The Stetson football program took another step toward its first game in 57 years on Wednesday when the Hatters added 31 players to the roster for the 2013 season, which is now just 205 days away.
The players signed institutional letters of intent to enroll at Stetson University. Their official inclusion on the roster cannot be made until the students are admitted to the university and put down a deposit for the fall semester.
The 31 players who faxed in letters of intent on Wednesday included six defensive backs, five linebackers, five running backs, five defensive linemen, four offensive linemen, two snappers, two receivers a kicker and a tight end.
The group was heavily weighted with 14 players from the state of Florida, but had representatives from eight other states, including the recruiting hotbeds of Georgia, Texas, California and Virginia.
Stetson coach Roger Hughes said the recruiting process this time around was different from a year ago.
"We are way ahead of where we were last year at this time,” Hughes said. “We have signed most of our class, but there are still others we are working through the financial aid process with. Not only am I pleased with the signees that we have, but also with the prospects of adding to some depth at positions where we had some need."
One of the most glaring positions missing from the signing day class was at quarterback. The Hatters started their first fall practice with 10 quarterbacks on the roster. That number is now down to six.
"At quarterback, we only went after guys who would have a chance to compete for the starting role,” Hughes said. “We are still working with a couple of them on their financial aid packages.
“The other needs were at defensive back, defensive line and offensive line. We are always going to be looking for big guys who can move. I am pretty pleased with the defensive ends we have signed, but we would like to add more to the list. I am also very pleased with the quality of the offensive linemen, but again, we need to add more numbers. It is very difficult to get quality big guys, but I am very pleased that we were able to hang on to the ones we got signed."
With a full coaching staff on board and a full year to recruit and evaluate players, Hughes said he and his staff were better able to target the right kind of players.
"We know so much more about the kids we are recruiting and we were so much more targeted on needs,” Hughes said. “Last year we were looking for good athletes. Now that we have some people in place, we are able to be a little more selective, both from an athletic standpoint as well as from an academic standpoint."
Hughes said he expects to land another 10-12 players before the official signing period ends.
"I am guessing that we will have around 40 total,” Hughes said. “Some of the very best players we signed last year came in late February and March. We have actually saved 12 official visits for players who may have fallen through the cracks."
The current Hatters are in the middle of spring practice and will return to the practice field Friday morning for their third session of the spring. Spring practice will come to a close on Friday afternoon, March 1, with a spring game scrimmage at the new Stetson Athletics Training Center. The scrimmage is scheduled for a 4:30 p.m. start.