Duquesne or Robert Morris have claimed at least a share of the Northeast Conference football championship in three of the past four seasons.
In order to maintain that level of success, the programs know they have to keep bringing in a certain amount of talent, which they hope they did with their 2014 recruiting classes.
With most of the signing day attention centered on the Division I-A programs, Duquesne and Robert Morris announced their freshman classes for next season, a group that includes a combined 45 players.
For the Dukes, their 27-player haul is the largest in their six-year history as a member of the NEC and one that coach Jerry Schmitt said should go a long way toward solidifying the strength of the program.
“We had a good balance across the board, from big athletic offensive linemen to some skill guys that will help us build depth to a team that already has a lot of guys returning,” Schmitt said. “Both of those groups and both of those positions will build depth and build the future of the program.”
Perhaps most notable among the 27 are safety Wayne Capers and linebacker Armstead Williams, former standouts at Chartiers Valley and Gateway. They are both midyear transfers — Capers from Arizona and Williams from Purdue — who are eligible to participate in spring drills.
Both contacted Schmitt in the fall expressing interest in Duquesne and should make an immediate impact at positions of need.
“Just having college experience is really important because they know about not only the speed of the game, but how to compete at that level,” Schmitt said.
“They’ll be able to come in and fit right in with the rest of our returners.”
Robert Morris’ 18-player class is equally as integral, as it is the first under coach John Banaszak, who became the second coach in program history after the retirement of Joe Walton.
An assistant with the Colonials the past 11 seasons, Banaszak was more than familiar with their recruiting process. After being named coach-in-waiting two years ago, he even built the past two classes with that change in mind.
And with this group, one thing stands out — speed.
“The receivers, secondary and running backs that we were able to sign are all fast kids,” Banaszak said. “When we were evaluating all of the video, my message to our coaches was ‘Find me the fastest kid on the field,’ and that’s what we did.”
Banaszak singled out defensive end Angelo Natter and defensive back Cameron Sutherland, both from Central Catholic, as particularly important. They experienced a good deal of success at one of the WPIAL’s most decorated programs, and whether it’s at a local school or elsewhere, that’s a model from which Banaszak wants to build.
“They come from a championship program and that’s another thing we’ve been able to look at in our recruiting model — to get kids from programs that win it all,” he said. “It’s a different kind of kid. Those kids come in understanding what it takes to win and that’s the environment we want to create here.”
Craig Meyer: firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter @CraigMeyerPG.