one interception and two pass breakups as a senior … Had 398 career tackles, including 151 as a junior and 63 as a sophomore … Posted at least 17 tackles in five games as a senior, highlighted by a 25-tackle performance against Mount Pleasant and 20 stops against Central Cabarrus … Played his final season at Concord for head coach and App State grad Marty Paxton … Cousins include Concord football greats Dee Bost, who was a Mississippi State basketball standout before playing in the NBA Summer League, and Lance Lewis, who excelled as an East Carolina receiver before spending time with four NFL franchises … Rated a three-star prospect by the 247Sports composite rankings.
DRINKWITZ ON HEILIG: “Jourdan Heilig is a runner and a hitter. He’s a physical player who plays with great effort from Concord.”
* Lyle Hiers – OL
Lake Wales, Fla. (Lake Wales)
BIO: Four-year offensive lineman for a Lake Wales team that went 10-2 in 2018 with per-game averages of 226.5 rushing yards, 412.1 total yards and 35.4 points … Excelled at offensive tackle while also seeing time at guard and center in his career … Credited with as many as five pancake blocks in a game as a senior … Team went 18-5 over his final two seasons … An honor roll student at Lake Wales … Hiers’ older brother, Luke, started his college career at UCF before transferring to Warner University … Played for coach TraVaris Johnson at Lake Wales … Rated a three-star prospect by the 247Sports composite rankings.
DRINKWITZ ON HIERS: “Lyle Hiers is an athletic, tough and physical player in the trenches. He can really come out of his hips.”
* Ricky Kofoed – TE
Charlotte, N.C. (Charlotte Christian)
BIO: Finished career with back-to-back NCISAA state titles a Charlotte Christian, where he caught 26 passes for 446 yards and five touchdowns for an 11-0 team as a senior … A two-time all-conference and all-state selection … In his final three years, had 80 catches for 1,218 yards and 14 touchdowns … Made 30 receptions for 452 yards and four touchdowns as a junior following a sophomore season in which he recorded 24 catches for 320 yards and five scores … As a defender, had 119 career tackles and 8.5 career sacks, highlighted by four sacks as a sophomore and 90 tackles as a junior … Posted 55 tackles and three sacks as a senior … Made seven catches for 156 yards with a 57-yard score in a 47-21 win against Providence Day in the 2017 state title game and followed that with two catches for 68 yards and a 59-yard score in a 43-14 victory against The Christ School in the 2018 state final … Best game as a senior was a 104-yard, two-touchdown effort against Charlotte Latin … A top target for Charlotte Christian quarterback and Mississippi State recruit Garrett Shrader … In his three-year run that also included a state runner-up finish as a sophomore, the Knights went 31-3 under coach Jason Estep … A three-star prospect in the 247Sports composite rankings.
DRINKWITZ ON KOFOED: “Ricky Kofoed is long and athletic. He plays multiple positions from Charlotte Christian and has got great hands and great feel. He will continue to be a good player for us in our tight end room, and we’re excited about his upside.”
* Nicholas Ross – DB
Marietta, Ga. (Kell)
BIO: Had 69 tackles (50 solo), two forced fumbles and five pass breakups during the 10-game regular season as a senior for a Class 5-A team that went 9-3 under coach Brett Sloan … Posted a season-high 13 tackles against Rome during his final prep season … Recorded 80 tackles as a junior and 30 as a sophomore on a state semifinal team that went 11-3 … A three-star prospect by the 247Sports composite rankings.
DRINKWITZ ON ROSS: “Nicholas Ross is a physical ballhawk. He can make plays sideline to sideline and has great ball skills. He will hit from the safety position. I can’t wait to add him to our secondary.”
* Luke Smith – DL
Lebanon, Tenn. (Friendship Christian)
BIO: Four-time Division II-A Middle/East All-Region player and the region MVP as a senior playing just outside of Nashville … Two-time all-state and all-county selection … Had 31 tackles for loss and seven sacks among his 72 stops as a senior nose tackle for a 10-3 team that reached the Division II Class A state final … Also a left guard and long snapper, helped Friendship Christian go 24-2 over the last two seasons …Recorded back-to-back games with seven tackles for loss apiece against Clarksville Academy and Middle Tennessee Christian, which gave up 14 tackles to the interior lineman … Had a three-sack game against Fayette Academy … Posted 219 career tackles (197 solo), 57.0 tackles for loss and 21 sacks in 45 career games … Coached by John McNeal at Friendship Christian … Considered a three-star prospect by the 247Sports composite rankings.
DRINKWITZ ON SMITH: “Luke Smith is a big, physical nose who has a good motor in the trenches.”
* Christian Wells – WR
Fort Lauderdale, N.C. (University School)
BIO: Standout, big-play receiver as a senior on an 11-2 team coached by Daniel Luque … Averaged approximately 30 yards per catch, as he followed a four-catch, 139-yard, two-touchdown effort in a second-round playoff win with two more touchdowns in a Class 4-A semifinal loss. That game included a 32-yard touchdown, a 17-yard touchdown and a one-handed, 23-yard reception … Also contributed as a defensive back for the Sharks … Reached the state semifinals as a junior, catching 23 passes for 391 yards on a 10-2 team … Rated a three-star prospect by the 247Sports composite rankings.
DRINKWITZ ON WELLS: “Christian Wells is a dynamic player who has an extreme catch radius and can make all the catches. He has great hands and speed. He creates a coverage mismatch for DBs.”