While the biggest-name Centennial football senior was not on the stage for National Signing Day Feb. 5 eight Coyotes were, and most of them only recently found their college home.
Jaydin Young and fellow seniors Andre Dimbiti and Kaeden Miller were listed in the program as undecided, as players with multiple offers that were not ready to sign a letter of intent.
Centennial coach Richard Taylor said Dimbiti and Miller made late visits and were not ready to sign that day, but should this week.
Young stated in a brief Twitter interview that has not decided what the next move is for his football career.
Seven of the eight players signing along with 12 other Centennial athletes decided on their football team less than a month before the event. Only receiver Dyelan Miller locked in his choice early, verbally committing to the University of Arizona on July 4.
“I liked the team environment when I first got there. Everybody was super cool to talk to and the coaches kept it real,” Miller said. “I committed but I had other schools like Colorado and Utah still trying to get me to go there. But I was pretty much all in. I talk to Coach (Taylor) Mazzone two times a week pretty much and text with Coach Sumlin. I also talk to another commit (Gilbert quarterback) Will Plummer. He’s there and he tells me what it’s like.”
Two other Centennial players found a home at Division I schools within the week before the event.
Cornerback Eric Haney verbal committed to the University of San Diego Jan. 29. Tight end Brad Young committed to Portland State University the night before he signed with them.
Three teammates wound up remaining teammates. Quarterback Jonathan Morris, tailback Marc Jacob and offensive guard George Roeder signed with NAIA school Rocky Mountain College. Taylor said in the last two years Rocky Mountain made Arizona a priority.
“Rocky Mountain absolutely loved all of our kids and did a great job of recruiting them,” Taylor said.
Morris said the minute he walked on the campus in Billings, Mont., it felt like home. The coaches’ vibe and atmosphere was very welcoming and Morris said with more than enough to know he wanted to be there.
He posted his commitment on Twitter Jan. 21, not knowing he would again team up with two staples of the Centennial offense he directed.
“It just ended up that way. Every other opportunity I had I would know one if not more (player) on the team. When I chose Rocky at the time I knew no one and was okay with that. From there it took of and glad my brothers are joining me,” Morris said.
Morris also received offers from Jamestown in North Dakota, Lake Forest in Illinois, Montana State-Northern and Ottawa
Josh Hovatter wound up signing with Lake Forest — where 2019 Centennial graduate A.J. Jackson is playing now. Hovatter said his recruiting picked up during the middle of the regular season.
Taylor credited Centennial assistant coaches Ian Comes and Tim Thiele with getting the word out about this senior class, particularly Hovatter, who did not start until this season. The big man ended up with interest from nine schools.
“I definitely talked to A.J. about it but I also talked to Stone Matthews, who used to play at Saguaro. With Coach Catanzaro, everything he told me was true about what it is like there,” Hovatter said. “The post-graduation stuff like getting a job and how well they help with internships was what I was looking for. I want to play football but my education and career is what’s most important.”
While many of the smaller schools do not appear on a college football fan’s radar, several Coyotes players learned during this process not to overvalue the name brand schools that may not be interested in recruiting them.
“From the beginning my focus was finding best fit for me, academically and athletically,” Morris said. “Yes as a kid everyone wants D1 but with my measurables and my love for my position I wanted an opportunity to play no matter the level.”
Morris said he is interested in studying business or biology.
Hovatter plans to study sociology and then wants to become a law enforcement officer. He also traded tips with his teammates during recruiting season.
“I told them there’s going to be coaches that want you to go there and they’re going to try to sell you. And you need to feel that’s where you’re at home,” Hovatter said.
Miller is ready for his new home as a Wildcat. He said he wants to study at the university’s college of public health.
But the signing day ceremony was a bit bittersweet and made him think of his soon-to-be former home.
“It’s cool but at the same time it’s sad. We came in together our freshman year and I guess it’s finally the last year. I probably won’t see these guys as much. At the same time, it’s the next step in life,” Miller said.