Four transfers who enrolled weeks ago for the spring semester highlight a 14-member collection of size and strength, necessities for getting back to the Division II postseason.
“When you look at what we have coming in plus the guys that already here, they all fit into areas of need,” Shinnick said.
Sylvester Crawford, formerly of N.C. State, is a 6-foot-4, 240-pound defensive end with a quick burst and great length. Bethune-Cookman transfer and redshirt senior Marquell Rozier was an all-conference tackle at St. Pauls High before spending the last four seasons in Daytona Beach, Fla. The massive 6-foot-7, 360-pounder was a preseason all-MEAC selection and has one season of eligibility remaining with the Braves before he’ll submit his name into the 2014 NFL Draft.
Shinnick believes both linemen in addition to former Fayetteville State guard Demetrius Briggs and defensive back George Whigham of Miramar, Fla., have a chance to make an immediate impact this fall.
“We were fortunate enough to get some really talented players who have already played college football,” Shinnick said. “I think Rozier was moving in the direction (of the draft) with one year left after a medical redshirt, but when we finally got his release and got him back in town, I think he really enjoyed the guys and being close to home.”
Locally, the Braves added Lumberton defensive back Ahmad Smith and Purnell Swett linebacker Isaac Jacobs. Jacobs decided on the Braves Sunday night after taking his official visit the previous afternoon. North Carolina A&T was his other finalist.
“Isaac is a great get for us,” Shinnick said. “For him to already be committed elsewhere and to switch speaks a lot about our program. Obviously he’s been around the program for years being so close, but I don’t think he had that in-depth look at what we do and our facilities until last weekend. Our guys do a great job recruiting and it worked out well for us.”
Smith provides UNCP with a ton of upside packed into a 5-foot-9, 190-pound frame. He started at several positions for the Pirates last season and was one of few two-way players.
“His coverage and tackling ability popped out on film,” Shinnick said. “Every year, we’re trying to get the best athletes in the county to come to our place and play football. Ahmad is a great addition because he comes with a strong work ethic he developed at a great program under Mike Brill.”
Quarterback Seth Owen comes to Pembroke from East Henderson High in Zirconia. The lanky, 6-foot-3 passer completed 60 percent of his passes this season with 22 touchdown and just two interceptions. He ran for another 704 and reached the end zone 13 times.
“Seth is very accomplished on film and does a lot of the same stuff we do in our offense,” Shinnick said. “It was important for us to get a quarterback this class.”
Chase Mitchell from North Davidson is expected to compete in fall practice for UNCP’s open punter spot. Once football is over, he’ll be joining Paul O’Neil’s club on the diamond.
“He’ll be the first guy in the modern era to play two sports,” Shinnick said. “He is a heck of a baseball player and we think he has a great shot to come in and replace Bill Stanley who is graduating.”
The one player the Braves didn’t hear from Wednesday was former Alabama signee and JUCO transfer Alfy Hill. Hill was verbally committed to South Carolina since August before leaving the Gamecocks in favor of the Braves after a visit in early January.
The football signing period ends April 1. College coaches are not allowed to comment on players that haven’t signed.
“There are highs and lows in every cycle and things can go really well until suddenly something happens on Monday or Tuesday night,” Shinnick said. “Fortunately for us, we were pretty dialed in for the most part throughout the process on who was committed and who signed.”