HARRISONBURG — Everett Withers has landed his first two high school recruits as James Madison’s new football coach — and one of them apparently had a scholarship offer from North Carolina State.
Blythewood High School (S.C.) cornerback Aaron Peak and Bluffton (S.C.) defensive tackle K.J. Ford committed last weekend while on official visits to JMU with a number of other recruits, including Mills Godwin linebacker A.B. Rhodes and Benedictine defensive lineman Cornell Urquhart, both of whom committed before former head coach Mickey Matthews was fired.
Peak said he picked Madison over offers from Southern Conference and Big South schools, notably Charleston Southern, Western Carolina and Wofford. He also said he drew interest from Division I-A Air Force. When told he was one of Withers’ first JMU’s recruits, he said it wasn’t a big deal.
“I know I won’t be the last,” the 5-foot-10, 190-pound Peak said. “That’s a great program. They’re heading in the right direction. That’s not a hard school to recruit to, so we won’t be the last.”
Ford — a 6-foot, 285-pounder who also played running back on occasion in coach Ken Cribb’s “meat-wagon packages” — drew interest from Atlantic Coast Conference-level schools. He said he had an offer from N.C. State.
Cribb also said the Wolfpack offered, but things fell through over the summer, they said, over Ford attending a camp at Florida State. Then NCSU ran out of room.
“[N.C. State] head coach [Dave Doeren] wanted me to hold off on committing because he found out I was going to FSU camp from my coach,” Ford said Tuesday afternoon via text message. “And then spots just filled up.”
Ford said he selected Madison because of Withers and an opportunity to play early.
“A lot,” Ford said when asked about Withers’ impact on his decision. “He wants me to come in and start playing right away.”
Withers’ résumé includes stops at Ohio State and North Carolina.
Cribb said Ford has helped Bluffton to a 44-10 record over the last four seasons.
“He’s always been big, but when you see him, you’re going to think he weighs 250,” Cribb said. “He carries his weight well. His lower body is big, his hands are big, his feet are big. He’s very, very explosive.”
Ford and Peak are the sixth and seventh recruits for the class of 2014. They join Rhodes, Urquhart, Bruton athlete Kapri Doucet, South Hagerstown (Md.) running back Isiaha Smith and Hillsborough (N.J.) quarterback Rob Nittolo, who graduated from high school early and enrolled at JMU for the spring semester.