Who’s a part of ASU’s No.1 recruiting class in the SWAC?

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Reprinted from the Montgomery Advertiser

MONTGOMERY — As the weeks of Alabama State’s regular season dwindled, head football coach Donald Hill-Eley made it clear that he had high expectations for the Hornets’ future.

“I think we have hit the turning point of the program,” Hill-Eley said during a late November press conference. “Where week in and week out we are going to be able to compete with the upper echelon, not only in this conference but with those that are playing football at this level.”

The team finished 5-6 overall in 2019, and flirted heavily with becoming a legitimate contender in the South Western Athletic Conference. It sat on the brink of a plus-record, if not for a 20-17 OT season finale loss to Prairie View A&M.

Now in winter workouts and soon spring ball, the Hornets are months away from the first kick of the year, and there’s anticipation of getting over the hump in 2020..

More importantly, Alabama State hopes the first step of this Hornets revival took place a week ago on National Signing Day when ASU inked 23 incoming freshman to national letters of intent (14 on defense, eight on offense and one special teamer).

This class, according to a Hero Sports ranking system — that weighs a recruit’s school offers by the levels of Division I football (Power 5, Group of 5, and FCS) in order to determine their value — was the No. 3 overall class among historically black colleges and universities and No. 1 in the SWAC.

This ranking among HBCUs only trailed FAMU and Tennessee State, both of whom possessed three recruits in the Top 10 HBCU recruits rankings, according to Hero Sports.

“Overall, to be recognized as having the top-ranked recruiting class in the SWAC and No. 3 overall among HBCUs and No. 34 in the country out of the FCS just says a lot about the effort that our coaches put into recruiting these young men,” Hill-Eley said Thursday. “And it also says a lot about the brand of Alabama State, being able to lure these caliber of student-athletes to the university.”

Without further ado, here’s a looks ASU’s class, highlighted by its top signings.

Rishard Densmore / 6-0 / 185 / WR / Bessemer, Ala. / Bessemer City HS — ranked No. 8 in HBCU top 100 players of 2020 Class

Densmore was the No. 41 overall recruit in the state of Alabama according to 247 Sports and elected to sign with the Hornets over Power-5 schools Nebraska, Kentucky, Mississippi State and Tennessee.

The wideout also had ten Group of 5 offers.

Best Attribute: As a player listed as an athlete, according to various recruiting profiles, Densmore played quarterback at Bessemer City and was electric when breaking contain and getting outside of the pocket. Expect this ability to be best put on display on yards after the catch as he transitions to receiver for the Hornets.

That and Densmore’s ability to put his foot in the ground and accelerate with the best of them should make him an immediate big-play threat whenever ASU decides to put him on the field.

DeMarkus Cunningham / 6-2 / 205 / LB / Bessemer, Ala. / Bessemer City HS — ranked No. 11 in HBCU top 100 players of 2020 Class

Cunningham was all over the field in his senior season at Bessemer City. The linebacker recorded 123 solo stops, along with 32 assisted tackles while picking off three passes and recording 11.5 TFLs.

ASU was his final choice among 12 Group-5 offers, including a commitment from UAB in April of 2019. Cunningham was 247’s No. 57-ranked recruit in the state of Alabama.

Best Attribute: Reading and reacting. Cunningham does a great job at ‘see ball, get ball,’ meaning once he gets a good read on the play in front of him — especially reading his keys and picking up on run flow — then he doesn’t hesitate to get downhill in an attempt to make a play.

Strong pursuit angles bolster this ability. The only question now is how disciplined will he be on the next level as far as consistently reading his keys to avoid being overzealous.

Cameron Fortson / 6-5 / 215 / OLB / Atlanta, Ga. / Therrell HS — ranked No. 21 in HBCU top 100 players of 2020 Class

At outside backer, Fortson reined in a handful of FCS offers. He chose Alabama State over Western Kentucky, Navy, Akron, Jacksonville State, Tennessee State and South Carolina State and more.

Fortson’s senior season play earned him All-Atlanta Public School first team honors, first team all-region, and an all-state honorable mention selection.

Best Attribute:His length. At 6-foot-5, Fortson is rangy and presents the Hornets with a frame that can be experimented with. He played the majority of his high school snaps with his hand in the ground, but expect ASU to see what he can do standing up or even dropping into coverage.

Fortson will need to develop a consistent pass rush move on the next level to maximize his potential, however.

A look at the entire 2020 Class plus transfers:

James Burgess / 6-3 / 200 / DB / Center Point, Ala. / Huffman HS
Vamir Cadet, 5-10 / 175 / ATH/ Hollywood, Fla. / McArthur HS
Myles Crawley, 6-4 / 215 / QB / Tucker, Ga. / Tucker HS
Dylan Creech / 6-0 / 225 / LB / Geneva, Ala. / Geneva HS
DeMarkus Cunningham / 6-2 / 205 / LB / Bessemer, Ala. / Bessemer City HS
Devin Delaine / 6-1 / 190 / LB / Hampton, Ga. / Dutchtown HS
Rishard Densmore / 6-0 / 185 / WR / Bessemer, Ala. / Bessemer City HS
Rodney Echols / 5-10 / 175 / DB / Orlando, Fla. / Jones HS
Gavin Edwards / 6-1 / 170 / DB / Alexander City, Ala. / Benjamin Russell HS
Corbin Grant / 6-0 / 290 / DL / Pike Road, Ala. / Pike Road HS
DJ Gray / 6-4 / 225 / TE / Gainesville, Ga. / East Hall HS
Enrico Harden / 5-10 / 175 / ATH / Forsyth, Ga. / Mary Persons HS
Awysum Harris / 6-4 / 225 / OLB / Decatur, Ala. / Austin HS
Cameron Fortson / 6-5 / 215 / OLB / Atlanta, Ga. / Therrell HS
Kisean Johnson / 6-2 / 185 / WR / Birmingham, Ala. / Ramsay HS
Christian Lee 6-3 / 225 / OLB / Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. / Dwyer HS
E’Shawn Mayes / 6-3 / 230 / TE / Hephzibah, Ga. / Hephzibah HS
Joe Owens, Jr. / 6-4 / 180 / QB / Piedmont, S.C. / Wren HS
Trevor Robinson / 6-1 / 175 / DB / Montgomery, Ala. / Park Crossing HS
Keeundra Salter / 6-3 / 290 / OL / Montgomery, Ala. / Lee HS
Treqwan Thomas / 6-1 / 215 / OLB / Orlando, Fla. / Jones HS
Malik Washington / 6-2 / 205 / LB / Kennesaw, Ga. / North Cobb HS
Transfers

Brandon Gaddy / 6-3 / 311 / DL / Virginia Beach, Va. / Bishop Sullivan Catholic / Maryland/ Former 3-star recruit with offers from Oregon, Florida State, Florida, Virginia Tech and Michigan State
Breon Gaddy / 6-3 / 348 / OL / Virginia Beach, Va. / Bishop Sullivan Catholic / Maryland/ Former 4-star recruit with offers from Alabama, Clemson, Florida State, Florida, Michigan and USC.
Janil Brown / 6-3 / 310 / DL / West Palm Beach, Fla. / Dwyer HS / Garden City CC
Abdou Diop / 6-3 / 220/ Harlem N.Y. / Cardinal Hayes HS / ASA Brooklyn
Jaquan Foote / 6-0 / 220 / LB / Opelika, Ala. / Opelika High School / Austin Peay
Jacob Frazier / 6-0 / 200 / QB / Magnolia, Texas / Magnolia HS / Kilgore CC
Romello Parrish / 6-3 / 225 / DL / Palo Alto, Calif. / Palo Alto Senior HS / De Anza College
Contact Montgomery Advertiser reporter Andre Toran at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @AndreToran.