Osceola Head Football Coach Doug Nichols said it’s one of his favorite days of the year, and the 2020 National Signing Day on Tuesday was extra special for Nichols as eight Kowboys signed to play college football.
“This group of seniors was so incredibly special to me,” Nichols said. “They loved to play football, they were coachable and they were dedicated. To be truthful, they rejuvenated my career and my love of coaching. They were so fun to be around and they truly provided incredible leadership to our younger players.”
Heading the list of signees is quarterback Davon Wells, who selected The Citadel over Army and several other schools. A terrific all-around athlete, Wells was three-way threat with the football, as he threw for 13 touchdowns, ran for 495 yards and seven more touchdowns, and also caught seven passes for 163 yards and another touchdown.
In his first year as starting quarterback in 2018, Wells completed 37 percent of his passes, throwing for 242 yards and four touchdowns, and accounted for 12 touchdowns overall. As a senior, he completed 51 percent of his passes and accounted for 21 touchdowns overall.
“A couple of years ago, we asked Davon to play quarterback not because he wanted to, but because we needed him to play there,” Nichols said. “He not only accepted it, but he worked so hard on getting better at it.”
Wells’ 13 touchdown passes were the most by an Osceola quarterback in the Nichols’ era. Running back Dewayne Magee inked with Lenoir-Rhyne University in North Carolina. A Division II power, Lenoir-Rhyne made it to the quarterfinals of the NCAA National Championship last year, where they lost a 43-38 decision to eventual national championship West Florida.
Although he shared playing time with a bevy of talented running backs in the Osceola backfield, Magee still accounted for more than 1,500 all-purpose yards and 17 touchdowns last year. He averaged more than 9.5 yards per carry.
Four Kowboy defensive linemen also signed on Tuesday, led by defensive tackle Osceola News-Gazette Defensive Player of the Year Dylan Ruiz – who signed with 1-AA New Hampshire. No stranger to post-season play, New Hampshire has made it to the post-season seven of the last 10 years. In Ruiz, they are getting a quick lineman who recorded 20 quarterback sacks last season.
Other Kowboy defensive lineman signing included Trey Veranardo and Jacob McKenney, who both inked with Franklin-Pierce College; as well as Bryce Butler, who signed with Butler Community College in Kansas.
The four defensive linemen combined for 29 quarterback sacks and an additional 16 tackles-forlosses last year. Ruiz also earned Defensive Player of the Game in the Central Florida All-Star game this past December. The fact that four of Osceola’s eight signees were from the defensive line was not lost on Nichols.
“When we were putting the signs out today, it really hit home with me on how the defensive line was the heart of our defense,” Nichols said. “They simply did not give our opponents much time to throw last year and that made it easier for everyone. We’re going to miss them next year, fortunately we have a couple of really young players coming up that have a lot of potential.”
Two other defensive players also signed on Tuesday. Safety Daniel Cooper will spend the next four years at Bethune-Cookman. Cooper earned All-County honors last year and recorded three interceptions. Linebacker Osha Shelton signed to play with Vermillion Community College in Minnesota.
Several other county players also signed college offers on Tuesday.
Harmony’s Kenneth Torres signed with defending NCAA FCS Champion (formerly 1-AA) West Florida. Torres rushed 59 times for 322 yards and a touchdown and also led Harmony with 1098 allpurpose yards, including 28 receptions for with 406 yards and four touchdowns. Offensive lineman Thomas Schroeder, a versatile lineman who can play guard or center, signed with Monmouth – an FCS team who went 11-3 last year and made it to the second round of the NCAA playoffs.
Joining Magee at Lenior Rhyne will be Tohopekaliga’s Nathaniel Isaac. A defensive lineman, Isaac recorded 48 tackles last season and recorded six quarterback sacks.
Poinciana’s Qualen Hill and Justin Carpenter signed to play at Florida Memorial University in Miami Gardens. Carpenter threw for 1,500 yards and 14 touchdowns last season; while Hill recorded 214 tackles and added four sacks from his linebacker position.
Both players had key roles in leading Poinciana to four wins last year, the most in school history.
Liberty High School had two players sign. Linebacker BJ Auguste will join Vernardo and McKenney at Franklin Pierce; while Kynan Clemons inked with NAIA power Grand View. Both players were two-way guys for Coach Brandon Pennington. Auguste (LB/DE/FB) led Liberty with 68 tackles, including 12 tackles-for-loss and two sacks. Clemons posted 67 tackles from his free safety position but also played wide receiver. Gateway LB Finau Fine signed with Stetson University. He posted 49 tackles with 29 quarterback hurries.
“This group of seniors was so incredibly special to me. They loved to play football, they were coachable and they were dedicated. To be truthful, they rejuvenated my career and my love of coaching.” -doug nichols, osceola high school football coach