Tyler Fortenberry signing with Vanderbilt highlights huge group of CLCC football signees

Published 1:00 pm Thursday, December 21, 2023

You can usually judge the quality of the season had by the Copiah-Lincoln CC football team by how many players ink to continue their careers on the next level in mid-December when signing day comes.

Coming off a 10-win season for just the second time in program history, Co-Lin and head coach Glenn Davis had a banner day of sophomore pledging to their new schools when the signing period opened on Wednesday.

Locally, Co-Lin sophomore tight end Tyler Fortenberry realized a lifelong dream by signing with an SEC program in the Vanderbilt Commadores.

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Fortenberry won too many individual awards to list here during his prep career at Brookhaven Academy. He was picked as the Daily Leader All-Area MVP in both basketball and football while also playing baseball for the Cougars.

As a freshman, he was a backup quarterback for the Wolves. After the season, he made the change to tight end and saw his recruitment take off.

He initially committed to Southern Miss before opening his recruitment back up. In the week before signing day, he had Arkansas State head coach Butch Jones come in for an in-home visit and also had Big 10 member Illinois drop in for a visit.

One of the schools recruiting him the hardest through the process was New Mexico State. When NMSU offensive coordinator Tim Beck jumped to the same position at Vanderbilt, the Commadores began recruiting Fortenberry too.

The 6-foot-4, 245-pound Fortenberry caught six passes for 72 yards and one score as a sophomore. Tight end is a position where Vandy has been light of late as former starter Justin Ball transferred to Mississippi State earlier this month.

NJCAA First Team All-American running back Johnnie Daniels made his verbal pledge to Mississippi State official by signing with the Bulldogs on Wednesday. Daniels was the first player to commit to new MSU coach Jeff Lebby after his hiring.

Ranked the no. 1 JUCO running back in the nation, Daniels rushed for 1,253 yards and 15 touchdowns as a sophomore.

Daniels played high school football at Crystal Springs and wasn’t the only former CSHS Tiger to sign with a Division I program on Wednesday.

Defensive back Navarion Benson, a teammate of Daniels in high school and at Co-Lin, signed with the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs.

Benson was an NJCAA Second Team All-American and had at once been committed to both Troy University and New Mexico State University during his recruitment process.

Daniels and Benson were two of the three Wolves named to the NJCAA All-American team this week. The third member of that prestigious group was defensive lineman Billy Pullen.

Pullen, a native of Kaufman, Texas, was a terror on the edge for the CLCC defense this season.

With around 20 offers, Pullen visited Sam Houston State, Marshall, and Louisiana-Monroe before picking the Warhawks.

He was one of three players from Co-Lin that signed with Louisiana-Monroe on Wednesday. Joining Pullen in Monroe next year will be defensive lineman Kevontay Wells and offensive lineman Quentis Griffin Jr.

Wells prepped at Forest Hill High School in Jackson, is 6-foot-3, 270-pounds and made 41 tackles (nine for a loss) this season for the Wolves. Griffin played high school ball at Wilkinson County and stands 6-foot-5 and weighs 330-pounds.

The Warhawks are under the direction of a new head coach in Bryant Vincent. Vincent inherited a program from Terry Bowden that went 2-10 last season, thus he went JUCO heavy in his first signing class, inking 17 players from two-year schools in his initial class of 35 players.

ULM wasn’t the only school to sign multiple Wolves on Wednesday, as quarterback DeVon Tott and wide receiver Carlos Martin are both headed to Norfolk, Virginia to play for the Norfolk State Spartans.

Tott, a two-year starter from Mandeville, Louisiana, passed for 1,964 yards and 12 touchdowns this season. Martin, a graduate of Laurel High, hauled in 39 passes for 486 yards and one touchdown. Those 39 catches tied Martin for the team lead.

CLCC had three receivers sign on Wednesday. That group included Martin, Richards Mays Jr. and O’Ryan James.

Mays Jr. came to Wesson after prepping at Ridgeland High and playing as a freshman at Southern Miss. He struggled with an injury through the early going but rebounded to make 24 catches in eight games.

On Wednesday, May Jr. made good on a verbal pledge he made during the season and signed to next play at Jackson State University.

James, a native of Houma, Louisiana, signed with Mississippi Valley State.

Two other Wolves will be joining Mays Jr. and James in the SWAC.

Montra Edwards, a 6-foot-2, 290-pound defensive lineman, signed with the SWAC champion Florida A&M Rattlers. An alum of Holmes County Central High, Edwards made 27 tackles for CLCC in 2023.

CLCC kicker Brandon Gilliam is also SWAC bound, after inking with the Alabama State University Hornets. Gilliam will head to Montgomery, Alabama after making some huge kicks for the Wolves in his lone season spent in Wesson.

Gilliam, a Warren Central alum who kicked at East Central CC as a freshman, went 38-of-39 on PAT attempts. He made 16 field goals, including a long of 44-yards. His 29-yard field goal late in the game was the winning score for the Wolves in a season opening 23-20 victory over East Mississippi.

He was also the punter in 2023 for CLCC and excelled there too. Gilliam punted 45 times for 1,493 yards and averaged 33 yards per punt. His season long punt went for 60 yards, and he had 15 punts downed inside the 20-yard line and 18 punts caught for a fair-catch.

The Wolves had four total players sign with Alabama based schools on Wednesday, Gilliam, defensive back Christopher Burnett, offensive lineman Brandon Wallace and defensive back Andrew Johnson are all four headed to the Yellowhammer State.

Burnett was a team leader for Co-Lin with three interceptions as a sophomore. A graduate of Yazoo City High School, he’s signed to next play at the University of North Alabama. North Alabama, once a longtime member of the Gulf South Conference (GSC), is currently transitioning from NCAA Division II to NCAA Division I status.

Wallace is joining a current GSC member school by inking with the University of West Alabama Tigers. A 6-foot-3, 285-pound native of Batesville, Wallace prepped at North Panola High School.

Johnson, who made 38 tackles this season, signed with Samford University in Birmingham. He is an Olive Brance High School alum.

The defensive backfield was a strength of the Co-Lin defense all season and two of the most versatile pieces of that group signed on Wednesday in Kaden Dukes and Jahron Manning.

Dukes signed with the GSC champion Delta State Statesmen. An alum of Petal High, Dukes played play nickel, safety, or outside linebacker for the Wolves in 2023. He made 61 tackles and had three interceptions as a sophomore.

Manning signed with Sun Belt Conference member school Old Dominion in Norfolk, Virigina. A native of New Orleans who prepped at Brother Martin, Manning came to Weson after starting his career at Tyler Junior College in Texas.

Both Manning and Pullen were at Tyler and made the move when their former coordinator, Matt Gordon, was hired for the same position in Wesson.

ODU is getting a player with a nose for the ball, as Manning made 71 tackles, forced a fumble, broke up four passes, blocked a kick and snagged three interceptions in one year playing safety for CLCC.

Manning had initially been verbally committed to the Southeastern Louisiana Lions, but saw his recruitment pick up late before picking Old Dominion.

That didn’t mean Southeastern Louisiana completely struck out in Wesson though, as the Lions signed offensive lineman Zane Hooper.

It’ll be a sort of homecoming as Hooper prepped at Denham Springs High School outside of Baton Rouge. While there, he was coached on the offensive line by former CLCC standout Jacob Fleming.

The 6-foot, 270-pound Hooper started his career at Mississippi College. When Fleming was hired ahead of this season to coach the offensive line at Co-Lin, Hooper came to Wesson to reunite with his former coach.

Hooper will play center for the Lions and has three years of eligibility in Hammond.