The Huntsville Item, Huntsville, TX


February 5, 2014

SAM HOUSTON STATE FOOTBALL — Long road to signing day for Bearkats

SHSU assistant football coaches faced challenges in last month of recruiting process

HUNTSVILLE — Recruiting did not come easy to the Sam Houston State football coaches this offseason.

With former head coach Willie Fritz accepting the Georgia Southern job last month, only two days before a major recruiting visit, the remaining members of the Bearkat coaching staff scrambled to maintain order on the recruiting trail.

Along with Fritz, Sam Houston lost six of its 10 assistant coaches, which meant the four remaining assistants would have to cover more ground in the coming weeks.

Defensive coordinator Mike Collins took over the Southeast Texas area in addition to already recruiting East Texas. Offensive line coach and recruiting coordinator Bart Tatum took over the entire Houston area.

Special teams coach Robby Discher went from recruiting South Texas and every out-of-state junior college to also covering Central Texas and parts of the Dallas area.

Tight ends coach Kyle Segler’s recruiting grounds extended from Oklahoma and the North Texas area to all of Fort Worth and parts of Dallas.

“It was tough in the interim without a head coach,” Discher said. “We had four guys taking over the areas of 10 guys. It was difficult but we kept it together the best we could and once Coach Keeler came in we had a name to sell the kids. The success he’s had speaks for itself, playing for eight titles in 20 years as a head coach, winning one as a player as well. His name sells itself and when you first actually meet him in person he’s even more impressive.

“We’ve got some big-time dudes. So this might be the best class we’ve signed since I’ve been here.”

The Bearkat coaches seem exhausted but they are excited about the class of 2014. They won’t tip their hands on any names until today’s press conference at noon. Yet the coaches did say they were pleased with how needs at certain positions were addressed, such as the secondary and linebackers.

“It was a year where we felt like we needed some help at linebacker,” Tatum said. “We graduated three very good linebackers. We feel like we’ve met that need. At this level, with the number of scholarships we work with, we need to be comprehensive every year. So there might be a year when we don’t need (a certain position). There are situations like that but typically, on a given year we’re going to be pretty well-rounded with our approach to what we’re looking at.”

Sam Houston introduced former Delaware coach K.C. Keeler as the new Bearkat coach on Jan. 23. The day before, Collins said Keeler watched film on recruits to get a sense for the kind of talent he would be inheriting.

By the time he met with recruits two days later, Keeler had scouting reviews of his own for different players.  

“He wanted to see those guys before they got here,” Collins said. “I think he was pleased with the guys he saw on film.”

Even though the Sam Houston lost a few recruits after Fritz’s departure, the assistants said the Kats still landed the majority of the players they wanted.

Collins said that after all of the dust clears, the Kats will have two of the top three defensive ends they recruited, one of the top three linebackers and two of the top six defensive backs coaches pursued.  

For all the inconvenience in recruiting over the past month, Sam Houston’s assistant coaches still credit Fritz for leaving the program in position to succeed going forward.

“Four years ago, I don’t think Sam Houston State could have hired K.C. Keeler,” Discher said. “That just speaks levels to how far the program’s come under Bobby Williams and the job Coach Fritz did. I think that’s kind of the goal when you take over a program, to leave it in a better spot than when you inherited it. Fritz did that and I think Coach Keeler is going to take it to the next level.”

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