National Signing Day 2014: Northern Michigan back to stocking up at quarterback

MARQUETTE – The Northern Michigan University football program only graduated one quarterback from its 2013 team, but after the run of injuries at the position this fall, head coach Chris Ostrowsky is making sure the program isn’t short on QBs ever again.

In addition to the three quarterbacks set to return from the 2013 Wildcats, Ostrowsky signed three more QBs to National Letters of Intent as part of National Signing Day on Wednesday, bringing the number of NMU signal callers to six.

“When you go through five quarterbacks in two years, you better bring some quarterbacks in,” Ostrowsky said. “We really addressed that to a point where we feel great about it.”

The ‘Cats started three different QBs in 2013 after sophomore Ryan Morley was ruled out before the season began with a shoulder injury, senior Cody Scepaniak suffered a season-ending leg injury in Week 3 and junior transfer Dustin Thomas was lost for the year with a wrist injury in Week 5.

True freshman Shaye Brown was forced to play the final six weeks and started the last five games with former 2012 Escanaba High School quarterback Austin Young turned running back at NMU as his backup.

On Wednesday, NMU signed 6-foot-3, 245-pound Quintez Jones out of Aurora, Ill., and 6-0, 200-pound Jospeh “JT” Jurasin – the cousin of current NMU running back Wyatt Jurasin – from Forrest Lake, Minn. and Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College in Cloquet, Minn.

In addition, 6-0, 200-pound Jaranta Lewis of Weston, Fla. enrolled at NMU in January having last played football for Cypress Bay High School in South Florida in 2012. His signing was announced as well Wednesday.

“The quarterback situation has been addressed,” Ostrowsky said. “I’m excited about that situation.”

NMU announced the signing of 37 total student-athletes on Wednesday. Of the 37, 15 players were on the offensive side of the ball, 17 on defense, two on special teams and three players are listed as just athletes for the moment.

Of the 37, there are six linebackers, six defensive backs, five defensive linemen, five running backs and five wide receivers.

“We really did a heck of a job recruiting on the defensive line,” Ostrowsky said. “A young man named Austin McCarthy (6-4, 230) out of Wisconsin is going to do a tremendous job for us. We’re excited to have him. Alex Hamilton (6-2, 205), who was probably as highly recruited as there was of a player in the GLIAC this year. He’s going to do an unbelievable job for us.

“Defensively, we added depth in places we needed to do that. We signed a linebacker corps who could evolve to be as good as any in the league as they grow and develop in their college days.”

Ostrowsky said the program is at a point where it can now let certain players at certain positions grow and develop instead of having to throw them into the fire right away as true freshmen.

That’s why the one word he chose to describe the Class of 2014 is development.

An example is at running back, where redshirt freshman Keon Collier started for NMU in Week 1 of 2012 before suffering a season ending leg injury in Week 2.

Collier and Wyatt Jurasin were the Wildcats top two running backs in 2013 and both are back for 2014, meaning Ostrowsky can let the five backs he’s bringing in, as well as other players, develop not just on the field, but in the classroom, weight room and in the kitchen nutritionally.

“If we can develop these guys – and we will – and retain these guys – and we will – this is going to be the class that really defines this tenure,” Ostrowsky said. “This will solidify our success for the future in terms of the depth this class brings to the table.”

The Wildcats signed two players from Florida, one from Minnesota, four from Wisconsin, nine from Illinois and 21 from Michigan, including nine from the Upper Peninsula.

The nine from the U.P. is the most Ostrowsky has pulled from the region since taking over as head coach. He signed one Yooper in Austin Young in 2012 and two last year in Jared Vuksan out of Gladstone and Kyle Root from Sault Ste. Marie.

“If we can sign nine (from the U.P.) every single year, we’re going to be a heck of a football team,” Ostrowsky said. “Our vision for this thing is everyone who grows up in this region wants to be Wildcats. We’re excited we were able to draw the caliber of athlete we were able to in our region.”

Notes: According to Ostrowsky, NMU’s Class of 2013 sports an overall grade point average of 2.75; 36 of the 37 were mentioned on all-area teams, 25 were captains and 10 played on state championship teams. Redshirt freshman defensive lineman Adam Williams is no longer at NMU. Williams led NMU with five sacks and nine tackles for a loss of 47 yards. He also forced a fumble and finished seventh in total tackles at 39. NMU defensive line coach Joe Coniglio has left the Wildcats to become the defensive line coach at Rhode Island, an FCS school. Ostrowsky said the position will be addressed in the next 10 days or so. … The annual spring game will take place April 12. NMU went 3-7 overall and in the GLIAC in 2013.