Old Dominion signed seven football players Wednesday, nearly one-third of an incoming recruiting class that recruiting services rate as the best in school history.
Four of the seven were junior college linebackers, giving the Monarchs much-needed help at the weakest position on the team. Also in the group were two high school players and a transfer from Fork Union Military Academy's postgraduate team.
All seven graduate this month and will enroll at ODU in January.
The biggest name is Justin Noye, a consensus three-star high school recruit from Rochester, N.Y., who will play safety.
Torrez Wentz, a 6-foot-2, 280-pound high school defensive tackle from Warren County in Georgia and Darius Garcia, an offensive lineman from Richmond who played at Fork Union, also signed.
The four junior college linebackers are:
* Reece Schmidt, a 6-3, 245-pound middle linebacker from Simi Valley, Calif., who played at Pierce College in Woodland Hills, Calif.
* James Kohl Adams-Hurd, a 6-2, 215-pound outside linebacker from Burbank, Calif., who also played at Pierce.
* Martez Simpson, a 6-foot, 225-pound Jackson, Miss., native who played at Pearl River Community College in Poplarville, Miss.
* Justin Gilchrist, a 6-foot-3, 235-pound middle linebacker from South Carolina who played at Antelope Valley College in Palmdale, Calif.
ODU coach Bobby Wilder said the four new linebackers will play prominent roles on a defense that struggled this fall.
The team loses senior linebacker John Darr, its second-leading career tackler. Wilder also dismissed three other linebackers, including two starters, for violating team rules. Another highly-touted freshman transferred before the season.
Of the seven linebackers on the roster, only freshman Richie Staton and junior D.J. Simon are scholarship players, although Anthony Wilson, a non-scholarship player, started before being injured.
"I'm very pleased with these four players because we needed immediate help and these four players provide immediate help," Wilder said.
All four have committed to enroll in January and remain at ODU during summer school. They will participate in workouts this winter and spring drills. They'll also join teammates during the summer for conditioning with ODU coaches.
"They will essentially have nine months to get ready to play football," Wilder said. "That's going to be a very key factor in their development."
Wednesday was the first day high school and junior college players who intend to enroll early can sign scholarship papers. The papers are binding for junior college players. They are not binding for high school players, though it's rare for a player to sign scholarship papers and not enroll.
The 247 Sports recruiting website rates ODU's recruiting class 77th among Football Bowl Subdivision schools and second in the 14-team Conference USA that ODU joins next season.
Noye played quarterback at East High, but the expected safety is listed by recruiting services as an "athlete." He committed to Connecticut in June, but opened up recruiting again after UConn coach Paul Pasqualoni was fired in September.
Noye turned down offers from Rutgers, Temple and several Mid-American Conference schools, including Buffalo. Noye, who is 6-1, 195 pounds, is rated the ninth-best high school senior in New York by the Rivals recruiting service.
Wentz, who played in the recent Georgia-South Carolina All-Star game, is rated a two-star recruit by 247 Sports. He rejected offers from Alabama-Birmingham, Georgia Southern and Mercer. Several SEC schools, including Kentucky, began to recruit him after he committed to ODU, but he stuck to his commitment.
Garcia, 6-4 and 277 pounds, played at Manchester High south of Richmond in 2012, where he was a first-team All-Metro choice. However, because he qualified under NCAA guidelines late in the recruiting process, he had only a handful of offers from smaller schools.
He transferred to Fork Union hoping to draw more interest and ended up with FBS offers from Alabama-Birmingham, Southern Mississippi, Temple and Kent State.
Simpson had 136 tackles his last two seasons at Madison High outside Jackson, Miss., including 15.5 sacks. He narrowed his choices to Western Kentucky and ODU while at Pearl River.
Gilchrist, rated a two-star recruit by 247 Sports, turned down offers from San Diego State, San Jose State, Northern Arizona and Northern Colorado.
Schmidt led Pierce with 63 tackles and added three sacks.
Adams-Hurd was a standout safety in high school who converted to outside linebacker at Pierce. He had scholarship offers from South Alabama, Portland State, Lamar and Savannah State.
ODU has six linebackers in its incoming class.
Wilder said he's hopeful that the four junior college signees, and a lineup that returns 57 lettermen "will allow us to protect our freshmen so that they don't have to play right away."
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