Call it luck, good fortune or being in the right place at the right time.
For head coach Brock Spack, running backs falling into his lap late in the recruitment period at Illinois State means he can now call them Redbirds.
The February signing period brought three top-flight running backs to Normal and three other players (listed as athletes) who also have experience running the ball.
After senior-to-be James Robinson posted a terrific season last fall, the team’s depth at the position evaporated because of departures and graduation.
“We just had a run on running backs the last week or so (of recruiting) and it’s been really unbelievable the backs that fell into our lap,” Spack told GoRedbirds.com. “It is a position of need.”
South Carolina native Pha’leak Brown had offers from Cincinnati, Old Dominion and Rice, according to 247 Sports. Florida back Nigel White owned offers from Syracuse, Utah and Louisville, while Missouri’s Cole Mueller decommitted in December from Kansas before signing with ISU.
The trio combined for 70 touchdowns last season and expect to provide an impressive stable to back up Robinson.
“We’ll figure out where they all play when they get here,” Spack said. “We’ve got to get them all on the field. If there’s an athlete next to their name, we haven’t made a decision yet.”
Three athletes were part of the class, along with three offensive linemen, including 6-foot-5, 290-pound California junior college transfer Kirby Peine.
The ISU class of 14 athletes included nine signed to national letters of intent and five walk-on players who committed.
February recruits added: 14
Top offensive needs met: Running back, Offensive line (3 each)
Top defensive needs met: Defensive back and linebacker (1 each)
Most players by position: RB, OL and ATH (3 each)
Most players by state: 2 (Illinois and Texas)
States represented: 12 (Illinois 2, Texas 2, New Jersey 1, Missouri 1, Georgia 1, California 1, West Virginia 1, Pennsylvania 1, Florida 1, Indiana 1, Wisconsin 1, South Carolina 1)
Shortest player: 5-9 (Nigel White, RB)
Tallest player: 6-5 (Kirby Peine and Jason Meeks, OL)
Heaviest player: 290 pounds (Kirby Peine, OL)
Lightest player: 165 pounds (Nigel White, RB)
Player from the farthest distance: Kirby Peine, OL, from Fresno, Calif. (2,110 miles)
Player from the nearest distance: Jake Bellizzi, LB, from Des Plaines (136 miles)
2019 February recruits
Name, position, height, weight, city and state (school)
Pha’leak Brown, RB, 5-10, 200, Chester, S.C. (Chester HS)
Jabari Khepera, WR, 5-10, 190, Glenn Heights, Tex. (Bishop Dunne HS)
Paul Liseno, OL, 6-3, 290, Keansburg, N.J. (St. John Vianney HS)
Cole Mueller, RB, 6-0, 190, Wentzville, Mo. (Holt HS)
Sean Paradise, ATH, 6-3, 210, Alpharetta, Ga. (St. Francis HS)
Kirby Peine, OL, 6-5, 290, Fresno, Calif. (Fresno City College)
Braden Price, ATH, 6-0, 170, Wheeling, West Va. (Wheeling Central Catholic HS)
DayJure Stewart, ATH, 6-0, 200, York, Pa. (William Penn HS)
Nigel White, RB, 5-9, 165, Lauderhill, Fla. (St. Thomas Aquinas HS)
Jake Bellizzi, LB, 6-0, 225, Des Plaines (Maine West HS)
Jason Meeks, OL, 6-5, 270, Brownsburg, Ind. (Brownsburg HS)
Britton Morris, QB, 5-11, 185, Poplar Grove (North Boone HS)
Jack Takerian, K-P, 6-1, 190, Franklin, Wis. (Franklin HS)
Brannon Webb, DB, 5-10, 185, Gilmer, Tex. (Gilmer HS)