Western Michigan's outstanding recruiting class just got better Wednesday with the signing of three-star dual-threat quarterback Wyatt Rector.
Tim Lester, who just completed his first year as WMU head coach, signed the highest rated class in Mid-American Conference history during the early December signing period according to the 247Sports composite rating calculator, and Rector brings the total of scholarship players for the 2018 class to 21, also raising the average player rating from .8264 to .8288.
Of course, the highest rated player in the class was Muskegon tackle Antwan Reed, a four-star recruit with a .8949 rating who de-committed from Penn State and joined the Broncos.
Lester said Rector had originally committed to Virginia before de-committing and re-opening his recruitment. He took a visit to WMU last month and liked what he witnessed in Kalamazoo.
"We had been on him in late November when he ended up de-committing from Virginia and kind of built a relationship with him and had a long conversation in early December about whether he was going to get comfortable enough with any of the schools that were chasing him to sign early and he just thought it would be a little fast so instead of having him visit in December we had it pushed to January and he loved it here," said Lester of Rector. "We're excited about him, and that was the one and only scholarship we had left. We had 21 spots and we have 21 signed so it's a wrap.
"The thing I love about the guy is he has a really strong arm, but he does have the ability to move and he's a big, strong individual. He's a powerlifter, he's 6-foot-3, 225 pounds and he can run. He looks like a linebacker. When I think powerlifter, I think of the guy from Alabama, Jalen Hurts and he's got that type of body where if you wanted to run him a bit he can handle it."
Lester feels starting quarterback Jon Wassink, who broke his collarbone and missed the last several games, will be ready to go for spring camp that begins Feb. 20 and runs through late March. He feels Wassink could have played if the Broncos (6-6) received a bowl bid.
However, Lester said defensive backs Justin Tranquill and Davontae Ginwright — both had surgery from ACL injuries — won't be participating in spring practices, as well as running backs LeVante Bellamy (shoulder, foot) and Jamauri Bogan (foot).
With All-MAC running back Jarvion Franklin graduated and set to participate in the NFL combine next month in Indianapolis, and Bellamy and Bogan sitting out spring ball to regain full health, Lester feels it will open the door for Matt Falcon to get more reps.
Falcon, a former four-star recruit and Michigan commit before a knee injury prevented him from playing his senior year at Southfield a few years back, played sparingly last season.
"He just has to get confidence in that knee again and that's something that he's battling with and it's starting to get stronger and stronger and stronger," said Lester of Falcon. "He's healthy right now, as healthy as he can be after having as many knee surgeries that he had, so this will be an opportunity to get a lot of carries and see what he can do and see how it holds up. He'll definitely get more and more carries and we'll learn where his health and confidence is at."
Eastern Michigan coach Chris Creighton hit a home run in closing out the 2018 class, signing a couple of three-star players in offensive lineman Alex Howie (Salem) and defensive back/receiver Jerodd Vines (Detroit Central), who could have the Eagles consistently playing in bowl games in future years.
Creighton guided the Eagles to their first winning season since 1995 in 2016, then to a 5-7 record last fall when EMU lost six games by a touchdown or less.
Howie — the No. 28 ranked player on The News Top 60 list — played multiple positions on the offensive line during his senior year at Salem to help the school to its first playoff appearance in 26 years. He picked the Eagles over Washington State and Air Force.
Vines was a three-way threat for Central, showing the ability to reach the end zone as a receiver, a defensive back or on special teams, possibly becoming the same type of player at EMU as Darius Phillips was for Western Michigan in past seasons.
Vines had 55 receptions for 943 yards and 14 TDs his senior year while forcing 15 fumbles and intercepting 10 passes, scoring seven defensive TDs.
"My dad and I talked about things, we discussed it and it was a great opportunity for me to play Division I football," Vines said. "I know it (EMU) hasn't been the winningest program, but I feel I can help change that, and Coach Creighton is already changing that there. I feel I can make big plays to help win games. Sure, he's all about football, but he's also about unity and having a family atmosphere there."
Vines took his official visit prior to Christmas. He has been recruited to play safety.
Creighton also brought in Saline punter Vinnie Patteri as a preferred walk-on. Patteri averaged 42.5 yards a punt and plans to study aviation, following in his father's footsteps.
"It's close to home which is part of my decision, and both of my parents went to Eastern Michigan, and they have an aviation program and my dad's a pilot and that's something I'd like to do," said Patteri, whose father Kevin Patteri is a pilot for Delta.
Central Michigan head coach John Bonamego talked about Petoskey quarterback Joel Wilson, who was the latest player to sign with the Chippewas.
"He's a kid who played out of position in high school," said Bonamego of Wilson, who played quarterback and linebacker. "He played at quarterback. We had the good fortune of having him in one of our one-day camps and toward the end of the day our tight end coach said come on over here and run some routes. That's probably the best investment the kid or family made, the $50 fee to send him to camp because that's what really sold us on him."
Bonamego pointed out that seven of the 17 recruits signed are from Michigan.
"The goal each year is to get bigger, stronger and faster and I think we've done that," Bonamego said. "And, another goal, from Day One, has been to do a great job in the state of Michigan. I'm a product of Michigan high school football, and I take a lot of pride in that."
One player Bonamego didn't get signed is Southfield A&T running back Eric McArn — No. 51 on The News Top 60 list — who committed to CMU and was expected to sign, but didn't.
Bonamego signed another tight end Braeden Childress of Big Rapids in the early signing period. Childress will have the chance to play alongside his older brother Brandon Childress, a sophomore receiver, who suffered an ACL injury last fall.