By BRAD KEITH
STEPHENVILLE (August 13, 2016) — Tarleton State has been busy on the recruiting trail this summer with the return of head coach Todd Whitten, bringing in five transfers from Division I universities in Texas and several from the junior college ranks in Texas, California and even Iowa.
“We have players from all over the country, and now we have to get them to come together and form a team,” said Whitten, the winningest coach in Tarleton history as he begins his third stint leading the Texans. “Recruiting never stops, especially not in Division II. It’s something you have to do year-round. You’re always looking for talent that can improve your football team, both right away and in the future.”
The complete roster was released to local media at Tarleton football media day Sunday afternoon at Wisdom Gym. Whitten, other coaches and several players were interviewed and team, individual and staged publicity photos were taken. The Texans now return to the grind, and that means putting on shoulder pads for the first time Monday before donning full gear later in the week.
One of the Division I transfers is coming home to Stephenville, as Brice Gunter, a 6-3, 195 pound receiver who starred on Stephenville High School’s 2012 3A Division I state championship team, is now a Texan. Gunter, a redshirt junior, spent three seasons at Texas State but has been out of football for a year.
Big quarterback Garrett Simpson – listed by Tarleton at 6-7, 250 pounds, comes from Texas-El Paso, where Whitten was receivers coach before returning to Tarleton as head coach in December. Simpson, a product of The Colony High School in the Lewisville area, will be much closer to home for his final season of eligibility.
The other Division I transfers are Treston Ridge, a senior defensive back from Waco La Vega is coming to Tarleton from Lamar University in Beaumont, and two Sam Houston State defects – 6-4, 275 pound offensive lineman Roclan Drain from Corsicana and Jeff Thomas, a 6-2, 245-pound junior receiver from Duncanville.
Among the junior college transfers are Doudly Aujour, a 6-7, 320-pound offensive lineman who Tarleton had at left tackle on the opening day of fall practice Saturday. Aujour, from Haiti, played high school ball in Maryland and comes to Tarleton from Independence College in Kansas.
There is also Diamonte Wiggins, a 6-4, 215 lound junior from Compton, California and Lynwood High School, who is joining the Texans by way of Golden West College after signing with Division I Eastern Washington to begin his college career. Wiggins was easily noticed among other defensive backs Saturday. He is bigger than most the club’s linebackers.
One junior college prospect, Braxton Kirven, was a star receiver at Timberview High School in Mansfield before surfacing at Santa Monica College in California. He’s one of two Santa Monica transfers who have joined the Texans, and one of five who are transferring from junior colleges in California.
The others are Azizullah Fifita from El Camino Community College, a native of Alaska and likely the first Alaskan to compete in an NCAA sport at Tarleton, linebacker Marquis Lomax from Santa Monica and Brandon Grady from Moorpark College.
There are two out of state Division II transfers in former Fort Valley State (GA) defensive tackle Quantavius Cheatham, a junior from Augusta, Georgia standing a robust 6-4, 305, and past Emporia State defensive back Kumani Armstead, a junior who is returning home to Texas where he excelled at North Richland Hills.
Several of the transfers joining the Texans have Hudl highlights online. Some are linked below (Disclaimer – some videos are years old high school highlight):
8 Marquis Lomax, Jr. LB Santa Monica (Calif) College
10 Garrett Simpson, Sr. QB, Texas-El Paso
13 Del’Michael High, Jr. WR, Navarro College
18 Braxton Kirven, Jr. WR, Santa Monica (Calif.) College
20 Treston Ridge, Sr. DB, Lamar
32 Diamonte Wiggins, Jr. DB, Golden West College (Calif.)/Eastern Washington
43 Michael Knobloch, Jr., LB, Cisco College
54 Azizullah Fifita, Jr., El Camino Community College (Calif.)
71 Roclan Drain, Sr. OL, Sam Houston State
75 Doudly Aujour, Jr. OL, Independence College (KS)
79 Brandon Grady, Jr. OL, Moorpark College (Calif.)
Jeff Thomas, Jr. WR, Sam Houston State