(Editor’s note: This is one part of a series on December signees by Illinois FCS programs. We conclude tomorrow with Western Illinois.)
There were times when Eastern Illinois started five freshmen in its offensive line last fall. While that group certainly took its lumps, the Panther coaching staff knows the value of early experience. Those same coaches also realize the importance of depth.
EIU football announced the addition of 23 new players Wednesday during the first day of the December signing period. Included in the mix were two offensive linemen from the high school ranks (though one is also listed as a long snapper) along with three transfers.
That trio consists of two junior college transfers and one from a four-year school.
Perhaps that should come as no surprise as EIU head coach Adam Cushing coached the offensive line in his long stint as an assistant at Northwestern.
“The staff did an incredible job on putting this class together,” Cushing said in an EIU release. “The day that COVID started to impact this recruiting class, we didn’t flinch, we embraced the mantra of what does this make possible. The staff remained focused on finding the best players we could for our program athletically, academically and socially. I can’t say it enough times, the credit goes to the guys on our staff that grinded this out.”
“In this class we 23 players from several different places including a third of the class from Illinois,” Cushing said. “The point is we are going to go recruit where we have relationships to get the high character players we are looking to add to this program.”
Where are they from?
As Cushing mentioned, nine players played Illinois prep football. Eastern also landed four players from Ohio and three from Kentucky — all from Louisville.
Two players each came from Michigan, North Carolina and Texas. The other player hails from Missouri.
What positions do they play?
Six recruits are defensive backs, while four play on the offensive line and two are linebackers. The class also included a quarterback, running back, wide receiver, kicker and an "athlete".
What accomplishments do they bring?
The class sports a 3.3 grade point average with 16 of the 23 players named team captain. The group has helped teams win 25 conference championships, make 48 state playoff appearances and 21 state championship game appearances.
This weekend three of the players will face off against each other in the Kentucky Class 6A state championship game. In addition the group includes 29 all-conference selections, six all-state selections and 19 of the 23 were multi-sport athletes in high school.
Eastern will play a seven-game Ohio Valley Conference spring schedule beginning Feb. 21.
EIU December signees:
(Name, position, height, weight, hometown, previous school)
Nick Coates Defensive Back 5-10 175 Louisville, Ky. Male HS
Liam Conaghan Defensive Line 6-3 240 Glenview, Ill. Loyola Academy
Simon France Offensive Line 6-1 265 Elyria, Ohio Elyria HS
Jeremy Gelino Linebacker 6-0 220 Lombard, Ill. Glenbard South HS
Zachareus Gentry Defensive Back 6-0 165 Anna, Texas Anna HS
Alton Jefferson Defensive Line 6-0 260 Louisville, Ky. Trinity HS
Chauncey Lee Wide Receiver 5-9 175 Bellwood, Ill. Immaculate Conception HS
Jason Moore Running Back 5-10 190 Chicago, Ill. De La Salle Institute
Julian Patino Kicker 5-10 210 Chicago, Ill. Chicago Mount Carmel
AJ Pontrelli Defensive Line 6-2 205 Lemont, Ill. Lemont HS
Kinstin Reaves Defensive Line 6-0 285 Statesville, NC Statesville HS
Ethan Roberts Defensive Line 6-0 290 Lumberton, NC Saint Paul’s HS
Blake Ruffin Safety 6-4 200 Louisville, Ky. Trinity HS
AJ Sanders Safety 6-0 185 Pickerington, Ohio Pickerington Central HS
Matthew Spofford Athlete 6-1 200 Painesville, Ohio Riverside HS
Elijawah Tolbert Linebacker 6-1 225 Country Club Hills, Ill. Thornton Township HS
Zach Trainor Quarterback 6-1 205 Milford, Mich. Walled Lake Western HS
Collin Tyson Defensive Back 6-0 185 Kansas City, Mo. Platte County R-3 HS
Jack Valente Off. Line / LS 6-4 250 Batavia, Ill. Batavia HS
Sereno Winn Defensive Back 6-1 165 Cincinnati, Ohio Walnut Hills HS
JUNIOR COLLEGE / FOUR YEAR TRANSFERS
NAME POSITION HT WT HOMETOWN LAST SCHOOL
Ben Mason Offensive Line 6-3 290 Lucas, Texas Navarro College
Michael McNicholas Offensive Line 6-4 310 Lombard, Ill. Kent State University
Dakota Kerr Offensive Line 6-4 275 Brownstown, Mich. College of DuPage