The Miami Valley offers no shortage of options when it comes to furthering a football career after high school.
Tyler Haines wants to make sure area players know Urbana University is one.
Here are seven things to know about the Blue Knights:
1. Haines is entering his fourth year as Urbana head coach.
After winning two games his first season and three in his second, Haines led the Blue Knights to a 5-6 record in 2017.
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The Piqua native spent part of his childhood in Urbana and has prioritized recruiting the Dayton/Springfield/Middletown area.
“I coached at Piqua High School for a year so I have a personal relationship with a lot of these high school coaches,” Haines said. “It’s good football, and I think guys tend to play a little harder for home, so I will always recruit the ‘937’ (area code) hard.”
2. Urbana’s 2017 roster had players from 16 different area high schools.
That included five players apiece from Wayne — Trey McFadden, Roman Sneed, Richie Carpenter Jr., Mikal Toliver and J.T. Dozier — and Hamilton — Devan Pankey, Conner Gleason, Grant Fansler, Myles Howard and Alex Little.
Smaller schools were represented, too, including Mechanicsburg, West Liberty-Salem and Jefferson.
3. Half of Urbana’s 2018 signing class is from an area high school.
Haines signed 46 players this month, and 23 can be classified as locals: Nathan Denniston of Ansonia, Caleb Fawley of Beavercreek, Bailey Wallen of Brookville, Ethan Herron of Covington, Jamarius Thorpe and Jamar Walker of Dunbar, Dillon Stone, Maleek Jarrett, Johnny Jones and Quinton Henderson of Hamilton, Jeff Garcia of Lakota West, Keion Williams of Middletown, Malachi Short of National Trail, Jalen Hinton and Donavin Wallace of Northmont, JahErinn Echols, Tayshawn Heatly, Niko Jones, Zion Rogers and Will Finch of Springfield, Ke’wuan Garrett of Trotwood-Madison, Devin Trent of Urbana and Wendell Wheeler and DaVontae McKee of Wayne.
4. That is no accident.
Haines’ personal experience as a recruit — he ended up choosing Ashland out of high school because that was the only Division II football program in Ohio at the time — helped motivate him to emphasize recruiting the area.
“When this job came open I made it a point that every kid in the 937 would have to visit us,” he said. “These other colleges would have to go through Urbana in order to get our guys because I was that kid at Piqua High School who was sitting there waiting. I had a good high school experience. I wanted to stay close to home, and the closest spot for me was Ashland, so I wanted to do that.
5. Haines has a fan in Springfield coach Maurice Douglass.
The veteran coach of the Wildcats, who previously developed a state-championship level program with numerous college recruits at Trotwood-Madison, praised the efforts of Haines during Springfield’s signing day ceremony this month.
“When he got the job, the first thing he told me he wanted to do was try to seal up the 937, and I think he and his staff have done a great job of getting not only Springfield but Dayton, all the way to Middletown. That’s what it’s all about: If you can sell this area, you’re gonna win a bunch of games.”
Last summer, Urbana High School coach Carleton Cotner spoke highly of his program’s relationship with the local university as well in an interview with CMG Ohio.
6. Just getting started?
Urbana football’s modern era began in 1985 as a member of the NAIA.
The school joined the NCAA in Division II in 2010 and currently competes in the Mountain East Conference, which is comprised of mostly teams in West Virginia.
The Blue Knights are 48-51 since joining the NCAA and play on a newly renovated with newly installed lights.
A new weight room is under construction.
7. The Blue Knights begin spring football March 23 and will hold their spring game at 7 p.m. on April 21.
Haines said his goal is for Urbana to play fast and aggressive on both side of the ball.
“We’re tying to score 1,000 points on offense without turning the ball over,” he said. “We will blitz on defense and be physical.”