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Hawks ink four

MURFREESBORO – The Chowan University football coaching staff is a mix between happy and busy.

The Hawks signed four players Wednesday on National Signing Day, but know they still have work ahead of them before they are finished with the 2008 recruiting class.

“We went into recruiting intent on addressing some needs and we were able to take care of some of those Wednesday,” Head Football Coach Lorick Atkinson said. “The Division II recruiting process is on-going. As a matter of fact, we have a recruit on campus right now.”

While the staff is continuing to work, they are pleased with the needs addressed by Wednesday’s signings.

Four student-athletes, representing four different states will suit up in the Blue and White next season.

Locally grown Ryan White signed on from Bertie High School where he played defensive end for a successful high school program that won the Northeastern Coastal Conference in 2007 and advanced to the third round of the North Carolina High School Athletic Association state playoffs.

“Ryan comes from a football family,” Atkinson said. “His dad played at Elon University so we are happy to add him to the roster. He will help sure up our defensive line after some key losses there from last season.”

The coach said one of the most important parts of White’s addition to Chowan was his overall ability in the classroom and on the football field.

“He is a good student-athlete who will do well here,” the coach stressed. “His best football is ahead of him.”

Atkinson said White will join previous recruits from Hertford County High School, Northampton County High School n East and Roanoke Rapids High School.

“We promised when we came to recruit local kids and I think we’ve proven we are going to do that,” Atkinson added.

Representing South Carolina is linebacker Justin Ball-Collins. Ball-Collins is ranked as one of the state’s top 100 players and was featured on many online scouting services with a star ranking.

The Summerville native attended Summerville High School and played in the Big 16 State Championship this past season where he had seven tackles and two forced fumbles.

“We are expecting Justin to make an impact right away. He is the entire package, a great student and a great player,” said Atkinson.

The Hawks signed two players on the other side of the ball in J.J. Spates and Andrew Garner.

Spates hails from Richmond, Virginia and attended Highland Springs High School. This past season the running back rushed for 1,048 yards with 18 rushing touchdowns while also getting 221 receiving yards with two scores through the air.

He is a First Team Capital District Team member while also garnering Second Team All Metro and All Central Region honors.

“Spates is explosive and has the knack to make the first person miss. I am excited about his breakaway speed and his playmaking abilities,” Atkinson said on his running back commitment.

Garner represents the state of Georgia and attended North Forsyth High School in Cumming. The offensive lineman will come in as a center at 6’1’’ and 270 pounds.

“Andrew was the number one prospect for us all year at the center position,” said Atkinson. “He has played in an offensive system that’s very similar to the package we run so he should adjust fine. He meets one of our critical needs for 2008 in offensive lineman.”

“We went after players who could get it done in the classroom and on the field,” he added. “We are expecting them to come in and make immediate impacts on the program and I am eager to get them to camp in August.”

Another key for the 2008 Hawks’ football team is the fact retention is up from previous years.

“Our retention is the best it has been since we’ve been here,” Atkinson said. “It’s amazing what the Oyster Bowl win did for us. It gave us confidence we didn’t have.”