Editor’s note: This is the third of our annual four-part Fresh Faces series, focusing today on players in new roles for Western Illinois. Next: On Thursday, read about a Southern Illinois linebacker with deep roots in college sports in Illinois.
From the moment Kyle Sanft arrived at Western Illinois, center was his home on the offensive line. And for the past two seasons, the redshirt sophomore has had an exemplary role model and mentor.
Jacob Judd, who spent time in training camp this summer with the NFL’s New Orleans Saints and Minnesota Vikings, was a walking, talking encyclopedia on playing center and proved to be an open book for Sanft, a redshirt sophomore from Bartlett.
“If it was a question on the playbook or whatever it may be, Judd was always there to guide me in the right direction,” said Sanft, who will take over Judd’s spot this fall. “Ever since I came here as a freshman, Judd took me under his wing. I learned a lot from him.”
Sanft’s learning took place in plenty of situations.
“In the film room, he’d lean over, we’d talk and he’d help me out,” Sanft said. “It was also technique on the field. I would just watch his daily routine and how he prepared for a game, even treatment-wise. I just tried to grasp everything he put into the game and carry that with me into what I do.”
The 6-foot-4, 286-pound Sanft, who mainly played left tackle in high school, said his pass blocking has always been a strength, which will benefit senior quarterback and team captain Sean McGuire.
“It’s been really fun to work with him,” Sanft said. “He’s been awesome to me. Sean’s a tremendous leader.”
With McGuire back, along with top running backs Steve McShane and Max Norris and four of the top five receivers, the Leathernecks have plenty of talent returning from their 8-4 playoff team a year ago.
“We’re going to do some really fun, creative things on offense,” Sanft said.
Sanft is one of several key fresh faces for the Leathernecks, including:
Tony Tate, wide receiver, sophomore
Gone from WIU is Jaelon Acklin, who had 84 receptions and 10 touchdowns last season. Tate, who hails from DeKalb, will be the team’s top kick returner this season and a backup wide receiver. At 5-8, Tate will be relied on to find open spaces in the defense and take over some of Acklin’s big-play ability.
Zach Glisan, linebacker, junior
The newest member of the WIU starters at linebacker, Glisan had 12 tackles last season, which was 150 less than departed All-American Brett Taylor. Glisan won’t be expected to pile up tackles like Taylor, but he will have to contribute a fair share. Glisan has added 35 pounds since arriving on campus.
Kyle Williams, sophomore, defensive end
The 6-4 Williams had 2.5 sacks last season in a limited role, but steps into the starting lineup this season. Williams will occupy the right end spot and work across from standout WIU defensive lineman Khalen Saunders, who will draw plenty of attention from opposing blockers.