By Malcolm Butler, Louisiana Tech Senior Associate Athletic Director
RUSTON – Sonny Cumbie’s reputation precedes him.
The first-year Louisiana Tech head coach has always been a part of up-tempo offenses and hard-hitting defenses.
And on Wednesday during the first day of National Signing Day, Cumbie and Co. added some perfect pieces to his playmaking puzzle in Ruston.
In total Tech inked 11 future Bulldogs, including four wide receivers, two experienced offensive linemen, one tight end, one strong-legged kicker/punter, one linebacker, one cornerback and a partridge in a ….
No wait. Right time of year. Wrong storyline.
And a quarterback who was the Gatorade Player of the Year in the state of Louisiana this season.
Not a bad pre-Christmas haul for the Dogs.
“I think our long-term solution is recruiting high school kids and developing those kids within your program,” said Cumbie. “That comes to down to coaching. We want to lean heavily on high schools particularly in Louisiana and east Texas and in areas of Mississippi and Arkansas as well and then other areas where we have connections.
“You aren’t looking at it as a short-term roster flip. I think there are a lot of talented pieces in place (on this roster). We want to be selective in the guys we take now and then be deliberate in our roster decisions moving forward.”
Highly-touted signal caller Landry Lyddy (Calvary Baptist) chose the Bulldogs over a plethora of programs, sticking with his commitment to become a Bulldog despite a late push from a number of schools including former WAC rival Boise State.
The 2021 Louisiana Gatorade Player of the Year passed for over 4,000 yards and 53 touchdowns while leading the Cavaliers to the Division IV state semifinals.
“Landry Lyddy is one of the all-time passers in Louisiana high school history, and there is no doubt he will continue that success as a Bulldog,” said Cumbie. “We are excited to have a young man who has a strong arm and a lightning quick release. He is very accurate with the football. The kid is a winner. He has won a lot of football games and has played a lot of snaps in high school.”
Lyddy will have plenty of talent to throw the ball to as the Bulldogs loaded up on young, speedy, play-making receivers, including Cyrus Allen (Landry Walker HS), Zyion Claville (Huntington HS), Keshlon Jackson (Lake Charles College Prep), O’Ryan James (Ellender HS) and Kendrick Rucker (Huntington HS).
“When you look at our roster, I think it shapes up to have a really talented (wide receiver) room,” said Cumbie. “You look at these players that were committed to us and guys we had the ability to sign. You just don’t turn down great players.
“These are younger very talented guys than can come in and learn from some of our older talented guys and continue to push them. The best way to build a roster is through competition. Guys who want to come in an compete and guys who aren’t afraid to come in and compete. I’m excited about this group of playmakers.”
The Bulldogs also added a pair of offensive linemen transfers in local product and Memphis transfer Isaac Ellis (Carroll HS) and junior college transfer Landon Nelson (Iowa Western CC/Underwood HS).
“These guys have a lot of experience,” said Cumbie. “The experience at offensive line, you can’t put a premium on that. There is a big difference between an 18-year-old freshman offensive lineman and a 22-year-old on the defensive line and vice versa. These are guys that have been in a lot of battles and had a lot of success. We are excited to have them come and compete on our offensive line.”
On the defensive side of the football, Tech gained a pair of playmakers in linebacker Zy Ford (East Webster (Miss) HS) and cornerback Jhamal Shelby, Jr. (St. Augustine HS).
“Zy is a very, very physical kid. He has a ton of energy and loves football,” said Cumbie. “He has a very, very high ceiling. He is physical and plays downhill. He played running back also in high school which is where people usually put their best players in high school so you know he is a talented young man.
“Coach (Brock) Hays had a relationship there at St. Aug and knew a lot about Jhamal. We knew the background of his character and type of young man he is. Just watching tape, he is a corner that has great length. His man skills are very good. I think receivers have a hard time running by him because of his length.”
Buck Buchanan (Marshall (Tx) HS) was the lone specialist signee in Wednesday’s class as the dual threat (punter, place-kicker) possesses a strong leg and provides the Bulldogs a weapon in a number of areas of special teams play.
“He has a very, very powerful leg when it comes to kickoffs and punting,” said Cumbie. “Hopefully he can also factor in when it comes to the field goal and PAT game. There are several special teams’ coaches form across the region that we talked to. It was unanimous. They said, ‘Sonny, you better get in there and you better make sure Buck stays a Bulldog.’ The kid is really, really talented.”
Cumbie was quick to praise the job by his staff of working hard during the transition between the previous staff and the current one that occurred leading up to signing day.
“A lot of these guys were recruited by the previous staff,” said Cumbie. “The first thing was to secure those guys and make those guys feel comfortable. Sherman Wilson and our recruiting department and Coach (Anthony) Camp and Coach (Brock) Hays and some of the other coaches – coach (Paul) Turner and Coach Teddy (Veal) – they did a nice job of communication during the transition. It’s always hard. Change can be difficult. We just wanted to build those relationships as fast as we could.”
Tech will add to his signees list in early February.
Louisiana Tech Football Signees
Cyrus Allen WR 6-1 180 HS New Orleans, La. (Landry Walker HS)
Buck Buchanan K/P 5-11 185 HS Longview, Texas (Marshall HS)
Zyion Claville WR 6-2 175 HS Shreveport, La. (Huntington HS)
Isaac Ellis OL 6-2 319 TR Monroe, La. (Memphis/Carroll HS)
Zy Ford LB 6-1 210 HS Maben, Miss. (East Webster HS)
Keshlon Jackson WR 6-0 170 HS Lake Charles, La.
(Lake Charles College Prep)
O’Ryan James WR 6-1 175 HS Houma, La. (Ellender HS)
Landry Lyddy QB 6-0 190 HS Shreveport, La. (Calvary Baptist)
Landon Nelson OL 6-2 290 TR Underwood, Iowa
(Iowa Western/Underwood HS)
Kendrick Rucker TE 6-5 190 HS Shreveport, La. (Huntington HS)
Jhamal Shelby, Jr. CB 6-2 180 HS New Orleans, La. (St. Augustine HS)