Charlotte 49ers’ football coach Brad Lambert knew the large senior class returning next season would limit the size of his 2016 recruiting class, forcing the staff to make the most of their available scholarships.
With a pair of four-star recruits and signees at a couple key positions, Lambert hopes the 49ers accomplished their goal.
The recruiting class included East Gaston running back Robert Washington, the first four-star player Charlotte has signed out of high school.
“We had to do it right, to find the right people,” Lambert said Wednesday of the process leading to the signing of 15 players. “But I think we did a good job of helping ourselves where we needed it.”
The recruiting class includes quarterback Kevin Olsen, who signed in December and enrolled for the spring semester. Olsen was a four-star recruit out of New Jersey and played at Riverside (Calif.) City College. He is the younger brother of Carolina Panthers tight end Gregg Olsen.
A late addition Wednesday was Washington, who played last season at East Gaston after moving from SouthLake Christian Academy in Huntersville. Washington, rated a four-star prospect by ESPN, had committed to Syracuse but backed out last summer.
“We told him that at some point, a top recruit from the Charlotte area will choose to stay here and play football, and we hoped it would be him,” Lambert said. “We tell players that they can come to Charlotte and accomplish whatever they want to do.”
This was the first time in Charlotte’s five-year football history that someone other than Phil Ratliff headed the recruiting process. Ratliff, recruiting coordinator and offensive line coach, died in August of heart-related problems. Assistant coaches Napoleon Sykes (defense) and Joe Tereshinski (offense) were appointed to direct recruiting.
3 who might matter
Ben LeMay: A 5-foot-9, 210-pound running back from Butler High, LeMay rushed for 4,059 yards and scored 74 touchdowns during his high school career. An older brother, Uriah, is a wide receiver with the 49ers. Charlotte coaches said Ben LeMay and Washington give the team strong backup help to standout running back Kalif Phillips.
Kevin Olsen: At 6-3 and 220 pounds, he is a big quarterback with a strong arm. He signed with Miami but was dismissed from the team. He threw for more than 1,000 yards last season at Riverside (Calif.) City College and was listed as the No. 4 quarterback in the nation his senior year by Scout.com. Olsen could be an answer at a position where the 49ers had consistent problems last season.
Robert Washington: He rushed for 5,762 yards in three high school seasons, leading SouthLake Christian to two state championships and helping East Gaston reach the playoffs last fall for the first time in nine years. He had been heavily recruited by Alabama and Pittsburgh.
▪ Theis Bagnkop probably fills two firsts for the 49ers – their first signee from Denmark and their first former ice hockey player. A 6-4, 300-pound offensive lineman, Bagnkop would be an imposing presence on the ice.
▪ Jenny Ratliff, wife of former recruiting coordinator Phil Ratliff, sent a box of bagels to the 49ers’ coaching staff Wednesday morning. “This was an emotional day for us,” Lambert said. “Signing day was always one of coach Ratliff’s biggest days of the year.”
▪ The 49ers had plenty of problems at quarterback last season, but the addition of Olsen and Cody Keith, a transfer from East Carolina, should give the team plenty of options at the position in 2016. All three quarterbacks who played last fall will return, too.
▪ National experts apparently weren’t overwhelmed with the 49ers’ recruiting class. The website 247sports.com, which basis ratings on an average of several recruiting services, ranked Charlotte 122nd of 130 Football Bowl Subdivision teams.
▪ Marshall was the top Conference USA recruiter, according to 247sports.com. The Thundering Herd ranked 60th nationally. Alabama-Birmingham, which dropped football in 2014 but will renew the problem in 2017, was 61st nationally and second in C-USA. Completing the conference rankings were Southern Mississippi, Middle Tennessee, Florida Atlantic, Western Kentucky, Florida International, Old Dominion, Texas-El Paso, North Texas, Texas-San Antonio, Charlotte and Rice.