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Savage, McEvoy head list of Matadors to sign with 4-year schools

NJCAA 2nd Team All-American OL, ACCAC Offensive Player of the Year part of 12-man Matador signee list

Yuma, Arizona – February 6, 2013 – Arizona Western College is proud to announce that twelve AWC Football players have signed official letters of intent with NCAA 4-year schools as part of the NCAA’s National Football Signing Day today.  Matadors’ fullback Demont Buice (deh-MAHNT BYSS (rhymes with ‘rice’)) has signed his official letter of intent to attend Florida A&M University in Tallahassee, Florida; tight end Cameron Clear has signed with Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas; defensive tackle Chris Cormier (KOHR-mee-AY) has made his written commitment to Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana; defensive end/linebacker Randy Gregory has committed to the University of Nebraska in Lincoln, Nebraska; linebacker D’Vante (deh-VAHN-tay) Henry is heading to West Virginia University in Morgantown, West Virginia; linebacker Jeff Lark has decided to sign with the University of Wyoming in Laramie, Wyoming; running back DeSean (deh-SHONN) Martin is heading to Chowan University in Murfreesboro, North Carolina; quarterback Cedric McCloud is heading back east to sign with Southern University & A&M College in Baton Rouge, Louisiana; fellow quarterback Tanner McEvoy (MAK-eh-voy) has finally zeroed in his four-year choice to be the University of Wisconsin in Madison, Wisconsin; tight end Austin Morgan has inked his LOI with the University of Arkansas-Monticello; offensive lineman Dionte (dee-ONN-tay) Savage has signed with the University of Oklahoma in Norman, Oklahoma; and cornerback Nate Willis is headed to the University of Kentucky in Lexington, Kentucky.  Today’s announcements brings the total of Matador Football players that have signed with four-year schools since the end of the 2012 season to 16, following the December signings of Matadors’ tight end Emmanuel Bibbs (Iowa State University); linebacker/defensive lineman Sam Wren (Oklahoma State University); defensive back Cassius Sendish (University of Kansas) and 2011 tight end Greg Reese (University of Utah).

In 2012, Demont Buice was a great example of a student-athlete who had a strong resume’ coming into the program but who realized that he would still have to earn everything he accomplished.  A 1700-yard rusher coming out of high school in his native Gadsden, Alabama, Buice chose Clemson over several other big-name universities, but a numbers crunch at running back led him to transfer after one semester.  When he came to AWC this summer, he was originally penciled in as the backup fullback to DeSean Martin.  Buice took advantage of the few opportunities he had in the first couple of games, but as the Matadors’ rushing game evolved over the season, Buice became the starting fullback, then began getting rushing carries from a power set.  He saved his best game for last as a Matador with 13 carries for 86 rushing yards (both season-highs) in the 2012 El Toro Bowl-presented by Alexander Automotive Group-all but 14 of those yards coming in the second half.  Buice finished the 2012 campaign with 224 yards on 39 carries with 1 touchdown on the ground; while catching 9 passes for 135 yards through the air. 

Today’s signing means that Cameron Clear will return to the SEC wearing a different uniform than the one he wore as a freshman.  He transferred to Arizona Western after spending his freshman campaign at the University of Tennessee.  Clear arrived to Matadors’ preseason camp after it had already started, but once he got comfortable with the intricacies of the Matadors’ playbook, the Matadors’ double-tight end sets became very productive.  Clear caught a pair of receptions in the Matadors’ season opener against Ellsworth at the Mile High Shootout in Colorado, and caught his lone touchdown of the season against Glendale in Week 7.  Clear finished the year with 5 receptions for 58 yards and that TD, but it was his blocking from his tight-end spot that helped the Matadors to feature a running game with three guys accumulating at least 400 yards on the ground.  Clear heads to an Aggies’ program who finished 2012 on an incredible roll, winning their last 6 games of the season, including thrashing Oklahoma in the AT&T Cotton Bowl on January 4th.

Like Clear, Chris Cormier had to hit the ground running when he got to Yuma, since training camp was already underway when the defensive lineman first grabbed his AWC helmet and pads.  The native of Houston, Texas, had decided to leave the place he spent his freshman season, Navarro Community College in his home state, and give it a try in Yuma, and the Matador defense was greatly improved because of it.  It took Cormier the better part of the Matadors’ first two games (he didn’t play at all in the season opener) to get comfortable with the Matadors’ defensive scheme, but by Week 3, Cormier broke into the starting lineup, and stayed there the rest of the season.  Cormier had 44 tackles overall for the Matadors in 2012, and his 40 assisted tackles ranked 3rd on the squad.  He also had three tackles for loss for a total of 14 yards, and earned 1st Team All-ACCAC and 2nd Team All-WSFL honors after the season.  Cormier becomes the second Matador in as many years to sign with IU, following the lead of quarterback Cameron Coffman, who finished this season as the Hoosiers’ starting quarterback.

While he’s only played one game in the last 14 months, defensive end-turned-linebacker Randy Gregory may have been the most coveted Matador on this list.  Gregory has garnered nothing but respect since he broke into the Matadors’ starting lineup midway through his freshman year.  The native of Fishers, Indiana, was on the national radar from the time he earned a pair of WSFL Defensive Player of the Week Awards during the 2011 season as well as 1st Team All-ACCAC & All-WSFL spots that November, and was considered to be the most feared defender in the league coming into this season.  Gregory did nothing to dispel those notions in the Matadors’ first game of the season against Ellsworth, leading the team in tackles (5) and registering the team’s only sack of the game.  Unfortunately, that would be the last game action that Gregory would see in 2012, breaking his ankle in practice just five days after that game, and was lost for the year.  That did nothing to cool the four-year scouts’ interest in him, and the WSFL coaches-who breathed a collective sigh of relief when they found out they wouldn’t have to face him-never forgot about him, naming him to the 2012 2nd Team All-ACCAC team anyway.  Gregory heads to a Huskers’ program that completed a 10-win season with an appearance in the Capital One Bowl on New Year’s Day.

The original plan for the Matadors’ linebacking corps was to shift Gregory to linebacker to make he and D’Vante Henry a ferocious 1-2 sacking punch.  Gregory’s season-ending injury didn’t make Henry any less powerful as one of the main leaders of the defense.  Henry racked up 3 ½ sacks as well as 8 ½ tackles for loss.  But it was Henry’s deceptive speed that caught many opposing skill players off-guard, and the results were many times ‘highlight reel’ plays.  His 24 solo tackles and 63 overall tackles both led the squad, and he tied for the team lead in interceptions with 2, but what Matador fans will talk about for years to come was the sight of the 6’5” linebacker picking off a 1st-quarter pass against Scottsdale, and creating major distance between him and several of the Artichokes’ skill players while sprinting to a 75-yard touchdown return.  Henry earned 1st Team All-ACCAC & All-WSFL honors after the season, and now joins a Mountaineers’ squad that enjoyed a 7-win season highlighted by wins over Texas and Baylor, and culminated by a spot in the Pinstripe Bowl on December 29th.

Jeff Lark spent much of the season quietly doing his job, since he didn’t garner the attention that fellow Matador linebackers Henry, Gregory and Sam Wren did.  That seemed to suit the Cedar Hill, Texas native well, since he wound up about as productive as any Matador linebacker in 2012.  A transfer from the University of Arkansas-Fort Smith, Lark slid into the starting lineup midway through the 2012 campaign, and alternated between outside and inside linebacking duties.  Wherever he was, he was effective, registering 47 overall tackles (10 solo), including a half-dozen tackles for loss and 2 ½ sacks.   The signings of Ge’shun Harris and Drayquan Crawford by Minnesota had been rumored for weeks, but didn’t actually happen until the last few days.  Lark heads north to Laramie, where the Cowboys built momentum for 2013 by winning three of their final four games of the 2012 season.

De’Sean Martin saw a quick opening to make a contribution, and turned it into a stellar season in the spotlight.  After spending his freshman season buried on the Matadors’ tailback depth chart (his only carry of the season was nullified by a penalty), Martin came in to camp this past August ready to make a difference, and won the starting fullback job.  That might’ve meant that rushing attempts wouldn’t be coming his way again-if injuries to both starting tailbacks didn’t push him to the forefront.  That happened in the Matadors’ 2nd game of the season in Tucson, and when the Matadors came out of the halftime locker room, it was Martin at tailback.  That’s when he took the starting job for his own, exploding for 107 rushing yards in the second half.  His next game against Scottsdale was his finest game of the year, scoring a rushing and receiving touchdown while even throwing for a TD against the Artichokes, amassing over 300 all-purpose yards in the process.  He also had a 138-yard rushing night (on just 7 carries) 2 weeks later against Phoenix College.  In all, the native of Las Vegas, Nevada, finished with a team-high 87 carries for 600 rushing yards (3rd-best in the WSFL) and a touchdown, 3 receptions for 112 yards and another TD, to go along with his 30-yard TD pass against Scottsdale.  Martin heads to a Hawks’ program that just posted their first winning season since 1999 this past fall. 

While he had limited opportunities to show the ‘rocket arm’ that he possesses at quarterback while at AWC, the opportunities for Cedric McCloud will continue at the four-year level for a second time.   McCloud came to AWC after seeing playing time during his freshman year at Kent State University, and had impressed the coaches enough during preseason drills that he was the opening-day signalcaller for the Matadors against Ellsworth at the Mile High Shootout.  McCloud playing the first 20 minutes of the game, completing 3 passes, then would wait his turn until Week 6 against Mesa, when he came in the 4th quarter and completed 5 of his 6 pass attempts.  For the season, the native of Jacksonville, Florida, completed 8 out of 16 passes for 62 yards. 

At the end of the 2012 El Toro Bowl, the question many Matador fans wondered was, ‘Will he stay?’  After all, Tanner McEvoy still has three years of college eligibility left, so he could’ve returned to AWC for his sophomore campaign.  However, the enormous interest in his services by top four-year universities made that possibility nearly impossible-especially after he earned ACCAC Offensive Player of the Year and 1st Team All-ACCAC & All-WSFL honors.  It was a whirlwind three months in Yuma for McEvoy, who transferred from the University of South Carolina in early August, had to learn the Matadors’ playbook on the fly, and was listed 3rd on the AWC quarterback depth chart for the first game of the season.  No problem.  Once he took the field in the 4th quarter in Colorado against Ellsworth in the opener, McEvoy impressed the coaches enough to give him the start in their 2nd game of the year, and Tanner never relinquished the starting spot again.  The Hillsdale, New Jersey, native earned a pair of WSFL Offensive Player of the Week Awards during the year, threw for 300 yards or more in three games, and rushed for 100 yards in 3 other contests.  He finished the season by leading the Matadors to their first bowl win in 40 years, winding up with 2188 passing yards (3rd-best in the WSFL despite playing less games than any other starting QB in the league), a 64% completion rate (tops in the WSFL), and 28 passing touchdowns (2nd in the WSFL) with only 8 interceptions.  On the ground, McEvoy finished as the Matadors’ 2nd-leading rusher with 472 rushing yards with 6 rushing TDs.  Just for good measure, McEvoy also caught a pair of wide receiver option passes for 33 receiving yards for a total of 2380 all-purpose yards.  He’ll head to a Badgers’ program that won the Big 12 Championship Game and 8 games while appearing in the Rose Bowl on New Year’s Day.

Speaking of those who remained great teammates while they took advantage of the opportunities they saw, Austin Morgan was the epitome of that for the past 2 years for AWC.  The native of Shreveport, Louisiana, may not have gotten a lot of accolades, but rarely saw a game where he wasn’t on the field for several offensive plays at tight end.  Whether blocking, going out in patterns, or settling in as the Matadors’ starting long snapper for two years, Morgan was a quiet but consistent force for the Matadors in two bowl-bound years.  His Matadors’ ‘moment in the sun’ came in the 4th quarter of the Matadors’ game against New Mexico Military Institute in Roswell, New Mexico, in November, when he reeled in a 2-yard TD reception from McEvoy to close out AWC’s 59-30 win.

Three running backs with 225 rushing yards or more on the same team… two of them with over 450 yards on the ground… a quarterback who averages 100 rushing yards per game in your last 3 regular season games and winds up with nearly 500 yards rushing himself in 2012.  These are the benchmarks of Matadors’ left guard Dionte Savage, who was a solid and powerful as any lineman this season, and was rewarded by both the region and nation because of it.  Savage first came to the attention of Matador fans as a freshman in 2010, when he started 5 games at right tackle for the C.H.A.M.P.S. HOT Bowl-bound Matadors of that season.  He then took a year away from school, and came back to camp this August trimmer, faster, more mature, and extremely focused.  The Flint, Michigan native was the Matadors’ mainstay at left tackle from the first tackling drill of the preseason to the 2012 El Toro Bowl, and was one of the top reasons why the Matadors rushed for over 2000 yards as a team.  Savage was honored with 1st Team All-ACCAC & All-WSFL honors right after the regular season, and then was bestowed with an NJCAA 2nd Team All-American selection just 2 weeks after the bowl game.  Savage ends the suspense of where his four-year choice is by becoming the second Matador to head to Norman in as many years, reuniting with the man he blocked for at the end of 2010 for AWC, 2011 ACCAC/Region I Offensive Player of the Year Damien Williams, who helped lead the Sooners to a Cotton Bowl berth last month.

Finally, the Kentucky Wildcats certainly know they’re getting a very versatile defensive back in Nate Willis.  Willis started nearly every game in 2011 at cornerback for the national championship runners-up, and was expected to lead a young group of cornerbacks into 2012.  However, when the number of healthy players from all four defensive secondary positions started shrinking midway through the season, it was the Pahokee, Florida native who moved out of his normal comfort zone to help the team.  Battling his own injuries, Willis started eight of the Matadors’ 10 games:  five of them (including the 2012 El Toro Bowl) at his natural cornerback spot, and the other three at free safety.  There were times where Willis slid into the strong safety spot as well.  Willis began the Matadors’ trend of returning interceptions for touchdowns with his one-yard ‘pick-6’ in the season opener against Ellsworth in Pueblo, Colorado, and he added another interception to foil a possible touchdown pass in the end zone against New Mexico Military Institute.  He also broke up four other passes, and registered 42 overall tackles (18 solo).

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