Football coach Dale Lennon decided to take a holistic approach to recruiting this season.
“We were basically going to recruit every position,” Lennon said. “In fact, if you look at the numbers, we basically recruited a whole football team.”
Saluki football snagged 22 recruits for next season, Lennon announced Wednesday during National Signing Day.
Wednesday was the first day high school recruits could sign official agreements, or National Letters of Intent, to play college football. Lennon said his typical approach to freshman recruits is to keep them out of competition for their first year so they can progress further.
“We plan on developing them for the future,” Lennon said.
SIU signed seven offensive linemen, the most of any position on the field. Only two of those linemen are from Illinois: Maciej Kozlowski from Alqonquin and David Meyerhoff from Naperville.
Adam Clay from Westland, Mich., Nate Haremza from Larned, Kan., Jacob Notario from Monroe, Mich., Cody Pollock from Crystal City, Mo., and James Rooks from Memphis, Tenn. were the other linemen.
“We needed offensive linemen. That was for the future,” Lennon said. “That’s why you see six incoming high school linemen, so that will help our depth for the future.”
Lennon said Haremza, a transfer from Butler County Community College in El Dorado, Kan., could make an impact right away.
“We think he’s capable of competing for playing time right away,” Lennon said. “He has great size and great athletic ability. You walk into the weight room, you’re going to notice him.”
Haremza and the other offensive linemen will help protect Ryan West, a quarterback out of Oswego, who was ranked 117 among quarterbacks in the class of 2012 by Scout.com.
West comes to a Saluki squad that already has five quarterbacks, so playing time could be scarce.
“It’s tough for an incoming freshman quarterback just to step in and have that grasp of the offense that you need to compete with it,” Lennon said. “With Ryan, what’s unique … (is) he already has the playbook. He’s already learned the formations, he’s already learned how we’re calling the plays, so he’s doing everything in his power to perform at a high level this summer.”
West will throw to three new wide receivers for the Salukis: Kennington Easley from Dothan, Ala., Shawn Mitchel from Matteson, and Billy Reed of Lockport. Lennon said early in the recruiting process he wasn’t sure how the wide receiver position would play out.
“We’re looking for somebody that is of very high quality (at wide receiver),” Lennon said. “A couple of the receivers that we had been talking to in December, they ended up going to big Division 1A-type programs. Then we just continued recruiting, and we do have some good, young receivers coming up through the program.”
The Daily Egyptian reported the signings of running backs Antonio Banks and Mika’il McCall, and both were officially announced Wednesday as the only two running backs in the class.
On the defensive side, Lennon loaded up with six linebackers. Victor Burnett was a three-star recruit at linebacker according to Scout.com when he went to Washington in 2010, but he was dismissed by the program before the start of the 2011 season for an undisclosed reason. He was also escorted out of the dorms by university police.
“Sometimes the media does that, where they slant things a little more negative then what they actually were,” Lennon said. “That’s why we called the coaches (at Washington), and if the coaches would’ve said he’s not worth the chance, we would’ve backed off, but they said to give him a chance.”
The other linebackers include Chase Allen of Belleville, Leonard Garren from Evansville, Carl Bivens from Columbia, Mo., Tyler Williamson from Knoxville, Tenn., and preferred walk-on Jordan Bowlby of Carbondale.
Bowlby played with Lennon’s son, Cody, while at Carbondale High School along with Kaid Koester, another recruit that signed with the Salukis to play tight end.
“It’s fun listening to the kids talk about Jordan Bowlby, because they all brag about how they survived a hit from Jordan Bowlby,” Lennon said. “He’s that type of player where when he hits you, the kids remember it.”
The defensive line got three new additions: Brandon Williams from DuQuoin, T.J. Beelen from Zeeland, Mich., and Ryan Campbell from Miami, Fla. The secondary acquired four new players: Trey Colbert of Fort Worth, Texas., Kaleb Humphrey of Indianapolis, Ind., Darius Merriweather of Vorhees, N.J., and Elroy Douglas of Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Lennon said he tried to recruit Douglas, who spent last season at Coffeyville Community College, when he came out of high school, but Douglas’ academics weren’t good enough to qualify.
“Originally, he was looking at some big time programs, but then he had some issues with qualifying (academically),” Lennon said. “He qualified late, and that happens sometimes where individuals will qualify (academically) after the signing date, so that’s why his best option then was to go to a junior college.”
Lennon also signed kicker/punter Austin Johnson of Bucyrus, Kan. to compete with current kickers Jackson MacLachlan, Chris Adams and Sean Ryan.