The timing put the pressure on Zach Morrison as soon as he stepped on campus.
But in the six weeks since he was named the new head football coach at Shorter University, the former Hawk standout is proving he, and the coaches he’s already assembled, are working overtime to bring in a quality recruiting class.
Click here for a link to more on Shorter's initial signing class.
“We’re going after a different type of kid, and you can tell just by watching film on these guys,” Morrison said. “In the past, you’ve seen a lot of JUCO kids from California and Texas, really all over the place. We are really trying to recruit local. To me local means places like Gainesville, Forsyth and Cobb County, even down in South Georgia. That was the foundation in the beginning — recruit as local as you can. And you’ve seen a shift from that.”
Morrison was an offensive lineman on the inaugural Shorter football team in 2005 and played for head coach Phil Jones for all four seasons. He said the program has received commitments from over 40 student-athletes since he took the job in early January, and nearly 30 of them have signed Letters of Intent.
Aside from skill and football IQ, Morrison and his staff are emphasizing players’ academics as well, considering things like SAT and ACT scores on top of GPA to help not only their stock in being recruited but also finding scholarship opportunities.
Morrison also wants to reinforce the school’s mission of transforming lives through Christ and the Christian faith.
“We’re selling more than just a program. We’re selling a culture and a vision. We’re selling something totally different than a lot of these places,” he said. “I want coaches that will share their faith and share their experiences with these kids. Because as coaches, we’re up here, but as Christians, we’re all on the same playing field.”
Joining Morrison in recent weeks have been offensive coordinator/assistant head football coach Reilly Murphy and defensive coordinator Chad Creamer.
Murphy comes to Shorter from Dixie State University in Utah, where he was the offensive coordinator for the Division II program. Creamer was the defensive coordinator at Davidson College in North Carolina and was most recently on the staff at the University of Cincinnati as a quality control coach.
Along with new defensive line coach and recruiting coordinator Nic Workman, Shorter’s staff has overseen a recruiting class that, so far, provides an even mix of offensive and defensive players that, according to Morrison, shouldn’t feel complacent about waiting for their moment.
“We told all these guys coming in that you are going to compete for a job from day one. I am not guaranteeing a starting spot for anybody,” Morrison said. “That’s the way it was when I was here. I had an opportunity to start every year, but I always knew there was somebody behind me trying to catch up every day, every rep and in the classroom. There are guys who are going to push right now for playing time.”
Among those on offense who have signed are offensive lineman Josh Taylor and running back Amauri Burks. Taylor is a 6-foot-4, 290-pound All-State selection at West Hall High School and Burks hails from Tullahoma, Tennessee.
“That is one guy that we were just overjoyed to get,” Morrison said of the 5-10, 185-pound speedster. “He came on an official visit and he is such a player. And a smart kid.”
The Hawks’ already-deep receiving corps will grow even more with the signing of Isaiha Jones from Cedar Bluff, Alabama, and Dominic Ham from North Atlanta High School. Jones is 6-foot, 175 pounds, while Ham stands 6-3, 195 pounds.
“They can change the field for us,” Morrison said. “That was the one group of guys where we have a lot of depth at. You have Lewis Hayes, who led the conference in receiving yards last season, and talk about a character guy. Lew is one of my favorite people that I’ve met on campus so far.”
Defensively, Morrison and his coaches are high on Bradley Central (Tenn.) cornerback Jeff Brewer.
“He came down here and loved the fact that we were going to treat this like a family. We’re going to take care of our guys,” Morrison said. “As a corner, we feel like he can come in right now and play.”
Also joining the Hawks this fall will be Hiram linebacker Kevin Cole, Cartersville safety Bradley Kirk and Gordon Central linebacker Brent Silvar. And Morrison and his staff aren’t done yet.
“We are still actively recruiting. We’re trying to bring in a recruiting class of 50 to 55 kids,” Morrison said. “Now, not all of those will be on scholarship. Some will be walk-ons. But there’s an opportunity. It’s just all about doing things the right way. The way that I know how. The way that coach Jones taught me.”