ABILENE, Texas -

ACU head football coach said when the 2013 recruiting season opened that the No. 1 priority for his team was to get bigger and more physical as the Wildcats get ready to move up to the Southland Conference and NCAA?Division I?football in 2013.

That meant the need to get bigger and deeper along both the offensive and defensive lines, a point that was driven home when Collums was in the stands in early January when North Dakota State and future SLC?opponent Sam Houston State met for the FCS?national championship at FC?Dallas Stadium in Frisco.

“We've known this, but watching North Dakota State and Sam Houston State just re-affirmed to me that we'd better have some guys who are big and who can run and hit,” Collums said as he and his staff began the recruiting process.

And on Wednesday, when Collums announced the program's first NCAA?Division I signing class, ACU had inked five offensive linemen and three defensive linemen among the 18 players who will be first-year Wildcats in 2013.

Those five offensive linemen average 6-4, 275 pounds, while the three defensive linemen average 6-2, 265 pounds, all with plenty of room to grow over the course of what Collums hopes will be a redshirt season for each of them during the 2013-14 academic year.

“I?feel very good about the five offensive linemen that we signed,” Collums said.  “Those are five guys who should be foundations for the future, and all of them are quality players.

“On the defensive side, we were only able to sign three guys right now; we missed out on a couple of guys that we went after pretty hard,” he said.  “I would have liked to have signed one or two more guys, and I think we still will do that.  Just because today (Wednesday)?is signing day doesn't mean that the search ends.  We'll keep looking and try to add a couple more guys before we get started in August.”

The offensive linemen signed by the Wildcats are Sam Fodale (6-1, 280, Evangel Christian Academy in Shreveport, La.), Austin Hisler (6-4, 250, Cedar Park), Riley Mayfield (6-7, 285, Cedar Park), Chance Rieken (6-4, 270, Comfort), and Hayden Wall (6-4, 275, Hallsville).  The defensive linemen the Wildcats inked are Gabe Hernandez (6-1, 285, El Paso Chapin), Josh McKinnies (6-1, 280, Mayde Creek), and Josh Hailey (6-6, 230, A&M?Consolidated).  Hernandez and McKinnies could play in 2013 out of necessity, although Collums' stated desire is to redshirt each freshman and have them as seniors in 2017 when ACU?can compete for the Southland Conference title and a berth in the FCS?national playoffs for the first time.

Collums and his coaches also put a premium on finding defensive players who can run and cover, and he said he believes they were able to do that with the signings of defensive backs D.J. Arnold (5-10, 180, Wichita Falls ?Rider), Quinton Baker (6-0, 180, Manor), and Quentin Bryant (6-0, 180, Mart).

“We had to establish some big guys up front, and we did that to a degree,” Collums said.  “We still need to improve there because we haven't reached our goals yet in a couple of spots defensively. But we also wanted to get some good athletes who can run and hit and we were able to do that with Arnold, Baker and Bryant.  Those guys might be able to play cornerback or safety or maybe even grow into something that would allow us to move them closer to the line of scrimmage.  But the thing about each of them is that they can all run and they're all strikers."

The only receiver the Wildcats added in the class is junior college transfer Cedric Gilbert (6-2, 220, Cisco Junior College), who played his high school ball at Lancaster.  Gilbert is a big, physical receiver who will make an immediate impact on the Wildcats' offense.

“We haven't had a wide receiver like Cedric, and we've had some great ones,” Collums said.  “We've had fast guys and
we've had smaller guys who can maneuver.  But we've never had a 6-2, 220-pound guy that can maneuver in the open field and can run away from guys.  His ability to adjust to the ball will give the quarterback the freedom to get the ball out there and let Cedric go get it.”

Collums inked two high school quarterbacks in Kade Munden (6-3, 195, China Spring) and Will Weathers (6-2, 210,
Brook Hill Academy in Tyler).  Both are multi-dimensional quarterbacks with the ability to throw and run, something the Wildcats have lacked under Collums.

“Both guys move around better than (former quarterback Mitchell Gale),” Collums said.  “I put a premium on finding guys with the ability to run and move around because we're probably going to have to add some quarterback run concepts to what we do offensively as we move up.  Both of those guys bring that ability to the table.”

The Wildcats also added three running backs to the roster, including a transfer in former Abilene High standout Herschel Sims (5-8, 215), who, because of NCAA?transfer rules, won't be eligible to play for the Wildcats until 2014.  Sims joins the Wildcats after starting his career at Oklahoma State in 2011 and then playing at Lamar in 2012.  Also signing with the Wildcats on Wednesday were De'andre Brown (5-9, 180, Lewisville) and Randy Gober (5-8, 185, Waco La?Vega).  Gober was one of the top players in the Super CenTex region and was a top-25 region player by the Waco Tribune-Herald.

“All three of those guys really wanted to be here, and each of them are upper-level running backs,” Collums said.  “They each bring different things to the table.  De'andre is more of a game-breaker type who can also catch the ball out of the backfield.  Defenses will struggle to tackle him in the open field.  Gober has great running skills and very good instincts.  There will not be a defender on the field happy about tackling him in the fourth quarter because of the way he runs.  And Herschel is a great all-around back. I'm looking forward to getting them all on the field and seeing what we've got.”

The Wildcats also added punter / placekicker Nik Grau (6-1, 195, Grapevine), who could definitely see the field for the Wildcats as a true freshman in 2013.

Because the Wildcats won't be playing a Southland Conference schedule until 2014 and aren't eligible for a conference championship or playoff berth until 2017, Collums said some athletes they talked to weren't interested in signing with ACU.

“We ran into some issues, just like we knew we would,” Collums said.  “But we knew about those going into this process.  
I think it speaks to how much the guys we signed (Wednesday) wanted to be here that they would look past that.  These guys wanted to be here and wanted to be with us and wanted to be part of what we are as a program. It just makes you love those guys even more. It also goes to show that because of who we are and what we're striving to do that guys want to be part of that.

“That all starts at the top, and I?give a lot of credit to (ACU?president) Dr. Phil Schubert and (ACU?director of athletics)?
for giving us the resources we needed to go out and get these guys,” Collums said.  “We had great weekend visits for these guys, and I?want to thank everyone involved with those in helping us get this signing class put together.  I also want to thank my assistant coaches for their great work and tireless efforts over the last few months putting this together.  Now we have to start thinking about the 2013 season and getting ready for spring training, ?two-a-days in August and the first game later that month.”


2013 ACU SIGNING LIST

D.J. Arnold, DB, 5-10, 180, fr, HS, Wichita Falls (Rider HS)
­– As a senior in 2012, Arnold set the Rider single-season record with eight interceptions on his way to earning Defensive MVP honors on the Red River 22 team as selected by the Wichita Falls Times Record-News. A first team all-District 5-4A selection in 2012, Arnold finished with 92 tackles to go along with his eight interceptions.  He also ran for 100 yards and three touchdowns on 26 carries.  He helped lead the Raiders to a Class 4A Division II state semifinal appearance in 2012.  He was an honorable mention Class 4A all-state selection by both the Associated Press and the Texas Sports Writers Association.  Also competes in track and field and is part of Rider's 4x100 and 4x200 relay teams.

Quinton Baker, DB, 6-0, 180, fr, HS, Austin (Manor HS) – Also received interest from Baylor, New Mexico, Texas State, Tulsa and UTEP. Finished his senior season with 55 tackles (34 solo), 10 passes defended and one interception for a 12-4 Manor team that went 6-1 in district play. He was a first team all-District 17-4A selection after the season.  As a junior he had 50 tackles (21 solo) and one interception for a 5-6 squad. He was a second team all-District 17-4A selection after the season. As a sophomore he had 15 tackles (5 solo), one pass defended and one interception for a 4-6 team.

De'andre Brown, RB, 5-9, 180, fr, HS, Lewisville (Lewisville HS) – Brown signed with Wildcats after originally committing to New Mexico State.  As a senior at Lewisville, Brown ran for 1,239 yards and 11 touchdowns and had a long run of 92 yards. A two-time first team all-District 5-5A selection, Brown ran for 523 yards and nine touchdowns on 81 carries as a junior and caught 24 passes for 287 yards and two touchdowns.  Finished his career with 2,107 rushing yards and 21 touchdowns on 317 carries and caught 45 passes for 471 yards and two scores. His father, Eric Gober, played at ACU in the early 1990s.

Quentin Bryant, DB, 6-0, 180, fr, HS, Mart (Mart HS) – As a senior, Bryant helped Mart reach the state semifinals and was a first team all-Central Texas defensive back and second team all-Central Texas wide receiver.  He was a second team Class A all-state defensive back by the Associated Press, but was a first team all-state selection by TheOldCoach.com.  As a junior he led the Panthers to a district title and a spot in the state semifinals, earning Associated Press honorable mention all-state honors at defensive back.  As a senior he had 63 tackles and 5 interceptions for 107 yards in returns.  He also had 1 touchdowns, 9 pass breakups, and 3 fumble recoveries.  He also carried the ball 33 times for 662 yards and 11 touchdowns and had 20 catches for 540 yards and 6 touchdowns. He was a first team all-district selection at both wide receiver and defensive back and a second team all-district selection at placekicker.  As a sophomore he was a starter on Mart's Class A Division I state championship team and was an honorable mention selection on the all-Super CenTex team.  As a freshman in 2009, Bryant was part of a Mart team that reached the state quarterfinals.

Sam Fodale, C, 6-1, 280, fr, HS, Shreveport, La. (Evangel Christian Academy) – Starter at center on Evangel Christian Academy team that finished the 2012 season at 12-3 and reached the Louisiana Class 2A state championship game where it lost to national powerhouse John Curtis Christian High School.  Curtis finished the season as the consensus national championship, according to five of the seven most widely regarded high school football polls.  Fodale also started as a junior at Evangel Christian, helping the Eagles to an 8-6 record. Played in the Max Emfinger All-American Bowl in January was named the Bowl Game Offensive Lineman co-MVP, helping the West Team to a 14-10 victory.  He was an honorable mention selection to the Class 2A all-state team by the Louisiana Football Coaches' Association after his senior season. A three-year starter at center at Evangel Christian Academy, Fodale has been snapping out of the shotgun since the seventh grade.

Cedric Gilbert, WR, 6-2, 220, jr, Tr, Lancaster HS (Cisco Junior College) – Transfers to ACU from Cisco Junior College and could be an immediate impact player for the Wildcats in 2013.  Passed on offers from Louisiana Tech, Louisiana-Lafayette and North Texas to sign with ACU.  As a freshman in 2011 at Cisco, Gilbert caught 36 passes for 658 yards and six touchdowns.  He had his biggest game of his freshman season against eventual conference champion Navarro College when he caught 12 passes for 228 yards and three touchdowns.  Last year as a sophomore he caught 27 passes for 278 yards and two touchdowns in only eight games.  Aside from being a top football recruit out of Lancaster High School, Gilbert was also part of Lancaster's dominating Class 4A track and field teams.  As a senior in 2011, he ran on the Tigers' state championship teams in both the 4x100 and 4x400 relays, and as a junior anchored the 4x400 relay team to the state title.

Randy Gober, RB, 5-8, 185, fr, HS, Waco (La Vega HS) – Signed with the Wildcats after also receiving interest from several schools, including Syracuse. As a senior he ran for 1,755 yards and 23 touchdowns, including a 7-touchdown game in a win over Connally in District 17-3A play.  His play earned him District 17-3A Offensive MVP honors and a spot on the all-district first team.  As a junior in 2011 he ran for 1,376 yards and 17 touchdowns and was the District 19-3A Offensive MVP.  The Pirates finished 11-1 in 2011, losing to Tyler Chapel Hill in the second round, and finished 7-4 in 2012 with a loss to Taylor in the first round of the Class 3A Division I state playoffs. As a sophomore in 2010, Gober was a second team
all-District 19-3A pick.

Nik Grau, P / PK, 6-1, 195, fr, HS, Grapevine (Grapevine HS) – Grau could come in and challenge to be the Wildcats' punter and placekicker as a freshman.  As a senior in 2012, he hit 11 of 13 field goals, including a career-best 52-yarder against L.D. Bell in a late September game.  As a senior he was a first team all-District 6-5A selection as both a punter and placekicker.  As a junior in 2011, he hit 8 of 12 field goals, including a long kick of 45 yards.  He was the first team all-District 6-5A placekicker.  Also plays soccer at Grapevine where he's been a two-time all-district forward.  He scored 15 goals as a junior in 2012. 

Josh Hailey, DL, 6-6, 230, fr, HS, College Station (A&M Consolidated HS) – Named second team Class 5A Region II Elite Team by TexasHSFootball.com after his senior season in 2012. He was also voted first team all-District 14-5A after his senior season. As a senior he finished with 75 tackles (9 tackles for loss) and five sacks.  He also had 23 quarterback pressures, one forced fumble, two pass breakups and one interception.

Gabe Hernandez, DL, 6-1, 285, fr, HS, El Paso (Chapin HS) – Selected to play in the Greater El Paso Showcase in December after his high school career ended.  As a senior he was a first team all-District 1-4A selection at defensive tackle.  As a junior he was a first team all-District 1-4A selection after amassing 112 tackles (44 solo and 68 assisted), including three tackles for loss.  He also had four sacks for 20 yards in losses.  He helped Chapin to a 9-3 record as the team reached the second round of the Class 4A Division I state playoffs where it lost to Wichita Falls Rider and future ACU teammate D.J. Arnold.

Austin Hisler, OL, 6-4, 250, fr, HS, Cedar Park (Cedar Park HS) – Starter at offensive guard on Cedar Park's Class 4A Division II state championship team in 2012.  Voted the District 25-4A Offensive Lineman of the Year and was a first team all-district lineman.  He was a second team Class 4A all-state selection by the Associated Press and the Texas Sports Writers Association.  First team all-state by TheOldCoach.com and first team all-Super CenTex. His father, George Hisler, played at ACU.

Josh McKinnies, DL, 6-1, 280, fr, HS, Houston (Mayde Creek HS) – As a senior in 2012, McKinnies was voted second all-District 19-5A.  As a senior, McKinnies finished with 59 tackles (18 solo), including nine tackles for loss.  He also had five sacks, 10 quarterback pressures and three forced fumbles.  He was an honorable mention selection to the all-district team after his junior season in 2011.

Riley Mayfield, OL, 6-7, 285, fr, HS, Cedar Park (Cedar Park HS) – Starter at offensive guard on Cedar Park's Class 4A Division II state championship team in 2012.   Voted first team all-District 25-4A and was named to second team all-Super CenTex.  Also received interest from Baylor, Texas State and Central Arkansas and passed up offers from Central Arkansas and Texas State to sign with the Wildcats. 

Kade Munden, QB, 6-3, 195, fr, HS, China Spring (China Spring HS) – As a senior, Munden threw for 1,599 yards and ran for another 449 yards.  He also averaged 38 yards per punt.  He was an academic all-state honorable mention selection and was a second team all-District 17-3A selection.  He was an all-Super CenTex honorable mention selection at quarterback.  He helped lead the Cougars to the playoffs where they lost in the first round to top-ranked Navasota. As a junior he was academic all-district and an all-district honorable mention selection at quarterback.  After his junior season he the MVP of the Texas Quarterback Showcase Combine. Munden also plays baseball and has been voted all-district each of the last two seasons.

Chance Rieken, OL, 6-4, 270, fr, HS, Comfort (Comfort HS) – Helped lead Comfort back from an 0- 4 non-district start to a 4-2 District 3-2A record and a berth in the Class 2A Division I state playoffs.  After the season he was voted the District 3-2A Offensive Lineman of the Year and was a first team all-district selection.  He was also the District 3-2A Defensive Lineman of the Year and was first team all-Hill Country.

Herschel Sims, RB, 5-8, 215, jr, Tr, Abilene (Lamar) – Won't be eligible to play until 2014 because of NCAA transfer rules.  Will have two years of eligibility remaining (2014 and 2015).
     Sophomore (2012 at Lamar): Played in seven games in 2012 before leaving the team in the midst of a 4-8 campaign. Still finished second on the team in rushing yards with 388 on 96 carries (4.0 yards per carry). Sims scored two touchdowns and had a long run of 25 yards on the season.  He had a season-best 99 yards on 18 carries in his last game of his season, a 52-21 win over McMurry on Oct. 13 in Beaumont. He also ran for 83 yards and one touchdown in a 31-0 win over Prairie View A&M on Sept. 8.
     Freshman (2011 at Oklahoma State): Played in nine games as a true freshman at Oklahoma State, finishing third on the team with 242 rushing yards. Helped the Cowboys to a 12-1 record, a Big 12 championship and a 41-38 win over Stanford in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl. Posted 100-yard rushing efforts against Texas Tech (111) and Baylor (104), and averaged a robust 7.8 yards per carry on the season. Ripped off an 81-yard touchdown run against Baylor for OSU's longest play of the year and the longest in the Big 12 in 2011. Scored on a 1-yard run against Kansas for his first collegiate touchdown.
     At Abilene High School: Ran for 2,352 yards as a junior and 709 during an injury-plagued senior campaign for Abilene HS.  Ranked as the second-best all-purpose running back in the country as a senior by Rivals.com. A SuperPrep All-American, he was also ranked as the No. 8 player in Texas and the No. 73 overall recruit in the nation by Rivals.com ... First-team Associated Press all-state and was the Texas 5A Offensive Player of the Year as a junior. Ranked as the No. 5 running back in America and the No. 6 player in Texas by Scout. Placed fourth in the state meet as a sprinter.

Hayden Wall, OL, 6-4, 275, fr, HS, Hallsville (Hallsville HS) – Wall, who played for former Wildcat assistant coaches Clayton and Cody Farrell at Hallsville, was a first team all-District 14-4A selection in both 2011 and 2012.  As a senior he helped Hallsville to a 7-4 record, third-place district finish and a first-round playoff appearance.  He was a two-time winner of Hallsville's Offensive Lineman of the Year award.  As the Hallsville left tackle, Wall graded out at 95 percent for the 2012 season, finishing with 75 pancake blocks and 56 knockdown blocks.  He was a first team all-East Texas performer in 2012 and a second team all-East Texas performer in 2011. Wall also garnered interest from Central Arkansas, Sam Houston State, Louisiana Tech and Texas-San Antonio.

Will Weathers, QB / Athlete, 6-2, 210, fr, HS, Tyler, Texas (Brook Hill School) – A two-year starter at Brook Hill School, Weathers also had an offer from Air Force. Weathers completed 100 of 144 passes for 1,420 yards, 17 touchdowns and only two interceptions in 2012, while rushing for 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns on 123 carries.  Weathers accounted for 2,562 total yards and 42 total touchdowns during Brook Hill's 2011 TAPPS Division III state championship season. After moving up to TAPPS Division II for the 2012 season, Brook Hill finished 6-5 with a first-round playoff loss to Midland Christian.

Information for this story provided by ACU Sports Information.