Christmas came a second time for the University of West Florida football program, through college football’s National Signing Day on Wednesday.
Working in the Argonauts “war room” inside the football offices on campus, Head Coach Pete Shinnick and his staff are staring intently at laptop screens — determining which high school prospects are going where — and who’s coming to West Florida.
The coaches are working to replace 30 players from last year’s squad who are graduating. The 15 players committing to UWF could help.
“This is a good group to add to the group we already brought in at semester,” said Shinnick. “I think we’ve got a couple of other guys as this thing goes along that we’ll probably add to it. But [I] like where we’re at and like the commitment of the young men who are joining us right now.”
The Argos posted a 6-5 mark in 2018 and missed the Division-2 playoffs. One sore spot was at quarterback – three others were forced into action last season after starter Mike Beaudry and backup Sam Vaughn went down with injuries.
Shinnick appears to be pleased with the stockpile of arms heading into spring practice.
“Young man by the name of Evan Johnson, who we redshirted last year because he transferred in – he was a walk-on from Missouri,” Shinnick said. “Nick Belz coming back; we have Payton Calhoun and Grey Jackson who were on the roster. We got J.C. Robles, transfer from Colorado State; and then Corey Wilsher from North Marion [HS in Citra, FL], leading them to a state championship opportunity.”
One of the big fish landed by the Argos is a local player – Cooper Harris from Gulf Breeze High School. Shinnick says Harris was signed as an “athlete,” rather than for a specific position.
“We liked his versatility; we liked the things that he did,” Shinnick said. “He had a really good camp here as a wide receiver. But then I liked what he did as a quarterback.”
Overall, Shinnick is comfortable with the signings on both sides of the ball.
“Signing two running backs, signing a couple of athletes; we got a wide receiver, got three DBs [defensive backs], said the Coach. “Two junior college [defensive] linemen to add with the linemen. When you kind of piece together what we did, starting in January when we announced that [transfer] group to what we have right now, [it’s a] very good combination here.”
In college football, recruiting is said to be one of the sport’s three seasons, along with spring practice and the fall playing season. Once a prospect indicates a desire to come to UWF — or any other college for that matter — the procedural wheels begin turning.
“[The] National Letter of Intent is a pretty simple process; our compliance office has to check all the boxes [and] send it in to the Gulf South Conference,” said Shinnick. “But we’ve got a pretty good idea of what that looks like. And then most of these young men have been admitted; if they’re not then we’ve got to get the final touches on being admitted and then really, it’s waiting for them to enroll.”
Next up for the UWF Argonauts — spring practice is scheduled to begin March 21 with the Blue-Green game on April 18. Then a summer of working out and academics, prior to August camp and the kickoff to the 2019 season.