National signing day, Dec. 2020: Western Illinois Leathernecks

National signing day, Dec. 2020:  Western Illinois Leathernecks
(photo courtesy of WIU Athletics)

While Western Illinois will not officially release its full list of recruits until February, the Leathernecks appear to have made a concerted effort to improve their running game.

The Leathernecks, in fact, do appear to have made a significant upgrade at running back with the addition of a former starter from the Southeastern Conference (SEC). According to published reports this fall, former Auburn back JaTarvious Whitlow transferred and enrolled at Western.

In late August the Dothan Eagle reported that Whitlow has two years of NCAA eligibility remaining.

Whitlow rushed for a team-best 763 yards and 10 touchdowns last year at Auburn. He ran for 787 yards and six touchdowns for the Tigers in 2018.

As a high school athlete he was an all-state selection on the football field and on the basketball court. In addition, Whitlow was a state champion in track and field. He powered LaFayette to its first undefeated regular season in program history in 2016, rolling up 2,292 passing yards and 29 passing touchdowns while running for another 2,147 rushing yards and 30 rushing touchdowns.

Whitlow redshirted his first season at Auburn in 2017; he left the Auburn football team in the spring. Whitlow scored Auburn’s last touchdown in the Outback Bowl.

East St. Louis addition

Meanwhile, WIU head coach Jared Elliott did take to social media to welcome another new member to the Leatherneck roster during Wednesday’s official December national signing day.

Elliott tweeted, “Welcome @eslreed6 to Leatherneck Nation! Jaylen is electric, with plenty of big play ability. He has been a proven WINNER throughout his career. Many Leatherneck greats have come from @Football_Flyers. Can’t wait to get Jaylen on campus!”

The third-year WIU head coach was welcoming running back Jaylen Reed from East St. Louis. According to the recruiting website Reed committed to WIU this past summer. Reed is listed at 5-foot-8 and 165 pounds. He also had an offer from Northeastern State, a Division-2 school in Tahlequah, Okla.

Key departure

The Leathernecks certainly have a need in the backfield as two-time All-Missouri Valley Football Conference fullback Clint Ratkovich announced he is transferring to FBS Northern Illinois.

Ratkovich, a Crete-Monee High School graduate, ranked third in the MVFC in receptions per game (4.8) while finishing second on the team with 444 receiving yards in 2019. He also rushed for a team-high 258 yards. Moreover, Ratkovich was a two-time team Leatherneck captain.




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