Charlotte 49ers second-year head football coach Brad Lambert has announced the signing of five players during the mid-year signing period. Included in the group of signees, who are enrolled for the 2014 spring semester, are defensive end Josh Manley, who is transferring from Syracuse, junior college teammates safety Branden Dozier and linebacker Nick Cook, junior college tight end Richard Murphy and high school quarterback Brooks Barden.
"Our goal in this period was to put age on our team," said 49ers head coach Brad Lambert. "These guys help us from that standpoint. These guys are in line with the kind of people were looking for from a character standpoint. We want guys that are going to represent the university in a good light and that fit in well with our team. We’re looking for highly-productive guys and we wanted to add age with four or five guys in this period -- so we met that goal."
Manley (College Park, Ga./Milton H.S.) is a 6-2, 269 lb. defensive end who is transferring to the 49ers from Syracuse. He did not play in his freshman season and made his debut against Wake Forest this past fall. He was a third-team all-state selection as a senior at Milton High School for coach Howie DeCristofaro. He recorded 42 tackles, including six sacks and two forced fumbles that season. His uncle, Dexter Manley, starred in the NFL for 11 years. He played nine years with the Washington Redskins and was a member of two Super Bowl championship teams.
"Josh gives us age and will bolster our defensive line when we hit the field in 2015," Lambert said, noting that Manley is scheduled to sit out the 2014 season as a four-year transfer. "He comes highly recommended, comes from our recruiting footprint and he has the size we’re looking for."
Dozier (Topeka, Kan./Washburn Rural H.S.) and Cook (Wichita, Kan./Kapaun Mt. Carmel H.S.) were teammates for perennial national junior college power Butler Community College in El Dorado, Kansas. Dozier and Cook helped the Grizzlies, who have been ranked in the top 10 of the final NJCAA national polls for 16 straight seasons, to a 20-3 record in their two years, there. In 2012, Butler finished second in the final NJCAA national poll after falling to Iowa Western C.C. in the title game and this past year they were sixth under head coach Troy Morrell. They won back-to-back Jayhawk Conference and Region VI Championships in those two years and over their 16-year run in the final Top 10 have won five national championships.
This past year, Dozier, a 6-0, 190 lb. safety, had 61 tackles (5.5/gm) with 46 solo tackles, 0.5 sacks, 2 tackles for loss and one interception. A first-team all-Kansas Jayhawk Community College Conference (KJCCC) selection, he posted his interception in the Region VI Championship game against Hutchinson C.C. as the Grizzlies captured their second straight title, 24-21. He had a high of 14 tackles vs. Fort Scott C.C. in a 52-14 victory and had nine tackles in the regular-season victory over Hutchinson that clinched the Jayhawk Conference title. In two seasons, he had 90 tackles, four tackles for loss, 0.5 sacks, 1 interception and 1 forced fumble.
"Branden was a highly-productive guy on a team that won nine games," Lambert said. "He was one of the most productive guys on a very good team. He’s a real physical player. We really liked how physical he played and that will help our defense."
Cook is a 6-2, 220 lb. linebacker who had 58 tackles (5.3/gm) with 33 solo tackles, 2.5 sacks and 11 tackles for loss, this past season. He returned a fumble recovery 61 yards for a touchdown in the Grizzlies 20-10 win at Garden City. He was named Outstanding Defensive Player of the Game in the season-ending Graphic Edge Bowl. In that 6-0 loss to third-ranked Iowa Western, Cook had a season-high 11 tackles, including a sack for a 10-yard loss.
"He’s a guy we targeted to help at our linebacker spot," said Lambert. "He’s very athletic and runs really well. He’ll bring more athleticism to our linebackers corps."
Murphy (Susanville, Ca.; Lassen H.S.) is a 6-3; 240 lb. tight end from California state champion Butte Community College in Oroville, Ca. Murphy helped the Roadrunners to a 12-0 record in 2013 that included a Northern California Divisional Championship and a Northern California Conference regular-season title. The Roadrunners, under head coach Jeff Jordan, were ranked tied for first in the nation in JCGridiron.com’s final poll, giving Butte a share of that national championship. Murphy, a converted quarterback, averaged 30 yards receiving per game and pulled in three touchdowns. In the state championship game against Southern Division champion Fullerton, Murphy was named Offensive Player of the Game after making five catches for 143 yards, including a 70-yard touchdown catch as the Roadrunners posted a 28-13 victory. Murphy also scored a touchdown in the 47-18 victory over City College of San Francisco that clinched the conference title with a perfect 5-0 league mark. The Roadrunners went 10-1 in 2012 giving Murphy a two-year win-loss record of 22-1.
"With the loss of (H-back) CJ (Crawford), we wanted to put some age in that room," Lambert said. "He has the athleticism we want to get out of the position. He’s been a quarterback and he has a high football IQ which was key for us and he has a lot of versatility, which is another thing we look for."
Barden (Cartersville, Ga./Cartersville H.S.), a 6-3; 200-lb. quarterback, just completed his high school career at Cartersville H.S. where he played under his father, Frank Barden. He was a three-star recruit according to ESPN.com, had a position rating of #39 and was invited to the Elite 11 Regional QB camp in Atlanta. He led the Hurricanes to a 24-3 record over the last two years by throwing for nearly 5000 yards and 77 touchdowns. As a senior, the Hurricanes went 11-2 with an unbeaten 7-0 mark in league play. Barden threw for 2323 yards (211.2/gm) and 41 touchdowns. In his junior year, the Hurricanes went 13-1, including another unbeaten mark in league play. He threw for 2436 yards and 36 TDs. In addition to his 4759 yards passing, Barden also rushed for 761 yards and 10 touchdowns over the last two years.
"Brooks is a quarterback who graduated early and now gets an early start (with us) in the offseason," Lambert said. "He can really throw the ball and he’s athletic. His Dad is a high school coach and he’s just a football junkie. We’re real excited to have him here. He’s got all the stats and the strong record and we really like that he’s gotten in early with us. It’s always nice for a quarterback to come in early and learn the system."
In other roster news, Lambert announced that LB Micah Bryan, who was dismissed from the team to attend to family issues during the season, did not return to school.
In its inaugural season this past fall, Charlotte went 5-6 while competing as an FCS Independent and notched the program’s first win over a nationally-ranked FCS opponent. Charlotte will spend one more year as an FCS Independent before joining Conference USA, of the FBS, in 2015.