E.A. Sports Today

Trending upward

Anniston High proud of its large 2020 signing class, working towards providing more opportunities in future

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today
It’s going on a week since Anniston High School rolled out its largest signing class in football coach Rico White’s tenure and one of the largest in school history and the Bulldogs are still feeling glow. And they’re working towards giving more players opportunities to play at the next level and even bigger signing classes in the future.
Last Wednesday, the first day of what is now the late football signing period, 10 Anniston seniors announced their decisions on where they were continuing their playing careers. Each proudly took the microphone and then reached under their seat to pull out the cap representing the college of their choice. Five are headed to Alabama &M, the others to Alabama State, Shorter, Jacksonville State, West Georgia and Mississippi College. 
The 10 Bulldogs on the stage were receiver Jordan Caldwell, tight end Jordan Felder, defensive back Tiquon Jackson, running back A.J. Brown and safety Daveon Dukes (all to A&M), linebacker Kaleb Jennings (Alabama State), linebacker Micaiah Ross (Shorter), defensive lineman Khalil Peoples (Jacksonville State), athlete Tyree Carmichael (West Georgia) and defensive back Tony Hunley (Mississippi College). Hunley also will play baseball at his school.
It was a good and proud day.

“When I look back, it’s 10 guys with an opportunity to play football at the next level, get a degree behind their name and see another city and experience something outside of Anniston,” said Brad Ball, the Bulldogs’ director of recruiting. “Hopefully it sets and establishes a standard for guys who excel on the field and in the classroom. Those are the top two common denominators.”
White said the signing class, believed to be Anniston’s largest since its 1989 state championship season, “just speaks volumes for the kind of brand we’re trying to build here at Anniston High.” He expects next year to have even more.
“We’re just trying to keep building,” he said.
That’s where Ball comes in. He cautioned parents and well-wishers who have congratulated him in the days after Signing Day it wasn’t anything he did, it was “all about the kids.” They were all “heavy contributors” to the Bulldogs’ 9-5 season that ran all the way to the Class 4A semifinals – their best year since 2011.
“I didn’t lift a weight, I didn’t run stadium steps or sprints; praise the kids,” Ball said.
The players may have done the work for the opportunity they received, but Ball was the facilitator. As director of recruiting, it’s his responsibility to expose the players to college recruiters.
The process starts with a yearly parent-player meeting and honest assessments of a player’s prospects of playing after high school. There’s no dream-shattering here, every player isn’t going to play at the next level, and there has to be some acceptance of that, but the players who do have the on-field measurables and academic requirements have a chance to make it.
Establishing that, Ball is off to do some heavy research on what opportunities are out there and reach into the sincere relationships he has with college coaches to get his players in the mix. It’s a responsibility he has embraced and had success with long before the former Oxford player came to Anniston.

The process never stops. Since Wednesday’s signing day Ball has been busy following up on this year’s 10 and working on the class of 2021 because soon as you know it the contact period will be open again.
There may not be a lot of programs out there that have that degree of diligence, but you can’t argue with the success.

“I take it as trendsetting,” Ball said. “We want to be trendsetters.”
They certainly set a standard with the class they produced in 2020.

You must be logged in to post a comment Login