The University of West Florida Wednesday announced its second recruiting class, seven months to the day before the first-ever football game.
Beginning at six o’clock Wednesday morning, 16 high school seniors declared to Head Coach Pete Shinnick their intention to suit up for the Argonauts,
“We wanted to be able to add depth at certain positions,” said Shinnick, “While also continuing to build a roster that we feel can be competitive next year in the Gulf South Conference.”
Fifteen of the signees are from Florida, including one from Pensacola,Pine Forest High linebacker Ke’Shawn Showers. The sixteenth is from Georgia. Shinnick says more than 500 prospects were evaluated for their ability to fit into the program's criteria: athletically, academically, and character-wise. The players also offer depth on both sides of the ball, but mostly on defense.
“We were able to sign four defensive linemen,” Shinnick said. “The speed in our secondary, with the two young men we were able to sign there, and then continued to get more athletic at the wide receiver position.”
After establishing the football program in 2014, last year was a redshirt and practice year for the Argos. Those players helped set the tradition and the future look of the program. And unlike that class, these incoming players know that the next game is only months away. Shinnick adds that perhaps the best-selling point this year was that there were players already here, that had spent the equivalent of a full season working with the coaching staff.
“Last year, all those recruits had to believe us that we were good guys, and that we knew how to coach,” said Shinnick. “This year we actually had players who could back that up.”
Joining the 16 signees are eight mid-year transfers from other schools. Heading into spring practice next month, there are 96 players on the UWF roster.
“We’ll add these 16 true freshmen, and then we hope to, sometime around May, probably add a few more transfers to our roster,” Shinnick said. “And we’ll probably add a couple of walk-ons to that number as well.”
The roster for fall practice is expected to be as many as 120 players – 90 of them either true or redshirt freshmen. Meanwhile, the clock is ticking towards the September 3 opener at Ave Maria University in Naples.
“All that stuff we did before – the uniforms, or ‘Hey, let’s show the helmet,’ and ‘Let’s have our first practice’ – now we’re on the clock with everybody else,” said Shinnick.
West Florida’s spring football practice kicks off March 22, with the Spring Game on Saturday, April 16.