For the first time, Kennesaw State is set to have more Cobb County players on its roster than any other Division I program.
The Owls had nine players on their fall 2021 roster when the Marietta Daily Journal’s “Cobb in Division I” series was tabulated earlier this month, and they added a 10th this week in former McEachern High School standout Erwin Byrd, a transfer from Maryland.
The 10 Cobb players equals Georgia Tech as the most on one program’s roster at any time since the “Cobb in Division I” series began in 2019. The Yellow Jackets had 10 local players this past fall.
“Cobb has always been a priority for us,” Kennesaw State coach Brian Bohannon said. “We are actively recruiting Cobb every year.”
Before adding Byrd, the Owls’ had six freshmen (offensive lineman Ben Hollars, linebackers Charles Remy, Montrel Jenkins and Jadyn Walker, punter Ben Moran and kicker Conor Cummins), two sophomores (defensive backs De’Andre Ferguson and Marquis Ledet) and a graduate transfer (linebacker Xavier Reddick) from Cobb.
In the two previous editions of “Cobb in Division I,” Kennesaw State had six players each time.
When Bohannon and his staff began recruiting for the program in 2013, they had to sell recruits on a vision. Now, in just six seasons, the Owls have won two Big South Conference titles, made three trips to the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs and have had a winning record every year.
“As we grow our brand, the kids have seen success, and it helps,” Bohannon said.
However, other than having the on-field accomplishments, Bohannon said the way the program recruits has not changed since Day 1. The Owls have players from across the country, but the overwhelming majority come from Georgia.
Bohannon, though, knows getting the hometown players can be a little bit of a challenge as many want to get away from home for the first time. However, that provides a different recruiting opportunity for the staff.
“When a young man we are recruiting chooses another spot, we always want to part on good ways,” Bohannon said. “Some kids go away and they find it isn’t for them, or they aren’t getting the playing time they want, and sometimes we get a second chance with them.”
Byrd and Reddick are the latest local players to start their careers elsewhere before transferring into Kennesaw State, joining former Owls Dorian Walker and Zack Blaylock among impact players who made the move back home.
In addition, the 2020-21 recruiting year provided a challenge for a number of players. With the NCAA granting players an extra year of eligibility because of the COVID-19 pandemic, not allowing coaches to visit campuses and recruits prevented from taking official visits, there were not as many scholarships available for the most recent senior class.
Kennesaw State took advantage with players like Hollars, Jenkins, Walker, Remy, Cummins and Moran joining the programs as walk-ons. In other years, they all likely would have had multiple opportunities to go to Football Bowl Subdivision programs, but Bohannon said he is happy they are on the team.
“We are excited about this group,” he said.
Kennesaw State is not the only program that has a big number of Cobb County players on its roster for the fall.
Georgia Tech ranks second with seven players. Defensive back Derrik Allen will play his first season for the Yellow Jackets after having to sit out 2020 following his transfer from Notre Dame, while wide receiver Zach Owens is expected to make an impact after redshirting his freshman year.
Georgia is third with six players, including wide receiver Dominick Blaylock, who is coming back this season after suffering a second ACL injury. Former Marietta High School standout Arik Gilbert joins the Bulldogs after playing his freshman year at LSU.
Gilbert caught 35 passes for 368 yards and two touchdowns as a tight end for LSU, but Georgia is expected to turn him into a wide receiver.
Jacksonville State has five Cobb players on its roster — the most of any out-of-state program. Defensive back Drew Tejchman (North Cobb) is looking to make his first appearance for the Gamecocks after transferring from UNLV.
Tennessee, Army, Georgia State, Mercer and Georgia Southern each have four players from Cobb.