- David Jablonski Staff Writer
Joe Fincham and his Wittenberg Tigers assistant coaches didn’t set out to break a recruiting record in 2017. The biggest freshman class in school history just kind of happened.
“If I could put it in a bottle, I’d sell it,” Fincham said Friday. “I don’t think there’s a magic bullet.”
The class numbers 89. The players come from eight states. Most are from Ohio. The Tigers recruited well in Florida, as they have done in recent years. Indiana and Kentucky are also well represented.
Wittenberg had 82 recruits in 2016 and 63 in 2015. Fincham’s goal is to recruit at least 65 players. He’s not sure why the 2017 class turned out to be so big.
“I think it starts with the group of coaches who worked really hard at recruiting,” Fincham said. “It spills into a lot of hard work from our admissions staff and our enrollment management staff. It filters down to our players doing a really good job with young men and their families when they’re here on campus, whether it’s game-day visits or more official visits in the winter and hosting those guys for overnight visits in the spring. I think we have a strong group of alums that offer themselves up to help talk to families and telling their story about how Wittenberg affects their lives.”
The class features a number of local graduates: Kenton Ridge defensive end Nasir Carter, offensive lineman Lee Hammond and kicker Cameron Kettler; Catholic Central quarterback/tight end Cosmas Catanzaro; Springfield defensive lineman Tavian Crowe, whose brother Terrance plays for the Tigers; Shawnee defensive backs Michael Guyer and Josh Nelson; Northeastern offensive lineman Lane McKinney; and Southeastern linebacker Garrett Hunter and offensive lineman Robbie Mills.
“It’s one of the better local classes,” Fincham said.
The player traveling the farthest distance from home is Riley Duncan, an offensive lineman from South Eugene, Ore. His brother Liam was a member of the 2015 class. Their grandpa Ron Duncan, who died in 2013 at 70, was a tight end on Wittenberg’s 1963 and 1964 college division national championship teams. He played professionally with the Cleveland Browns and Philadelphia Eagles.
The freshmen arrive on campus Aug. 8. Wittenberg, which finished 10-2 last season and won the North Coast Athletic Conference title, starts practicing a day later. The Tigers open the season Sept. 2 at Westminster (Pa.).
Fincham expects 70-80 of the incoming freshman to return for their sophomore years. The classes always shrink as they advance to their junior and senior years.
“Quality obviously is important, but in Division III, size is a component of it,” Fincham said. “The hardest thing Urban Meyer has to do is choose which ones he’s taking. Here you have to choose which ones you’re going to invest phone calls in, messages and all that.”