Illinois State announced the largest early signing day class among the state's FCS programs on Wednesday, landing 11 high school players and three mid-year transfers.
Redbird head coach Brock Spack and his staff feel as thought they addressed team needs by adding defensive back Trey Creamer and linebacker Aaron Mends (Iowa transfers) and linebacker Blake Fehrmann (New Mexico transfer).
Of the three, Mends is the most experienced. The 6-foot, 230-pound Kansas City native saw action in 37 games over three seasons with the Hawkeyes, tallying 13 total tackles and 1.5 sacks. Mends was granted a sixth year of eligibility by the NCAA after missing all of this past season with an injury.
"We got a couple of transfers that we think will help our program immediately and we got some really good young players that we think will develop into really good college players," Spack said in his media address Wednesday.
"There's some things we'd like to get addressed the second go-around here (with the February signing date). There's some guys out there that we really, really like that we're still recruiting," Spack said.
Head coach Nick Hill and his staff inked nine players, including a pair of FBS transfers.
The Salukis landed wide receiver Avante Cox, a 5-foot-11, 170-pound transfer from Wyoming. A Rochester (Ill.) High School graduate, Cox saw action in 10 games in two seasons at Wyoming. He caught six passes for 84 yards, and rushed five times for 51 yards and one touchdown, while also contributing on special teams with three tackles and one kickoff return.
"He's a kid we offered out of high school," Hill said. "He's an explosive kid. In high school, he almost led the state in receiving, won a state championship, played all over the field. He started games for Wyoming and didn't redshirt. We'll look for Avante to come and really give us a spark on offense, in the return game and at slot receiver.
"Avante can play inside and outside, can do a lot of different things in the jet-sweep game. I'm excited about putting him in our offense because I think he fits really well. The thing I like about Avante is he's a physical kid. He started at linebacker for Rochester when they went to the state championship game. When they wanted to make plays they put him down at Mike linebacker and let him tackle everybody."
The other transfer is linebacker Tim Johns, listed at 6-foot-3 and 235 pounds as a freshman. He originally committed to Army, but also had 11 FCS offers, including five from Ivy League schools. Johns redshirted at Purdue this past season.
Newly hired Eastern head coach Adam Cushing signed three Illinois-based players.
The Panthers landed defensive lineman/linebacker Grant Edwards (6-1, 240) from Springfield High School, cornerback.wide receiver Donovan Perkins (5-10, 160) from New Trier High School and linebacker Anthony Shockey (6-0, 215) from Glenbard East High School.
"All three of these players are outstanding young men who come from successful, well-coached programs in the state," said Cushing on his first signing class. "We are looking to build on the strong tradition that Eastern Illinois football has and to do that we need to start by recruiting in our own backyard. We are excited about what lies ahead for us on the recruiting front and the type of young men we can bring in to help us achieve our W.I.N. (What's Important Now) philosophy."
Western football tweeted: "We welcomed new Leathernecks to our family today. We’ll release the full 2018-19 signing class on February 6."
This is the second year that the NCAA has permitted schools to sign high school players during the early signing period.