NATCHITOCHES – Northwestern State added Evangel Christian Academy standout receiver Tanner Ash, junior college quarterback Clay Holgorsen, two junior college defensive linemen and a tight end Wednesday as the 2016 early signing period began for college football teams.
The Demons picked up East Mississippi Community College teammates Kalen Meggs, a tight end, and defensive tackle Jalon Sangster, along with Tyler Junior College defensive end Obinna Iheoma, said head coach Jay Thomas.
“This addresses specific needs for our 2017 team. We’re looking for guys to come in and contribute either as starters or key reserves,” said Thomas. “The defensive line was an obvious area to address. Adding a tight end gives us flexibility to consider moving one of our current tight ends to defensive line. Only having two quarterbacks going into January, we needed to have another guy competing for that job this spring.”
Ash (6-2, 205) was a key figure in Evangel Christian’s Division I Select state championship run. He caught 40 passes for 713 yards and five touchdowns for the Eagles.
In Evangel’s state championship victory, Ash caught touchdown passes of 62, 14 and 9 yards. He has been committed to the Demons since July and received recruiting interest from roughly a dozen FBS programs, including Big XII and Southeastern Conference programs.
“Tanner is a bigger target who runs routes very well and plays a very physical brand of football. He has tremendous hands, can make all the catches, and can read coverages and find the open spaces,” said Thomas. “He has a way of breaking tackles when he gets into the open field. He doesn’t mind blocking.
“In the state championship game, along with catching three touchdown passes, he made a lot of key blocks to free up the run game and that’s huge for us. He’s going to be a very good, steady receiver here,” said Thomas. “As a true freshman coming in at midyear, he will get a big advantage going through offseason program and spring ball, giving him an opportunity to contribute in a significant way. It’s a big plus for us and for him.”
Holgorsen (6-0, 195) is a former Houston Chronicle Texas Top 100 recruit who spent his first two years in college at Memphis behind 2016 NFL Draft first-round pick Paxton Lynch, then transferred to Northwest Mississippi Community College for his sophomore season. He completed 57 percent of his passes for 1,682 yards and 13 touchdowns with only four interceptions for the Rangers, who went 9-3 and played in the Heart of Texas Bowl.
He was a two-year captain at Taylor High in Katy, throwing for 3,302 yards and 23 touchdowns. Holgorsen, whose uncle Dana Holgorsen is the head coach at West Virginia, also won a district championship in the 400 meter dash. As a redshirt freshman backing up Lynch at Memphis, he completed 14 of 20 passes for 177 yards, a touchdown and an interception.
Senior J.D. Almond, a former Haughton star who started NSU’s last three games and four in 2015, returns at quarterback for 2017 along with redshirt freshman Kenny Sears. Backups Joel Blumenthal and Austin Skinner are transferring, said Thomas.
Meggs (6-1, 245) and Sangster (6-0, 270) were second-team All-State in the Mississippi Association of Community and Junior Colleges. Meggs, a Richton, Miss., product, averaged 16.8 per reception and scored twice at tight end, while Sangster had 5.5 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks, 25 total stops, an interception, two forced fumbles and one recovery as a sophomore defensive tackle.
Iheoma (6-2, 245) collected 36 tackles, including six sacks and five other tackles for loss, and recovered a fumble in eight games this fall.
— Doug Ireland, Northwestern State Sports Information … Feature Photo/Tim Eddington/Special to The Press-Tribune