Jacksonville State head football coach Rich Rodriguez and his coaching staff concentrated heavily on recruiting high school players during the NCAA Early Signing Period. Jacksonville State signed 14 players on Wednesday with eight players coming directly from high school.

A pair of in-state quarterbacks — Caden Creel of Fairhope High and Earl Woods III of Hueytown High — were included in the signing class. Both are considered undersized — Creel is 6-foot, 200 pounds and Woods is 5-foot-11, 185 pounds — but that doesn’t bother Rodriguez.

“You can be 150 pounds and run by somebody,” Rodriguez said, mentioning former West Virginia standout Pat White, who is from Mobile. “Pat White, maybe one of the best of all time, I don’t know if he ever got over 185 pounds his whole career. He was fast; they couldn’t tackle him. Caden is put together pretty well, 200 pounds, and Earl is 185. They may not be the tallest guys, but they’re not small. They’ve got good strength, and they can run. I’d rather have ones that run by somebody than try to run over them. I don’t want a quarterback to try and run over anybody.”

Rodriguez said the focus all along was building a foundation with high school recruits.

“We’re recruiting more high school guys than maybe anybody in the Group of 5,” said Rodriguez. “I don’t say we have to have a certain number of each. I just want everybody we sign to be good enough to win a championship with. Obviously, we think that or we wouldn’t sign them. It’s so crazy now, a lot of high school guys, maybe, get overlooked because guys are just looking for transfer portal guys. There [are] probably more high school players that would have got scholarships that aren’t getting one now, because of the transfer portal.”

An intriguing transfer portal signee for the Gamecocks is running back Malik Jackson, who comes from Louisiana-Monroe. Rodriguez was the offensive coordinator at ULM before he came to Jacksonville State. He coached Jackson.

“He played mostly slot receiver for us, until the end of the year we were banged up at running back,” Rodriguez said. “Put him at running back and he had two really good games against LSU and Lafayette. Love Malik, he’s going to have an easier transition than the rest of the guys because he knows the offense. He’s a talented guy who can run. He’ll play running back, he’ll play slot receiver as well.”


Caden Creel QB 6-0 200 Fairhope, Ala./Fairhope HS

Dajwon DeLoach LB 6-2 220 Columbus, Ga./Northside HS

Travis Franklin, Jr. SAF 5-11 180 Tyrone, Ga./Sandy Creek HS

Daveion Harley OL 6-2 305 Havana, Fla./Gadsden County HS

Malik Jackson RB 5-10 176 Opelika, Ala./Lufkin (Texas) HS/ULM

Kendall McCallum LB 6-2 230 Anniston, Ala./Oxford HS/Holmes (Miss.) CC

Xavier Morrow LB 6-3 234 Tuscaloosa, Ala./Paul Bryant HS/Independence (Kan.) CC

Ridge Redd TE 6-5 235 Calhoun, Ga./Sonoraville HS

KD Shepherd WR 6-2 192 Highland Home, Ala./Highland Home HS

Maddox Sunderman, OL, 6-5, 300  Madison, Ala./Bob Jones HS

Kekoura Tarnue CB 6-0 175 Osseo, Minn./Coon Rapids HS/Rochester (Minn.) CC

Aidan Thompson LB 6-2 235 Winder, Ga./Winder-Barrow HS

Quinzavious Warren DL 6-2 330 Canton, Miss./Canton HS/Northwest Mississippi CC

Earl Woods III QB 5-11 185 Hueytown, Ala./Hueytown HS

To connect with the author of this story, or to comment, email [email protected].

Don't miss out! Subscribe to our newsletter and get our top stories every weekday morning.