Hill Announces Top Recruiting Class In 16 Years!

``I am very pleased with this recruiting class,'' said Hill, heading into his second year as Spartans coach. ``We've got several guys who can be impact players immediately.''

Published Thursday, Feb. 7, 2002, in the San Jose Mercury News.

"The San Jose Mercury News contributed to this report."

SAN JOSE- San Jose State Coach Fitz Hill nearly filled his plate in his first full recruiting class, announced Wednesday.

A total of 24 letters-of-intent, one under the yearly limit, were signed by seven high school and 17 junior college recruits.

``I am very pleased with this recruiting class,'' said Hill, heading into his second year as Spartans coach. ``We've got several guys who can be impact players immediately.''

Running back I'lario Vital, who was named East Bay player of the year by one publication, and three junior college All-Americans lead this year's incoming class.

``We've got an Oakland connection now,'' said Hill, who also landed Vital's older brother, Mario, and teammate Demonte Johnson, a quarterback. ``We helped ourselves, proximity-wise. It's going to help create interest locally. And it's in the interest in football at San Jose State.

``One guy doesn't make as big a deal in football as Michael Jordan does in basketball. It's going to take everybody in this class to reclaim what we had here 20 years ago.''

In addition to local talent, Hill wanted to bring in more players directly out of high school, in order to boost the number of scholarship athletes closer to the allowable limit of 85, about 15 more than the Spartans have now.

``In the past so much recruiting here has been junior college,'' Hill said. ``Half this recruiting class is junior college, but when you have a situation in which it's all J.C., then you're continually replenishing the roster every two years and you never can get to 85 scholarships.

``Our goal is to have 12 to 14 scholarships a year given out to high school players, then another 12 to 14 non-scholarship freshman to give us something close to 25 at the bottom.''

Hill said he got so close to his numerical goals that a number of recruits plan to show up as walk-ons in the hopes of claiming a scholarship later.

``Of our non-scholarship guys,'' Hill said, ``we're going to find five or six contributors out of that group who are really worthy of a scholarship. Our goal is to add them on and get closer to our 85-scholarship limit.''

The three J.C. All-Americans are expected to step into starting roles. They are Justin Arrington, a guard from Laney College in Oakland, Eddie Brown Jr., a defensive tackle from Blinn College in Texas and Kendrick Starling, a wide receiver from Navarro College in Texas.

Another Texan, wide receiver Jamall Broussard, turned down Alabama to enlist with the Spartans, Hill said. Freshman defensive end Larnell Ransom from Verbum Dei in Los Angeles ``chose us even though he could have gone anywhere,'' Hill added.

The Spartans coach is also high on quarterback Scott Rislov, a native of Pierre, S.D., who played one season at Ellsworth College in Iowa after a year at North Dakota. Rislov would have to wrest the position from Marcus Arroyo, who lost the starting job last season to Clint Carlson, who graduated.

Contact the Mercury News reporter who contributed to this story, Ron Bergman, at ronberg@aol.com.

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