TROY — Troy head football coach Chip Lindsey and his staff filled a number of needs and signed a ton of talent in its 24-player 2019 signing class on Wednesday.
Five defensive backs, five defensive linemen and six offensive linemen pretty much gives fans an idea of what the Trojans’ priorities were.
Wide receiver — where Troy returns every player — was not high on the list. But Lindsey didn’t hesitate when offering a Dothan High playmaker. When you have a chance to sign Jabre Barber, you do it.
“Jabre came to our camp and was so impressive. The thing that I noticed, when they came to our seven-on-seven, as well, he just kept making plays over and over,” Lindsey said. “He competed. He high-pointed the ball. Contested catches, he usually came down with it.”
Barber, a 5-foot-10, 175-pound receiver, had offers from Alcorn State, Alabama A&M, Tennessee Chattanooga and Grambling. He said he always saw himself going out of state, but the prospect of playing at the FBS level for Troy was enticing.
“I feel confident. It feels like a big step in my life,” Barber said Wednesday. “I feel like I’m going to have a good year up there, but I am going to have to work hard.”
He caught 38 passes for 619 yards and nine touchdowns in his senior season for the Wolves. He also rushed 33 times for 118 yards and four TDs. He could compete for a return specialist role. He averaged 27.4 yards per kickoff return and 25.4 yards per punt return.
“I like the environment on the campus. It is close to home,” Barber said. “I went to several games and I like the way they play and how they get the ball to their receivers.”
Lindsey said he sees similarities with his offense and the one run by Smitty Grider at Dothan High.
“So we got a chance to see him doing a lot of the same things he’s going to do for us,” Lindsey said. “You get him the ball in space — you saw on his highlight tape — they’d throw a screen out there and he could run the football and make guys miss. Or you saw him stretch the field and catch the ball down the field. …
“Anytime you get a really good player from the Wiregrass and that is the kind of kid that Jabre is, I think it’s a win for everybody. We’re extremely excited to have him.”
Troy also signed two quarterbacks in this class — the National Junior College Offensive Player of the Year in Parker McNeil, and a state champion high school quarterback in Kyle Toole of Leesburg, Ga. Record-setting quarterback Kaleb Barker graduated.
McNeil threw for 5,635 yards and 56 touchdowns in 21 games at Navarro College.
“He played in a system for a head coach at Navarro named Scott Parr, who is very familiar with our offense,” Lindsey said. “In fact, runs the same offense. That’s what made me really take a long, hard look at Parker. Once I got to know him and the kind of production he had and the kind of person he is, I think he’s a perfect fit here at Troy.”
Toole completed 63.7 percent of his passes for 5,749 yards and 63 touchdowns against just four interceptions in his entire high school career, when he went 40-4.
Toole was one of this class’s first commitments and never wavered. In fact, Lindsey credited him with help recruiting other players to Troy.
“Just a guy that has really been the backbone of this class — getting to know the other recruits and building relationships with them early,” the coach said.
He said Toole, cornerback Josh Brown of Valdosta, Ga., and Pinson Valley wide receiver Tez Johnson were the players who were catalysts in building a bond that will form this entire signing class.
“This day and age, these guys connect on Twitter or on group text and I think that’s important to build that bond,” Lindsey said. “They’ll always be remembered as signing with these kids and build a bond that when they get here they’ve already developed.
“We try to have them visit on the same weekends and so forth, to build that relationship. Parents get to know other parents and so forth. Really pleased with how this class came together.”
There were 15 high school players and nine junior college players in the class. There are 20 from Alabama (nine), Georgia (eight) and Florida (three).
Troy’s class is the highest rated signing class in school history, according to the 247 composite rankings.
“A lot of times you can’t judge that for two or three years down the road,” Lindsey said. “But there is a barometer out there. We’re excited about where we finished in the national rankings.”
Lindsey stressed that character counted, too. He said he was focused on landing TKGs — Troy Kind of Guys — and that message was relayed to his staff.
“Let’s don’t bring in guys that don’t fit here,” he told them. “If you’re tired of clowns, quit going to the circus, so to speak.
“I thought they did a really good job of building those relationships and then maintaining those relationships, researching the guys, looking for the right kind of guys to fit Troy.”
Troy signed 13 on offense — two quarterbacks, one running back, three wide receivers, one tight end and six offensive linemen.
Offensive coordinator Ryan Pugh talked about the strong haul of linemen. Troy lost four seniors who started at least two games.
“Bringing in a couple of the older guys in Jordan (Chapman) and Toryque (Bateman), that have some experience at the junior college level, both guys, I think their best football is ahead of them,” Pugh said. “I think that’s what’s intriguing about them.
“Then we went to the high school ranks and got two guys who played in the Alabama-Mississippi game in Logan (Self) and Chase (Little). And you’ve got Derrick Graham from Florida whose dad was a nine-year player in the NFL and Gage Saint, who is a really, really good, physical player who is only going to get better.”
Defensively, the Trojans got three interior linemen, two edge rushers, one linebacker and five defensive backs.
Troy defensive coordinator Brandon Hall said Zion Williams, who played at Iowa Western Community College last season with fellow Troy signee wide receiver Marcus Rogers, is a dynamic defender who can play safety or cornerback.
Hall said the Trojans felt fortunate that early commitments like the cornerback Brown and defensive lineman Luis Medina stuck with Troy.
“Josh was our first commitment and stuck with us the whole time,” Hall said. “We were worried. He’s a really good football player. A bunch of schools were talking to him, trying to get him to visit. …
“Medina is unbelievably explosive. He was the top guy on our list back in February — and that’s rare. We were happy to hold onto him.”
Lindsey said the Trojans addressed their needs.
“I think we brought the right kind of kids in here. And I think we’re going to be really happy with the returns,” he said. “I think a big part, too, is nine of our guys will come early in January — which is a big number for us. I think that’ll help them get a head start on their careers.”
Barber won’t be an early enrollee, but he’s ready to get started early this summer. He talked about signing with the Trojans.
“What was going through my mind, ‘I know this is going be something major for me. This is a big step. Do I want to do it?’” Barber recalled. “I concluded, ‘Yes, I really want to do it.’ It is something big. It is the next level.”