Recruiting class highlighted by lineman’s past mistake

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Kevin Hart always wanted to play Division I football.

Coach Partridge speaks about his 16 new recruits including the well known Kevin Hart. Photo by Jason Brown

The Nevada native wanted to so badly that he staged a fake press conference four years ago and falsely stated he was going to California to play for the Bears.

The 6-foot-4 offensively lineman soon met his fate.

He was humiliated on national television, and was called a phony and a liar for his controversial decision. Years later, the otherwise intelligent lineman has a second chance.

Hart decided against playing Division I Tuesday, as teams fought to the final day to sign the best players available on National Signing Day. Hart, who has played for Feather River Community College, was one of 16 players that the Griffons inked Tuesday morning. Western football coach Jerry Partridge said that Hart’s physical, and will compete for a starting guard position immediately. He signed with Western four years to the day of his hoax.

“We did our due diligence. We talked to their coaches. I asked him some very pointed questions on the visit,” Partridge said. “I talked about everything with him, every little element of it; every little lie of it. He said ‘Coach I was stupid. I didn’t know how to get off the merry-go-round.'”

Partridge said he understood the amount of attention this player will draw. He has already received phone calls from as far away as Reno, Nev. that want to do an interview with him.

However, Partridge said he forgives Hart for what he did back in 2008, and said Hart is a much more mature man.

“He’s a good kid that made a very untruthful mistake back in his youth,” Partridge said. “When you do a transfer like that, you’re hoping they can come in and start, or compete in a hurry.”

After Hart held the pretend press conference at his high school, coaches, family members and fans met with him to take pictures while he stood wearing a Cal hat. He claimed to have chosen Cal over Oregon that day. Not three hours later did people start to second-guess what occurred.

Hart said he was duped and said he had been lied to by a scout. It took over three days for the truth to come out, and he pointed to pressure as the reason he staged the gathering. Now he has a chance to help a team win a National Championship.

According to Tom Friend of espn.com, Hart decided against playing for D1 Appalachian State, and opted to play for Western instead. He had an extra year of eligibility if he went D2.

The Griffons bring back 17 starters, which include All-Americans in David Bass and Michael Hill. They also have reliable starters in Tarrell Downing, Ben Pister, Ben Jackson and Shane Simpson. The Griffons return all five of their starters on offensive line, so perhaps Hart won’t see the field so quickly.

Although Hart is the talk of the class, the 2012 signees boast talent that inlclude 10 defensive players.

Perhaps the most talented player is linebacker Jorge Belcher. The Kansas City native recorded 429 tackles — a school record — and was first-team All-State. Partridge would like to redshirt every freshman player, just as he did in 2011. However, if any player on this list sees playing time this season, it could be Belcher.

Another player that fans will soon notice is defensive end Darrian Bass. The St. Louis native is the brother of David, and was heavily recruited by the MIAA.

“One of our rivals, I’m not going to say which one, did a home visit,” Partridge said. “And that big fellow (David) sat in the room with him as they did that home visit. That really helped our cause, I think.”

Local kids that signed on were a pair of Blakes, both from Savannah High School. Linebacker Blake Burson didn’t jump at the opportunity to play football as many would think, he considered joining the military. But he signed on to be a Griffon after weighing out the options. The other player is Blake Deal, a 6’1, 180-pound wide receiver that has great hands according to Partridge.

In the secondary, the Griffons have Donovan Mathis from Springfield, Mo. Mathis attended the same high school as top wide-out Dorial Green-Beckham, who was the nation’s No. 1 receiver according to espn.com and rivals.com.

Outside of the recruiting class, Western announced its 2012 football schedule, almost. The schedule is not complete, but the Griffons meet Central Missouri at Spratt Stadium to begin the season. They also host Nebraska-Kearney, Central Okla., Missouri Southern and Washburn. They have five road games, which includes a trip up north to Maryville to take on Northwest Missouri State, and also the 2011 National Champions — Pittsburg State.

Soccer adds five players

Football wasn’t the only sport to officially sign players. Soccer added five players, and still have work to do according to coach Chad Edwards.

“I have very high expectations going forward,” Edwards said. “I want to attract players that can come in and start right-away. Those are the players I’m looking for, and I think with this class that’s what we accomplished as well.”

The second-year coach said he went right to work back in August, when he took the job as the head coach for Soccer, and grabbed some talent. Among the five include a top defender in Micheala Rouse, who adds on to the athletic pipeline Western has in Kearney, Mo. Western had trouble scoring goals this past season, and forward Brittany Wagner from Kansas City might help solve the Griffons problems.

She could immediately start and adds another scoring threat opposite of soon-to-be sophomore K.C. Ramsell. St. Joseph native Margot Bergeron has signed on to play. She recently spent time at Iowa Central Community College but has transferred and is currently working out with the team and attending classes at Western. To round out the list, Western nabbed Drew Mantlo and Sydney Andrews, both midfielders.

“[Brittany] is a goal scorer; I’m very excited about her,” Edwards said. “She’s a hard worker. I know when she came and played with us over the fall, some of the girls were like ‘who in the heck is this girl?’ ‘Cause she was working her tail off when she was here.”

Andrews will try out for the United States National Deaf team in the coming weeks. Edwards said Andrews is not completely deaf, but the opportunity is great for her and a neat chance.

Kelly Voigts returns at goalkeeper, but as a senior. Edwards said he anticipates on signing a few more players, and one should be a keeper.

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