Football: Early Signing Period

BEAUMONT, Texas – The Lamar University Cardinals signed five high school standouts to National Letters of Intent, and added five junior college transfers announced LU head coach Mike Schultz at a press conference Wednesday morning in the Dauphin Athletics Complex.

The 2017-18 season marks the first year the NCAA allowed an early signing period for high school seniors in the sport of football, a switch from the traditional National Signing Day during the first week of February. Players who don’t sign during the early signing period will also have an opportunity to sign with the school of their choice in six weeks.

The Cards’ early signing class is evenly balanced with five signees on the offensive side of the ball and the other five on defense.

The position breakdown on the offense consists of three offensive linemen, a running back and a quarterback. On defense, Big Red added two defensive linemen, two defensive backs and a linebacker.

“We’re extremely excited about the quality of this early signing class,” said Schultz. “We knew going in that we needed to add size and speed on both sides of the ball, and we accomplished that today. We were able to hit every need with the 10 guys we added.

“In terms of the overall balance of the class, that is something we knew we had to get done this year. We went into the recruiting process knowing we needed ‘X’ number of guys on the offensive end and ‘X’ on defense,” added Schultz.

The Cardinals continue to place a focus on the Golden Triangle under Schultz’s leadership. Big Red added two more local standouts to the fold in West Brook High School running back James Jones and defensive back Steven Jones.

The 2017 early signing class also expanded beyond the reach of the Lone Star State. The newest members to the football roster represent four different states including Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi and California.

With the graduation of one quarterback following the 2017 season and another entering his final year of eligibility, the quarterback position was very important entering the 2017 recruiting process. The Cardinals were able to fill this need with the addition of 6-3, 200-pound Killeen prospect Marcellus Johnson. A two-star athlete, Johnson completed 178 passes for 2,128 yards and 15 touchdowns as a senior. He also rushed for 827 yards and eight scores.

LU continues to bulk up in the trenches. The Cardinals’ three newest offensive linemen join a strong group of signees from last season. Over the course of his first two signing classes, Schultz has added eight new players on the offensive front. The incoming offensive linemen average 6-2, 285 pounds.

“We feel good about where we’re headed up front,” said Schultz. “When you look at who we have coming back, along with who we signed last year in addition to this early class and we’ve added a great deal of talent to the line. In addition to their size up front, I also really like the athleticism of the linemen we’ve signed today.”

The most pivotal of the offensive line signees comes in the form of 6-1, 280-pound transfer Stephon Cooper. A center for Mississippi Gulf Coast CC, Cooper’s signing comes at a key time for the Cardinals as three-year starter and 2017 honorable mention All-Southland selection Matt Oubre has exhausted his eligibility.

The Cardinals two defensive line signees only serve to strengthen what was a very young squad this past season. The Cardinals return three of their four starters from last season, but will look to replace an honorable mention all-conference pick in defensive end Manasseh Miles. Darien Wilson (Missouri City, Texas) and Hunter Adams (Houston, Texas) add immediate size and strength to the position. Wilson stands 6-0, 315, while Adams is 6-1, 280.

Over the course of the past several years, the word that everyone focuses on coming into signing day is ‘stars.’ Everyone wants to know how many stars a recruit has. The Cardinals added a California defensive back that was one of the most highly-recruited players in the nation coming out of high school. A former four-star athlete, Stanley Norman bring size (6-1, 185) and speed the Cardinals’ secondary. Norman originally signed with Arizona State after playing in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, and comes to Beaumont after spending the 2017 season at Cerritos College.

“I was extremely excited about the addition of Stanley ‘Scrappy’ Norman,” said Schultz. “He was a national recruit coming out of high school, and brings some big-time speed to our secondary. In addition to Norman, we also got faster with the addition of Steven (defensive back) and James Jones (running back) from West Brook High School. This class includes some big-time speed guys, size and guys who are already benching 500 pounds. We feel good about where we’re at as we turn our focus to National Signing Day in February. Because we were able to fill our needs today, we can narrow our focus a little bit more when it comes to February.”


Hunter Adams • DL • 6-1 • 280 • Houston, Texas/Cy-Fair HS
High School: A two-star prospect according to and Rivals … Ranked No. 410 in the state of Texas, and rated as the No. 165 defensive tackle in the state ( … A 2015 All-District 17-6A second-team selection … Garnered first-team all-district honors in 2016 and was named defensive lineman of the year … Recorded 92 total tackles, including 24 tackles for losses during his career … Was also credited with six sacks, a forced fumble and an interception … Returned the interception 36 yards for a touchdown … Adams led a defense that ranked first in the league in rushing defense, passing defense and total defense … Chose LU over Army … Also received recruiting attention from Air Force, McNeese and Stephen F. Austin … Personal: Son of Dagar and Savrina Adams … Born Dec. 20, 1998, in Hempstead, N.Y. … Two-time first-team Academic All-District.

Bless Harris • OL • 6-4 • 270 • St. Augustine, La./St. Augustine HS
High School: A two-star offensive linemen … A first-team all-district selection … Recorded more than 35 pancake blocks and allowed zero sacks … Rated as the No. 143 player in the state of Louisiana according to 247Sports … An all-metro honoree who earned all-state consideration … Helped is high school squad to one of the biggest turnarounds in the nation as a junior … After going 2-9 as a sophomore St. Augustine posted a 7-3 (.700) record the following season … SAHS went 14-7 (.667) in his final two seasons … Personal: Son of Latchia Williams … Born May 8, 2000.

Marcellus Johnson • QB • 6-3 • 200 • Killeen, Texas/Killeen HS
High School: A two-star prospect according to … Completed 178 passes (.571) for 2,128 yards and 15 touchdowns with only five interceptions as a senior … Also carried the ball 151 times for 827 yards and eight touchdowns … Second-team all-district selection following his junior season … Most improved offensive player as a junior … A three-year letterwinner on the gridiron … Also received recruiting attention from Louisiana-Monroe … A standout out on the track as well … Personal: Son of Lawrence and Jolene Johnson … Born Aug. 8, 2000, in San Antonio, Texas.

James Jones • RB • 5-8 • 172 • Beaumont, Texas/West Brook HS
High School: A first-team all-district running back … A three-year letterwinner in football and track … Guided West Brook to 26 victories in his three season with the team … Garnered first-team all-district honors following a junior season that saw him rush for 853 yards and 10 touchdowns, and haul in five passes for 105 yards … Followed that up with a first-team all-district honor as a senior … Rushed for nearly 1,600 yards (8.2 ypc) and 23 touchdowns during his career … Caught 17 passes for 263 yards as a senior … Personal: Son of Steven Sr. and Christine Jones … Born Jan. 6, 2000 … Twin brother, Steven, is also an early signee with the Cardinals.

Steven Jones • DB • 5-8 • 165 • Beaumont, Texas/West Brook HS
High School: A two-star prospect … A second-team all-district corner back … Guided West Brook HS to a 26-10 (.722) overall record over the course of his three seasons with the team … A multiple-time all-district sprinter on the track … Chose LU over Army … Personal: Son of Steven Sr. and Christine Jones … Born Jan. 6, 2000 … Twin brother, James, is also an early signee with the Cardinals … Two-time Academic All-District pick and a 2017 Academic All-State selection.

Stephon Cooper • C • 6-1 • 280 • Perkinston, Miss./Gulfport HS (Mississippi Gulf Coast CC)
Junior College: Two-year letterwinner … High School: Garnered first-team All-Region 4-6A honors … Guided prep squad to a division title as a sophomore and senior … Helped lead the Gulfport powerlifting team to a 6A state title, while he finished second in the individual standings … A three-sport letterwinner … Academic All-American … Personal: Son of Latoya Chatman and Steven Cooper … Born July 1, 1997, in Compton, Calif.

Aires Gilmore-Gardner • OL • 6-3 • 305 • Corsicana, Texas/Jersey Village HS (Navarro College)
Junior College: A two-year letterwinner on Navarro’s front five … High School: A three-year starter on the offensive line … Received all-district recognition all three seasons … Was a 2015 First-Team All-District 17-6A selection … Earned second-team all-district honors as a junior … Opened his career by earning honorable mention all-district honors as a sophomore … Also earned three letters in track and field … Personal: Son of Linda Garrett … Born June 27, 1997.

Stanley Norman • CB • 6-1 • 185 • Norwalk, Calif./Serra HS (Cerritos College)
Junior College: Signed with Arizona State before transferring to Cerritos … Recorded 39 tackles, including 2.5 tackles for losses … Was also credited with five pass breakups, one fumble recovery and an interception … High School: Was a four-star athlete that was ranked as one of the top players in the state of California… Had offers from 23 Division I school … A three-time Army All-American … Played in the U.S. Army All-America Bowl … Three-time All-CIF and all-league selection … A four-sport athlete in high school … Personal: Son of Stanley and Cassandra Norman … Born in Los Angeles, CA on March 13, 1997.

Isaiah Spencer • LB • 6-0 • 200 • Hattiesburg, Miss./Oak Grove HS (Mississippi Gulf Coast CC)
Junior College: Spent two seasons at Southern Mississippi before transferring to Mississippi Gulf Coast CC … Recorded 31 tackles, including 22 solo stops for MGCCC … High School: Guided prep squad to a state championship as a junior, and a state runner-up finish as a senior … Selected to play in the Bernard Blackwell North-South All Star Classic … Named first-team all-state, all-district and all-area in 2014 … Recorded 66 tackles (35 solos, 31 assists) with 11 sacks, 10 quarterback hurries, two pass breakups, two fumble recoveries and a forced fumble … Personal: Son of Cheryl and Lorenzo Spencer … Born on April 19, 1996 in Hiedelburg, Germany … Father played baseball at Florida A&M.

Darien Wilson • DL • 6-0 • 315 • Missouri City, Texas/Hightower HS (Tyler JC)
Junior College: Played in nine games recording 29 tackles as a sophomore … Was also credited with 15 solo stops, two sacks and a fumble recovery … Also received recruiting attention from Iowa State, UL Lafayette and North Texas … High School: First-team all-district and all-state as a senior … Second-team all-district selection as a junior … Recorded 160 total tackles, including 40 sacks, during his high school career … Guided prep squad to a 10-0 record as a senior … Two-time Academic All-District … Personal: Son of Kevin and Melinda Wilson.

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