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Football: Oilers ink 39 on signing day

By ANDY WOLF
STAFF WRITER
More than 30,000 miles on the road, 5,000 prospects evaluated and 135 home visits.
All in all, just another offseason’s work in recruiting for the coaching staff of the University of Findlay football team.
By the end of Wednesday afternoon, 39 players signed their National Letters of Intent to play for head coach Rob Keys and the Oilers.
“It’s easy to identify talent,” Keys said. “But to find guys that have the total package: good students, good players and great character — that’s what we’re looking for.”
Now going on his seventh year as head coach, Keys has laid the foundation of a winning program (38-29), with five winning seasons — the most recent at 6-5.
In turn, Keys said the proven track record has turned recruiting in 2017 far easier than from being a first year coach taking over a 1-10 team in 2011.
Seven linebackers lead the position breakdown with six signees each being offensive linemen, wide receivers and defensive backs.
As is often the case for the Oilers, the initial listed position is subject to change as Keys has found success moving players around and even to the other side of the ball.
Twenty-nine recruits are in-state products, six are from Michigan and four are from Illinois.
“Just to deepen the pool of prospects,” Keys said of recruiting the Chicago area. “The state of Ohio has great football. Every college coach at every level is recruiting the state.
“We had to see if we can get some better players.”
Findlay’s 2017 season will be its first as a member of the Great Midwest Athletic Conference.
The Oilers depart from the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference where they spent the last 19 seasons.
Keys sees the move as a strength in the recruiting process but often a non-factor.
One thing he can sell to prospects is the potential to come in and play right away.
Eight freshmen, including four true freshmen, started at least one game a year ago.
True freshman linebacker Isaac Miles had eight starts and was fourth on the team with 54 tackles, while fellow true frosh Neal Davis started eight games at center.
“It’s very fair here on who plays,” Keys said. “The most productive players play. Whether they’re true freshman or fifth-year seniors, you have that opportunity.
“It’s always going to be that way. That’s drawn a lot of really good recruits to our campus.”
The verbal commits didn’t start pouring in until the end of January as Keys and his staff spent most of December and January on the recruiting trail.
Keys said every signee had “multiple offers at different levels.”
“It was a battle all the way to the end,” Keys said. “It’s a great group on paper, but who doesn’t have a great group on paper come signing day?
“We’ll see how good this group is when we move forward.”
Findlay begins its season on a Thursday night at rival Tiffin for a nonconference game Aug. 31 under the lights at Tiffin’s Frost-Kalnow Stadium.
The Dragons were 8-3 last season, including a 27-23 loss to the Oilers, and remained in the GLIAC along with fellow UF rival Ashland.
Wolf, 419-427-8496,
andywolf@thecourier.com