LINDEN — Four players from Linden High School’s vaunted Class of 2017 signed National Letters of Intent Wednesday. Standout cornerback Dequan Charleston signed with Jacksonville State while offensive lineman Bryce Chaney and linebacker DeVonta Poole inked offers from Miles College. Linebacker Bruce McIntosh committed to playing with the Louisiana Prep Storm out of Lafayette, La.
“It’s a special group. It’s a distinguished group,” Linden coach Andro Williams said. “I think this group understands what it means to be successful in life. This is just the beginning of where they’re trying to go. We’re just really proud of those guys.”
Charleston played in 13 games for the Patriots during his senior season, recording 37 tackles and nine interceptions. He also ran the ball 31 times for 553 yards and 11 touchdowns in addition to catching 31 passes for 456 yards and 7 touchdowns. Charleston starred on special teams as well, returning 12 punts for 400 yards and six touchdowns. That’s 1,409 all-purpose yards and 24 touchdowns on 74 touches. He is a two-time ASWA All-State defensive back, who has tallied 13 interceptions.
“When we went there on the official visit, the love they showed to me and my family made it seem more like home. It was the same atmosphere as here,” Charleston said of why he chose JSU over Louisiana-Lafayette and Tuskegee. ““Mostly, they want to leave me at defensive back. But I have to try both sides. I wouldn’t mind playing both sides. I’m used to it anyway.”
Chaney is a three-year starter on the offensive line for the Patriots and offers plenty of upside to Miles with his 6-3, 332-pound frame. He helped pave the way for a Linden offense that set a single season state scoring record with 764 points in 2016.
“It’s a good emotion because after all your hard work, you get something out of it,” Chaney said.
Poole started at tight end, defensive end and linebacker over the last three seasons. His versatility will be tested again at Miles where he figures to shift to safety for the first time.
“They want me to play safety because I can come down hill and I can hit. They saw when I was on kickoff because I was aggressive and hitting people the way a safety would hit,” Poole said. “It’s new. I’ve never done it. I’m so new to it. I’m normally an outside linebacker going for the quarterback. Now I get to get interceptions and cover people. I love that.”
Poole was a finalist for ASWA Class 1A Lineman of the Year this season and is a two-time First Team All-State player. He proved an adept pass rusher the past two seasons as he totaled 181 tackles, 20 sacks, 25 tackles for loss, five forced fumbles and five fumble recoveries in 23 games.
For McIntosh, the offer from a prep program in Louisiana was a bit of a relief.
“At first, I thought I because of my height I was going to get sold short because people really look at size,” McIntosh, who is listed at 5-7 and 200 pounds, said. “But when he told me I had an offer, I felt like I really had a chance. I’m just going to work to get better right now and see what chance I have after Louisiana.”
McIntosh spent more than the first half of his season on the defensive line for Linden before moving to middle linebacker over the final six games. The shift in position marked a shift in attitude for the senior.
“It was like a change in the atmosphere. I felt like every game was different like I had a different motive,” McIntosh said. “When I listened to Ray Lewis’ motivation, it made me think he got to be a savage on the field. Middle linebacker really changed my mood.”
He concluded his season with 108 tackles, 13 tackles for loss and seven sacks.
Linden quarterback C.J. Robinson and athlete Charles Blackmon are still choosing between multiple offers.