By Dave Wagner: CNJ sports writer
PORTALES — Nathan Uland brings some impressive credentials to the Eastern New Mexico University football program.
Uland, one of 20 high school seniors — all from Texas — signed by ENMU coach Mark Ribaudo and his staff on national signing day Wednesday, was the state’s Class 4A Division I defensive player of the year in 2006 at Denton’s Ryan High School.
“I’m excited, not only for the college experience but for the opportunity to play football,” the 5-foot-10, 210-pound Uland said. “They (Greyhounds) have a strong program over there, and I’m excited to be a part of it.”
Ribaudo, entering his third season as head coach, added the signees to seven transfers who came in at the semester and said it’s the best recruiting class at ENMU in the 11 years he’s been there.
He said most of the newcomers will have a chance to make an impact. The Hounds went 3-7 in 2006.
“This could be a class, in two or three years, that could be an outstanding team,” he said. “We’ve got some kids from really good football programs.”
Uland said he was considering going to an Ivy League school, but that it was too expensive for his family.
His teammate at Ryan, fellow inside linebacker Tony Adams, is also among the signees. Uland had 134 tackles last season, including 36 for loss, while Adams missed the first part of the season but averaged 10 tackles and had 19 tackles for loss.
“When he came back we improved a lot,” Uland said. “Me and him are best friends, too.”
Ryan went 7-4, Uland said, and lost a first-round playoff game to the No. 4-ranked team in the class. He said his defense allowed just 10 points in that game to a team which had been averaging around 48.
According to Ribaudo, the Hounds helped themselves in the offensive line as much as anything. Last year, they lost starters Jeff Ashabranner (concussion) at tackle and Landon Schumacher (neck) at guard to season-ending injuries early on.
“It just went really well,” Ribaudo said of the recruiting process. “It’s the culmination of a lot of hard work by our staff, and it’s paying off.
“Our coaches have worked their butts off, and a lot of people in the community have helped us.”
Uland said ENMU’s coaching staff impressed him.
“I think they really know what they’re talking about,” he said of the coaches. “They’re not just saying stuff because recruits are there.
“I think last year they had a good team, but they just had some bad breaks and some injuries. I just want to keep improving there as the years go by.”
Tillman Stevens, DB, 6-0, 175, Baytown, Texas (Sterling HS); Tony Admas, ILB, 5-11, 200, Denton, Texas (Ryan HS); Nathan Uland, ILB, 5-10, 210, Denton, Texas (Ryan HS); Dwayne Davis, OLB, 6-0, 200, Pasadena, Texas (Laporte HS); Jared Moyer, TE/OL, 6-3, 275, Magnolia, Texas; David Hart, OL, 6-5, 285, Magnolia, Texas; Mark Pena, OL, 6-1, 300, Houston (Mayde Creek HS); Aaron Tomplait, C, 6-3, 265, Port Neches Grove, Texas; Tyler Cleavinger, OG, 6-3, 300, Garland, Texas (Naaman Forest HS); Justin Vader, OL, 6-0, 270, Huntsville, Texas; Karlton Graves, OT, 6-4, 275, Brownwood, Texas; Isaiah Yandall, DT, 6-3, 275, Euless, Texas (Trinity HS); Jordan Myers, FB, 6-1, 218, Conroe, Texas (Oakridge HS); Ronnie Feaster, RB, 5-11, 175, Houston (Clearlake HS); Brandon Batch, RB, 5-4, 160, Midland, Texas (Midland High); Timmell McFalls, RB/LB, 6-1, 210, Memphis, Texas; Michael Henderson, RB, 6-1, 190, Lubbock (Monterey HS); Dwone Cunnings, QB, 5-10, 190, Sweetwater, Texas; Robert Murry, CB, 5-10, 172, Odessa, Texas (Permian HS); Antwaun Pertile, CB, 6-2, 180, Midland, Texas (Lee HS).
New Mexico Military — Dulayne Cumberlander, LB, 6-1, 220, Roswell, Ga. (New Mexico Military); Tim Hamett, WR, 5-8, 165, Midland, Texas (New Mexico Military); Larry Booker, OL, 6-1, 270, Pine Forest, Fla. (New Mexico Military); Andrew McCraw, DE, 6-0, 235, Lovington.
Sierra College, Calif. — David Reed, DE, 6-3, 235.
West Texas A&M — Jeremy Hibbler, DB.
Mt. San Jacinto College, Calif. — Carlos Downey, OG.