BOONE, N.C. — With the addition of three Class of 2020 signees Wednesday, App State Football completed a 20-player recruiting class that has the highest group ranking in the program’s FBS history.
With the traditional National Signing Day occurring on the first Wednesday in February, the Mountaineers added to a 17-player group from the early signing period in mid-December by welcoming defensive back Anderson Castle, tight end August Drews and running back Nate Noel.
Six of the December signees are already in Boone as early enrollees: offensive lineman Damion Daley, linebacker Kevon Haigler, offensive lineman Austin Reeves, quarterback Navy Shuler, defensive back Mike Smith and offensive lineman Seth Williams.
Shawn Clark is entering his first season as App State’s head coach. He made his head coaching debut during a 2019 bowl appearance that capped a 13-1 season in which the Mountaineers won their fourth straight Sun Belt title and fifth bowl game in as many tries at the FBS level.
“We’re excited to welcome the 2020 signing class to The Rock,” Clark said. “These young men that signed with us in December and today come from great families, have strong academic backgrounds and add a lot of talent to our football team.
“Our coaches and staff are committed to giving them a world-class experience and continuing to compete for championships. We will work together every day to carry on the proud tradition of App State Football.”
The signing class as a whole includes five defensive backs, four defensive linemen, three offensive linemen, three linebackers, two tight ends, one quarterback, one receiver and one running back.
In becoming the first FBS program from North Carolina to win 13 games in a season and ending 2019 as the top-ranked team in North Carolina for the second straight year, App State added six in-state signees. There were also six signees from South Carolina, four from Florida, three from Georgia and one from the Washington, D.C., area.
“Overall, we’re excited,” App State recruiting coordinator Justin Watts said. “They have to get here, and then they have to do what we think they can do, and it’s our job to coach them up to what we think they can be. We signed some guys that are long at positions we needed that, and at places like the defensive side of the ball, at receiver, guys that can really run.”
The Mountaineers’ average player grade of 82.57 from 247Sports is their highest since the FCS-to-FBS transition and the second-highest average by any Sun Belt team since App State joined the league. It ranks second in the league this year, behind just Louisiana’s 82.93 average, and among the top 15 nationally for Group of Five programs.
Based on the 247Sports ratings, the 2020 class includes eight of the Mountaineers’ 20 highest-graded prospects since the move to the FBS level, with defensive back Stan Ellis, linebacker Je’Mari Littlejohn, defensive back Tommy Wright and Noel all ranking among the top 10.
Noel, a first-team All-Dade County rusher from a state championship team at Miami’s Northwestern High School, had five touchdown runs of at least 50 yards en route to 1,556 rushing yards as a senior. Castle made the Shrine Bowl as an athletic, multi-positional standout at Watauga High School in Boone, and Drews excelled as a receiver and blocker at Sarasota High School in Florida.
CLASS OF 2020 SIGNEES
Anderson Castle – DB
Boone, N.C. (Watauga)
BIO: Shrine Bowl selection excelled as a defensive back and quarterback for Watauga High School in Boone … As a senior, recorded 53 tackles, nine PBUs, one fumble recovery and one forced fumble as a defensive leader for a Watauga team that went 13-2 and reached the 3-AA Western final … As the Pioneers’ quarterback in 2019, the athletic Castle rushed for 2,223 yards, passed for 1,190 and accounted for 49 touchdowns (36 rushing) … Full-time varsity player for three seasons, with Watauga amassing a 36-6 record as he totaled 4,420 rushing yards, 2,629 passing yards with 101 touchdowns (70 rushing) … Rushed for 1,456 yards for a 10-3 team as a sophomore and 741 yards in 10 games for a 13-1 team as a junior in 2018 … Recovered six fumbles in three seasons defensively … Played for coach Ryan Habich at Watauga … Three-sport athlete who has also been an all-conference performer in basketball and baseball … Son of Todd Castle … Has one sibling: Hamilton … Rated a three-star prospect by 247Sports.
Ronald Clarke – DB
Buford, Ga. (Mill Creek)
BIO: Had 37 tackles, one interception, eight PBUs, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery as a senior while helping Mill Creek go 10-3 and reach the state 7-A quarterfinals … Made 55 tackles with one interception, six PBUs, one fumble recovery and one forced fumble as a junior … A track standout who has run sprints and relays at Mill Creek … Played for coach Josh Lovelady at Mill Creek … Rated a three-star prospect by 247Sports.
Damion Daley – OL
Columbia, S.C. (Georgia Military)
BIO: Early enrollee … Played offensive line and helped Georgia Military post an 8-3 record and rank 12th nationally at the junior college level in 2019 … Played for coach Bert Williams at Georgia Military … Redshirted at Colorado State in 2018 while appearing in one game as a true freshman defensive lineman … Attended Ridge View High School in Columbia, S.C. … At Ridge View, a two-time all-state and all-region selection who was named the region’s top defender … As a prep senior, represented South Carolina in the Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas … Had 86 tackles, 21 tackles for loss, five sacks and two interceptions as a prep senior … Finished prep career with 164 tackles, 42 tackles for loss, six sacks, two interceptions, two fumble recoveries and two forced fumbles … Also an all-state performer in track … Daley’s brother, Dennis, is an offensive lineman for the Carolina Panthers.
DeAndre Dingle-Prince – DL
Sanford, N.C. (Lee County)
BIO: Team captain who helped lead Lee County to the state 3-AA final and a 15-1 record as a senior … Recorded 96 tackles (66 solo), 43 tackles for loss, 12 sacks, eight blocked kicks, eight QB hurries and one fumble recovery for the state finalist in 2019 … Three-year starter helped lead team to a 38-3 record and three conference titles in those seasons … Also blocked for an offensive line that helped the offense average more than 40 points a game and amass more than 15,000 yards … All-conference as a senior … Named first-team all-conference at defensive tackle as a junior with 67 tackles, 31 tackles for loss, 12 sacks, eight QB hurries, two fumble recoveries and three blocked kicks … Coached by Steve Burdeau at Lee County … Rated a three-star prospect by 247Sports.
August Drews – TE
Sarasota, Fla. (Sarasota)
BIO: Excelled as a tight end for a Sarasota team that rushed for 205.4 yards per game in 2019 and went 6-4 to post its best record since 2006 … Scored touchdowns on four of his 15 receptions (third-highest total on the team) in 2019 and averaged 14.3 yards per catch … Also a long snapper, ranked No. 18 nationally at that position in the 2020 class by Kohl’s Football … Played for coach Spencer Hodges at Sarasota … Three-sport athlete at Sarasota and great-grandson of former MLB pitcher Karl Drews … Rated a two-star prospect by 247Sports.
Stan Ellis – DB
Gaffney, S.C. (Gaffney)
BIO: Defensive back and receiver on a Gaffney team that reached a state 5-A semifinal, where he scored a 42-yard touchdown … Intercepted three passes, broke up five more, recovered a fumble and blocked a kick during an injury-interrupted senior year … As a defender, completed prep career with four interceptions, four blocked kicks, two defensive touchdowns, one forced fumble, five tackles for loss and 38 total stops …Finished prep receiving career with 42 catches for 1,010 yards, 12 receiving touchdowns and three passing TDs … Caught 31 passes for 710 yards and eight touchdowns as a junior … Played for coach Dan Jones at Gaffney … Rated a three-star prospect by 247Sports and Rivals … 247Sports also listed him as the 13th-best prospect from South Carolina.
Kevon Haigler – LB
Hartsville, S.C. (Hartsville)
BIO: Early enrollee … Class 4-A all-state selection as a senior for a 10-4 team that reached the state 4-A semifinals … Selected to represent South Carolina in the 2019 Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas … Had 94 tackles, six sacks, 17 tackles for loss and three interceptions as a senior … Named 4-A All-Region 6 and All-Pee Dee as a junior, when he had 94 tackles, three sacks, three forced fumbles, one interception and one fumble recovery … A four-year starter and member of the SCACA all-state team … Played for coach Jeff Calabrese at Hartsville … Rated a three-star prospect by 247Sports and Rivals … Listed as the 19th-best prospect from South Carolina by Rivals.
Christan Horn – WR
Columbia, S.C. (Westwood)
BIO: Limited to four games as a senior due to injury, had 37 catches for 540 yards and four touchdowns on an 8-4 team that reached the second round of the state 4-A playoffs … Played receiver and quarterback in high school … State champion in the 400 meters at South Carolina’s 4-A track championships as a junior with a time of 47.69 seconds … Played for coach Matt Quinn as a senior at Westwood … Rated a three-star prospect by 247Sports.
Je’Mari Littlejohn – LB
Gaffney, S.C. (Gaffney)
BIO: Selected to represent South Carolina as a member of the Shrine Bowl team … After appearing in three games as a senior, sidelined by an injury for the rest of the season as Gaffney reached a state 5-A semifinal … Finished prep career with 141 tackles, 34 tackles for loss, 16.5 sacks, four QB hurries, three forced fumbles, one fumble recovery, one interception, one blocked punt and two defensive touchdowns … Before the injury as a senior, had 7.0 tackles for loss and four rushing TDs in those three game appearances … Had 54 tackles, 11 sacks, 20 tackles for loss, 23 QB hurries, an interception and a blocked punt as a junior … Played for coach Dan Jones at Gaffney … Rated a three-star prospect by 247Sports and Rivals, which both listed him as the 18th-best prospect from South Carolina.
Jalen McLeod – LB
Laurel, Md. (Friendship Collegiate Academy)
BIO: Standout defender for a team that went 10-3 and repeated as the D.C. Interscholastic Athletic Association state 2-A champion in 2019 … Had 60 tackles, 10 sacks, five forced fumbles, four interceptions and 15 QB hurries as a senior … As a junior, helped lead his team to a 10-3 record and a DCSAA state championship with a 13-0 record … Named honorable mention All-Met by The Washington Post … Played for coach Mike Hunter at Friendship Collegiate Academy … Rated a three-star prospect by 247Sports.
Nate Noel – RB
Miami, Fla. (Northwestern)
BIO: First-team All-Dade County from the Miami Herald as a senior … Helped Miami Northwestern win a third straight 5-A state title in 2019 by rushing for 1,556 yards and 22 touchdowns for a 13-2 team … As a senior, had eight touchdown runs of at least 20 yards and five touchdown runs of at least 50 yards … Rushed for three touchdowns in a 34-17 victory in the 2019 state title game … Part of a state championship 4×100 relay team as a track and field sprinter as a junior, as his team posted a time of 40.74 seconds … Coached by Max Edwards at Miami Northwestern, the alma mater for App State defensive end Demetrius Taylor … Rated a three-star prospect by 247Sports.
Stephen Passeggiata – DL
Wellington, Fla. (Wellington)
BIO: Named to the Palm Beach Post’s Super 11 team entering his senior season … First-team All-Palm Beach Post 8A-6A, first-team all-conference and third-team all-state as a junior with 68 tackles, 14 sacks and 27 tackles for loss … Played for coach Tom Abel at Wellington … Rated a three-star prospect by 247Sports.
Austin Reeves – OL
Mooresville, N.C. (Lake Norman)
BIO: Early enrollee … All-conference selection as a senior leader at Lake Norman … Helped the Wildcats rush for more than 2,500 yards in 2019 … Coached by Jonathan Oliphant at Lake Norman … Rated a three-star prospect by 247Sports.
Jamar Rucks – DL
Buford, Ga. (Lanier)
BIO: Named an All-Region 8-AAAAAA selection after posting 9.0 sacks, 12.0 tackles for loss, 11 QB hurries and 49 total tackles as a senior … Helped Lanier go 10-2 and reach Georgia’s state 6-A quarterfinals in 2019 … On a 10-4 team as a junior, had 41 tackles, 9.0 tackles for loss, 3.0 sacks and 13 QB hurries … Made honorable mention all-region in 2018 … Played for coach Korey Mobbs at Lanier … Rated a three-star prospect by 247Sports and Rivals.
Markell Samuel – DL
Fort Bragg, N.C. (E.E. Smith)
BIO: Recorded 70 tackles (50 solo), six sacks and three fumble recoveries as a senior at E.E. Smith … Had three multi-sack games and three TFLs in a close loss to a strong Terry Sanford team in 2019 … Late bloomer who focused more on basketball early in high school and made his varsity football debut as a junior, when he posted 52 tackles, four sacks and two forced fumbles … Two-time all-conference selection … Played for coach Deron Donald as a senior for the Golden Bulls … Rated a three-star prospect by 247Sports.
Navy Shuler – QB
Fletcher, N.C. (Christ School)
BIO: Early enrollee … Over final two prep seasons, threw for more than 6,000 yards with 64 TDs … Finished career with a 67.3 completion percentage … As a junior for a state finalist, became the first Western North Carolina (WNC) quarterback to throw for more than 4,000 yards … Averaged 209.5 passing yards and two TD throws a game as a senior, when he also averaged 9.1 yards per rush while recording 346 rushing yards … Threw for a season-high 310 yards in a 14-13 win against Providence Day as a senior … During his team’s 10-2 season in 2018, had a game with 581 passing yards and six touchdowns … Threw for at least 300 yards in 10 games that season … Played for coach Nick Luhm during his senior year and Tommy Langford as a junior … Son of former Tennessee and NFL quarterback Heath Shuler, who worked as a volunteer assistant for Luhm … Rated a three-star prospect by 247Sports and Rivals.
Mike Smith – DB
Jacksonville, Fla. (First Coast)
BIO: Early enrollee … Entered the season ranked No. 25 on the top 40 list for northeast Florida prospects … Averaged five tackles and three PBUs a game as a senior, when he totaled two interceptions … Named all-conference as a senior … Defensive captain …. Played for coach Marty Lee at First Coast … Rated a three-star prospect by 247Sports.
Seth Williams – OL
Statesville, N.C. (Statesville)
BIO: Early enrollee … Three-year starter on the offensive line with 150 pancake blocks as Statesville went 30-8 over those three seasons … First-team all-state from NCPreps.com … All-conference as a senior for a Statesville team that took a 12-0 record into a second-round playoff loss … 2019 team captain with 62 pancakes as a senior … Instrumental part of an offense that averaged 43.5 points during the 12 wins … Played center and offensive tackle … Key part of offensive line that created holes as the Greyhounds rushed for 2,617 yards and threw for 2,905 in 2019 … Named first-team all-conference and all-county as a junior, when he recorded 56 pancake blocks … Played for coach Randall Gusler at Statesville … Rated a three-star prospect by 247Sports.
Eli Wilson – TE
Piedmont, S.C. (Wren)
BIO: As an all-state pick, helped lead Wren to a 13-2 record and its first state 4-A championship in South Carolina … Finished his senior season with 1,677 receiving yards and 20 touchdown catches on 91 receptions as a wide receiver … North all-star team’s MVP in the Touchstone Energy Cooperatives Bowl with six receptions for 84 yards, including a one-handed catch for 33 yards … Put up more than 100 yards in seven of the first eight games as a senior, highlighted by a three-touchdown, 195-yard game … Had a season-high 203 receiving yards with three TDs on eight catches in a 65-29 win against Greer … Combined for 26 catches in Wren’s only two losses, which were games decided by eight and six points … Had 12 touchdown catches and 1,140 receiving yards as a junior, when he was named an all-state and all-region performer … Ended prep career with 3,124 receiving yards, 179 catches and 33 TD catches … Father, Mike, played football at Furman from 1984-87 … Also played basketball in each of his first three years at Wren and was the team’s leading rebounder … Played football for coach Jeff Tate at Wren … Rated a three-star prospect by 247Sports.
Tommy Wright – DB
Lithonia, Ga. (Southwest DeKalb)
BIO: Named the Athlete of the Year by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution on the all-region team for the 5-AAAAA level … Made the first-team defense as a cornerback and the second-team offense as a wide receiver … Had an 83-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in his final game for Southwest, which went 9-2 in 2019 … Had three fumble recoveries, two interceptions and four special teams TDs for a 10-1 team as a junior, when he was named an all-region athlete … Coached at Southwest by Damien Wimes … Also a track standout, has run the 100 meters in 11.24 seconds and gone a school-record 23 feet, 11 inches in the long jump … Rated a three-star prospect and the nation’s No. 35 athlete by 247Sports.