Six FBS-Bound Shore Seniors Headline National Signing Day
Six Shore Conference seniors headed to FBS football programs headlined a class that made its college plans official on Wednesday by signing their Letter of Intent on National Signing Day.
Barnegat linebacker Manny Bowen (Penn State), Barnegat offensive lineman Sam Madden (Georgia), Red Bank Catholic linebacker Jamie Gordinier (Miami), Lakewood running back/linebacker Chapelle Cook (Temple), Manasquan tight end Tanner Cowley (Virginia) and Manalapan kicker Mike Caggiano (UMass) all signed binding commitments with their respective FBS programs.
"I'm really excited to finally make it official,'' said Gordinier, who is headed to play for RBC graduate Al Golden. "I think it helps a lot when you know the people down there. I just feel more comfortable there than any other school.''
Gordinier, who was the Shore Sports Network Defensive Player of the Year, already has his roommate lined up, as he and offensive lineman Hayden Mahoney, another Northeast recruit from Malvern Prep, Pa., met on their official visit and decided to room together. Gordinier is part of a senior class at RBC that led the Caseys to their first NJSIAA title since 1976 and includes seven other college-bound players.
"It's not about FBS schools, it's just about having a lot of guys playing at the college level that makes it special,'' Gordinier said.
It also was a special day at Lakewood, as Cook became the first player to reach an FBS program for the Piners since former star defensive end Thomas Carroll played for Miami from 2001-2005.
"I couldn't wait for this day to come,'' Cook said. "I've been so anxious to sign that letter. This is the paper that lets you know that you don't have to pay for anything. That's $160,000. It makes me feel good, and it makes my mom feel good. Having worked this hard has helped make things easier for us."
Cook is one of two Division I-bound players for the Piners, as senior tight end/defensive end Datrell Reed announced on Wednesday that he signed with Villanova, one of the top FCS programs in the country whose recruiting class also includes Brick tight end Simon Bingelis. Cook and Reed hope to serve as an example for the up-and-coming talents at Lakewood, where junior linebacker Amir Tyler currently boasts an offer from Temple.
"We've got more and more talent coming in every year,'' Cook said. "I tell those guys when we're in the weight room that everybody can do this if you work hard. Datrell and I have worked hard for this and tried to do something positive for this school."
Cook said Temple projects him as a strongside linebacker who can cover slot receivers because of his 4.52 speed but also may use him at running back as well. He played running back for his first two years at Lakewood before playing quarterback as a senior. A third-team All-Shore pick by Shore Sports Network, he finished as one of the top rushers in Lakewood history.
Cook ran for 1,167 yards and 13 touchdowns and passed for 849 yards and five touchdowns to lead the Piners to a second straight playoff appearance this fall. He also played linebacker, where he had 51 tackles, 8 pass break-ups, 6 sacks, 4 fumble recoveries and 3 forced fumbles. Reed had 51 tackles and 6 sacks on the defensive line.
Bowen and Madden headline the program that had four scholarship players, as quarterback Cinjun Erskine (Bucknell) and defensive lineman Xavier Young (Stonehill College) also will be signed their National Letters of Intent for Barnegat on Wednesday. Erskine was joined in the Bucknell recruiting class by Jackson Memorial graduate Marcus Ademilola, who played a post-grad season this fall before committing to the Bison.
Bowen, who is the only four-star-rated recruit in the Shore senior class, had 51 tackles, 10 for a loss, and also had 517 yards between rushing and receiving in six games for the Bengals after missing a good chunk of the season with injuries.
Bowen is the latest top recruit from the Shore to sign with Penn State, following Southern tight end Mike Gesicki and Manalapan wide receiver Saeed Blacknall from last year's class, who both made an impact as true freshmen with the Nittany Lions in the fall.
"I'm just really proud of this accomplishment,'' Bowen said. "Other coaches (from other schools) tried to get into the mix, but Penn State has been committed to me and I have been committed to them."
The 6-foot-7, 345-pound Madden had been verbally committed to Wisconsin but de-committed last month after a new coaching staff took over. He then verbally committed to Georgia on Jan. 25 during an official visit, becoming the first Shore recruit to head to the SEC school since Middletown South superstar running back Knowshon Moreno, who is now with the Miami Dolphins.
Also headed down south is Cowley, who was the first member of the Shore senior class to verbally commit to an FBS program in June when he announced his commitment to the Cavaliers. A second-team All-Shore pick by SSN, Cowley was a two-way standout for the Warriors with 16 catches for 199 yards and a touchdown as a tight end, and 102 tackles, 15 tackles for a loss and 6.5 sacks as a linebacker.
"There's been a lot of anticipation,'' Cowley said. "I'm excited to be able to sign and make it official."
Cowley said he has been recruited as a tight end by Virginia. He becomes the latest star in a long line in Manasquan's proud history to move on to an FBS program.
"Hopefully the tradition keeps going,'' Cowley said. "It feels good to be up there with the names like Brad Newman and those guys."
Caggiano is part of a five-man contingent from Manalapan that signed with Division I programs on Wednesday after helping the Braves make history with their first NJSIAA sectional title. He is the rare kicker who has earned scholarship money at an FBS program, choosing the University of Massachusetts over offers from Hawaii and Stony Brook. A two-time, first-team All-Shore selection, Caggiano is second all-time in state history in points by a kicker with 237 and finished with a state-record 195 extra points.
"I'm just happy all my hard work has paid off,'' Caggiano said. "This is a great group of guys here, and there's no better way to go out than winning it all.''
Also signing for Manalapan was defensive back Dan Debner and defensive end Kyle Mullen, a pair of first-team All-Shore picks who are both headed to Yale University. Defensive lineman Ben Sieczkowski, a second-team All-Shore pick, is headed to Wagner College, and linebacker Joe Mendez, another second-team All-Shore selection, signed with Bryant University in the Northeast Conference.
A pair of Shore Regional teammates, kicker Jake Monteiro (Rutgers) and linebacker/long-snapper James Bedell (UConn) are also headed to FBS programs as preferred walk-ons.
One of the Shore Conference's top remaining uncommitted players made his decision on Wednesday as Toms River South quarterback Tymere Berry became the lone scholarship commit from the Shore among this year's Monmouth University recruiting class.
Long Branch running back Dahmiere Willis, who set the single-season Shore Conference rushing record with 2,589 yards to earn SSN Offensive Player of the Year honors, announced on Tuesday night that he was signing with American International College. He will be joined there by teammate Hunter Baillie, a second-team All-Shore pick who led the Shore in sacks at linebacker.
Other SSN first-team All-Shore selections who signed on Wednesday included Monmouth Regional wide receiver Isaiah Searight (Fordham University); RBC offensive lineman Ryan Kroeger (Fordham University); Middletown South offensive lineman James Wilson (Youngstown State); and Jackson Memorial defensive end Brody Graham (University of Pennsylvania). Also, Rumson's all-time leading rusher and one of the Shore's top backs, Charlie Volker, is headed to Princeton University.