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Gardner-Webb signs 17 football players, including a potential QB candidate and a local standout

By Richard Walker

Gardner-Webb added 17 football players on Wednesday’s early signing day, including a potential starter for the upcoming 2021 spring season and a defensive back from nearly Shelby High School.

It’s the largest class ever signed by the school in the early period as the Runnin’ Bulldogs had signed only 11 players combined during the first three years of the NCAA’s December signing period.

“This is a strong recruiting haul for us,” Gardner-Webb head coach Tre Lamb said in a news release. “Our coaching staff did a terrific job of identifying young men who were capable of making an impact on our program. Each of these signees is a fit for the university and the culture we are attempting to build in our football program. Our staff’s ability to communicate effectively despite very difficult times – not being able to get out on the road – was outstanding. We are very excited about what this group means for us. It is a program changing level class.”

Six of the Runnin’ Bulldogs’ 17 signees received at least one offer from a Bowl Championship Series school – and four are expected to enroll in school next month.

Two of those early signees are potential starting quarterback candidate Carlton Aiken and potential starting linebacker candidate Honus Wagner.

Aiken is a graduate transfer from NCAA Division II Pace University, N.Y. who was NE10 Conference offensive player of the year in 2019 after accounting for 2,520 yards total offense (1,833 passing and 687 rushing) and 28 touchdowns. Aiken began his career at NCAA Division I Central Connecticut State after playing at Paulsboro, N.J., High School.

Gardner-Webb is slated to play a four-game Big South Conference schedule this spring beginning on March 20 when Lamb will get to make his long-awaited Runnin’ Bulldogs head coaching debut.

When Gardner-Webb was scheduled to play at the Charlotte 49ers on Nov. 14 – a game later cancelled due to COVID-19 concerns – Lamb said he was going to use three quarterbacks in that contest – redshirt junior Keegan Smith, Wake Forest sophomore transfer Tayvon Bowers and freshman Jy Tolen. Aiken could create a four-way competition for the job when the school begins spring practice drills.

Wagner played at West Forsyth, Ga., High for head coach Robert Craft, then earned earning preseason 2020 junior college All-American honors at Allan Hancock, Cal., College before the season was cancelled; Robert Craft is the brother of Gardner-Webb basketball coach Tim Craft.

Hancock will have three seasons of eligibility and the 6-foot, 225-pounder had 59 tackles in his 2019 freshman season at Hancock. Rivals.com rated him a two-star prospect and the No. 23 junior college linebacker prospect in the country.

Tyler Arrington is the Shelby High product and the 6-foot, 180-pound defensive back has been a two-sport standout for the Golden Lions and his current head football coach is former Gardner-Webb offensive lineman Michael Wilbanks. Arrington, who chose G-W over Lehigh, North Carolina A&T, North Carolina Central, Southern University, Stetson and William & Mary, has helped Shelby to a 39-7 football record with two N.C. 2AA state titles in three years of football and to a 49-9 basketball record and a 2020 co-N.C. 2A state championship.

Lamb plans to sign additional prospects in February on the traditional signing day.

A full list of Gardner-Webb’s 2020 December signees with name, height, weight, position, hometown and previous school(s):

Carlton Aiken 6-2, 220 QB Paulsboro, N.J., Paulsboro HS/Pace University
Tyler Arrington 6-0, 180 DB Shelby, Shelby HS
Tim Brand 6-6, 230 DE Darlington, S.C., Trinity Collegiate
Xavier Brown 6-6, 285 DL Hartwell, Ga., Hart County HS
Amare Bryant 6-1, 215 LB Clayton, Clayton HS
Travis Burke 6-7, 275 OL Hollywood, Fla., South Broward HS
Warren Coneway 5-11, 175 DB Sandersville, Ga., Washington County HS
Alfred Corbin 6-3, 180 WR Wildwood, Fla., Wildwood HS
Devan Hughes 6-4, 300 OL Columbus, Ga., Hardaway HS
Donovan Jones 5-9, 180 RB Miami, Fla., Champagnat Catholic School
T.J. Jones 5-10, 170 CB Melbourne, Fla., Eau Gallie HS
Ricardo Johnson 6-3, 175 WR Thomasville, Ga., Thomasville HS
Tom Maier 6-6, 280 OL Munich, Germany, Rabun Gap (Ga.) School
Kendall McKoy 6-3, 220 QB Elon, N.C., Western Alamance HS
Noah Myers 6-1, 210 LB Knoxville, Tenn., South Doyle HS
Jamari Nelson 5-11, 180 CB Melbourne, Fla., Eau Gallie HS
Honus Wagner 6-0, 225 LB Cumming, Ga., North Forsyth HS/Allan Hancock College