The Times West Virginian

Fairmont State Sports

February 6, 2014

FSU lands top two athletes in W.Va.

FAIRMONT — When sportswriters from around West Virginia gathered in Wheeling months ago, they selected honorees for the Class A, AA and AAA all-state football teams, the Huff award and the Hunt award.

Then came the big decision: the Kennedy Award, a distinction bestowed upon the state’s top football player.

There was Morgantown running back Chazzy Thomas, who lead all AAA rushers with 2,108 yards and 30 touchdowns. Or Malique Watkins, a duel-threat quarterback who led Martinsburg to its fourth-straight Class AAA title by rushing for 1,811 yards and 20 touchdowns to go along with 973 passing yards and 16 touchdowns.

Tough choice.

Lucky for Fairmont State, it didn’t have to decide.

The Fighting Falcons landed both highly-touted athletes on National Letter of Intent Day. The pair was part of a 28-man class — 19 on offense and nine on defense— that made their commitments official Wednesday.

“I don’t know when the last time was that we signed the caliber of in-state talent that we did,” said Fairmont State football coach Jason Woodman. “We were able to get the guys that we really, really wanted.”

Thomas, who edged Watkins for the Kennedy by the way, said he chose Fairmont State ahead of Charleston, Shepherd and West Virginia University, which wanted him to walk on.

“For college, I always wanted to be close to home,” he said. “It’s only 30 minutes away. I got a full ride, free college. You can’t ask for more.”

Fairmont State coach Jason Woodman said the 5-foot-9, 186-pound back will help to shore up a ground game that struggled at times last season with injury and inconsistency.

The Falcons finished seventh in rushing offense in the Mountain East Conference with 122.3 yards per game with running back Daniel Monroe limited to just two starts last season because of a knee injury.

“One of our main goals was to get depth and to get the types of runners that we want to fit into our offense,” said Woodman, who will be entering his second year as head coach. “We did that with Chazzy.”

Daryl Wilson, a 5-foot-7, 180-pounder from Highland Springs, Va., and Terrell Charles, a 5-9, 175-pounder from Ellicott City, Md., are two other backs who fit that same mold as Thomas.

The Falcons also picked up a bruising runner to join Thomas in the backfield in 6-foot, 220-pounder Cortavious Givens from St. Petersburg, Fla.

“We feel like we did a very good job at the running back position,” Woodman said. “We don’t think we’re done there yet. There are some other guys that we are pushing to get really hard.”

As for Watkins, he will make the switch to slot receiver from the quarterback position he played in high school. The 5-foot-9, 175-pound player said that the coaches want to use him as a “Tavon Austin-type” who can line up at receiver or in the backfield.

Joining Watkins at receiver will be Jaquez President (5-11, 170 pounds from St. Petersburg, Fla.), Zach Pate (5-foot-8, 175 pounds from Hurricane), Dwight Heron (5-foot-10, 175 pounds from Leonardtown, Md.) and William King (5-foot-9, 180 pounds from Baltimore, Md.).

At tight end the Falcons also added Sean Tracy from Ashburn, Va., and at quarterback they picked up Jeff Iweh from Baltimore, Md.

The skill positions are where the flashiest recruits are from. But the biggest group — in number and in physicality— is in the offensive linemen. Seven signed Wednesday, including three who helped Thomas rack up all those yards at Morgantown: 6-foot-4, 270-pound Andre Collins; 6-foot-2, 270-pound Zack Mayle; and 6-foot-2, 270-pound D.J. Summers.

“Just playing with (Chazzy) makes me a lot better,” said Mayle. “He’s an amazing athlete.”

Other additions on offensive line include Regan Howard (6-foot-4, 255 pounds from Forestville, Md.), Jose Ortiz (6-foot-4, 270 pounds from Smyrna, Del.), Mitchell Matthews (6-foot-3, 245 pounds from Niceville, Fla) and Matt Jones (6-foot-4, 290 pounds from Clintwood, Va.).

Defensively, the Falcons have a tall task ahead of them to replace their three-leading tacklers: Jake Kelly, Ryan Watts and Garrett Davis.

“I don't know if you can ever replace the things that those three guys bring to the table with the leadership that Jake and Watts brought,” Woodman said. “And obviously the production that Garrett had (104 tackles) speaks for itself.”

The defensive additions are: DL Matt Morris, DE Jaylan Lessiter, DL Malik Forrester, LB Tyler Morgan from Bridgeport, LB Antonio Harris, DB Jordan Estes, DB Edmond Harvey and DB Jerry Iweh, the quarterback Jeff’s brother.

Woodman said that he is pleased with the direction his team is headed. But the Falcons won’t be finished with recruiting for quite some time.

“It will keep going,” Woodman said. “This is just the beginning.”

Email Mike DeFabo at mdefabo@timeswv.com or follow him on Twitter @MikeDeFaboTWV.

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