New Hornet WR Rutherford aims for success

Despite coming from a JUCO, new Hornets wide receiver Mason Rutherford does bring a Division I pedigree. He played in 2013 for Morehead State of the Pioneer League, starting in 12 games and catching three touchdowns. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

Despite coming from a JUCO, new Hornets wide receiver Mason Rutherford does bring a Division I pedigree. He played in 2013 for Morehead State of the Pioneer League, starting in 12 games and catching three touchdowns. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

DOVER — The topic came up once during the regular season last year while Mason Rutherford and Dan Epperson were at San Bernardino Junior College.

How cool would it be if they both ended up at the same school when they moved to Division I football?

But they understood there was a good chance that wouldn’t be in the cards for them. They were each being recruited by different schools.

Epperson committed first, as the lefty quarterback arrived at Delaware State in January to practice with the Hornets in the spring. Later on in the recruiting period, DelState reached out to Rutherford too.

It means Epperson, who is splitting time with Kobie Lain as the starting quarterback for now, already has a wide receiver he’s familiar with.

“We hit it off in junior college and became pretty good friends,” Rutherford said. “When it came down to signing with colleges, he was here first.
He came in January, then when it came to Signing Day, they hit me up and told me they had a spot for me so I jumped on it as soon as I could so we could play together again.”

And the Hornets were certainly looking for wide receivers during recruiting. They return top target senior Aris Scott and junior Jeremiah Williams, but the rest of the wide receivers have very little experience playing Division I football.

Despite coming from a JUCO, Rutherford (6-foot-0) does bring a Division I pedigree. He played in 2013 for Morehead State of the Pioneer League, starting in 12 games and catching three touchdowns.

He’s been around football his whole life. He grew up in Huntington, West Virginia, home of Marshall University, and had season tickets to watch the Thundering Herd.

Rutherford spent his high school career at Fairview High in Ashland, Kentucky, right across the border from Huntington, where he was an All-State player and also won the state high-jump championship with a leap of 6-foot-8.

That led him just down the road to Morehead State. But after his freshman year, Rutherford wanted to experience new things and moved further away, ending up in California for two years of junior college.

“I was too close to home and I wanted to see if I could go somewhere different,” Rutherford said. “It was California too, so you can’t really beat that. It was a good time. I enjoyed my two years out there and now I’m ready to get these two years going and see what we can do.”

Reflecting on his experience at San Bernardino, Rutherford said he got exactly want he wanted out of it.

“I definitely grew up out there being on my own,” he said. “I had to pay some bills by myself, I had to learn how to live without your parents and buy my own groceries. It was definitely a huge learning experience but I enjoyed it and I think I needed to do that.

Delaware State second-year coach Kenny Carter credited his staff for uncovering Rutherford and Epperson all the way across the country.

“Vincent White (DSU’s associated head coach) is a freaking big-time recruiter,” Carter said. “He works his butt off recruiting. He found out about Mason, and Dan knew him, so we vetted it out and we got him.”

Rutherford is already receiving reps with the first time in practice, typically lining up in the slot. Even though he’s a newcomer, he gives the Hornets someone who can step into the system and play right away.

“Mason is very experienced and he’s very, very fast,” Carter said.

Rutherford was Epperson’s primary target while at San Bernadino. In one game last season, Epperson completed 15 passes — 10 of those were to Rutherford.

Rutherford caught 58 receptions for 1,038 yards and nine touchdowns in his two seasons at junior college. He’s hoping to carry that success, with the same quarterback, to Delaware State.

“I wanted to have a quarterback I could trust and believe in at my next school,” Rutherford said. “So far it’s worked out real well. At this point, I think we’re helping the team out so it’s definitely a good move for me.”

NOTES: The Hornets will scrimmage this Saturday from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. It will be an official scrimmage complete with referees from the MEAC. … DSU went through an extended practice last Saturday, running about 150 plays to mimic game situations. Carter said it was important to do that in the heat to prepare for the first few games of the season. “We went at it,” Carter said. “We wanted to make sure we pushed them to see what kind of endurance we had, especially the backs. Running the ball in conditions like that is going to be the difference maker early in the season.”

Reach staff writer Tim Mastro at tmastro@newszap.com

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