The Eastern Kentucky University coaching staff began the recruiting process with a short and specific list of goals, at the very top of which was to sign defensive backs with the potential to step in and play as freshman.

With the Colonels set to start the 2007 season with two returning starting seniors and very little experienced depth at the position, fifth-year coach Danny Hope put an emphasis on finding immediate impact-type players.

“We have two senior corners who are really good players — Derrick Huff and Antwaun Molden — and those guys have been three-year starters and they are great prospects,” Hope said. “Both of those guys have a chance to play after they are done at EKU. But, they only have one year left, so we wanted to go out and recruit some guys who were good enough to play some this year and get some experience.”

The Colonels ended up with three players that they believe have the size, speed and talent to make a difference now and later.

Jeremy ‘Ta-Ta’ Caldwell (5-foot-10, 175 pounds, Chattanooga, Tenn.), Jaren Gooden (5-foot-11, Sunrise, Fla.) and Quinton Gaddy (5-foot-11, Charlotte, N.C.) all should enter training camp this fall with an opportunity to compete for playing time.

“We tried to get some guys who were 6-foot,” Hope said. “We came away with a couple of guys who were about 5-foot-10 1/2. We were trying to stay away from the peanuts — the 5-foot-8, 5-foot-9 guys. There are a bunch of those guys out there that can fly, but we tried to stay away from small corners.”

Caldwell may well end up being one of the highest impact players in this recruiting class.

He was an Associated Press All-State selection and put up some eye-catching statistics during a standout high school career. As a senior he had 41 tackles, two forced fumbles, one fumble recovery, three interceptions — two of which he returned for touchdowns, blocked two kicks and had 12 pass breakups. He averaged 43 yard per kick return and had nine return touchdowns during his four years at Red Bank High School.

Caldwell was named the 2006 Region 4-4A Special Teams Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year and was also a member of the Nashville Tennessean’s Dream Team.

He choose EKU over Tennessee State, Chattanooga, UT-Martin and Middle Tennessee State.

“He’s a great player. His statistics speak for themselves,” Hope said of Caldwell. “He can play on either side of the football. He can return kicks. He’s a guy I think can come in and play this year and be a great player for us for the next three or four years.”

Gooden comes to EKU from one of the best football programs in Florida — St. Thomas Aquinas High School — and has good size to go along with tremendous speed. He won a state championship in the 4x100-meter relay and was an honorable-mention All-State selection.

Gooden had 105 career tackles, six interceptions — two of which he returned for scores — five fumble recoveries and one blocked punt. He played on two state runner-up teams and picked EKU over Hofstra, Tennessee State and Eastern Illinois.

“He was a member of a state champion relay team. He was a team captain and he’s played in state championship games,” Hope said of Gooden. “He originally committed to Eastern Illinois, but we came in and recruited him and he ended up being a Colonel instead. He’s a guy we also think could come in and be a three or four-year starter for us.”

Gaddy was drawing interest from several Division I-A programs, but eventually ending up picking EKU over Elon and Wofford. Much like Caldwell, he was a standout defensive back and kick returner — averaging 33 yards per kickoff return.

Gaddy had 64 tackles, 15 pass break-ups and two interceptions last year and was a two-time All-Queen City Conference selection.

“He’s a big defensive back,” Hope said. “I think he can play corner. He has corner skills and a safety body. He’s a really good player. A real physical player. He had I-AA offers and I-A schools recruiting him, so he was a guy who committed to us late. But, we had him earmarked just right.”

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