(Editor’s note: This is one part of a four-part series on December signees by Illinois FCS programs. Tomorrow: Southern Illinois)
With recruiting visits limited by the COVID-19 pandemic, creativity was a must for Illinois State University’s football program in the months building up to Wednesday’s national signing day.
“Our staff did a tremendous job recruiting this class in a very difficult time,” Redbirds head coach Brock Spack during a virtual press conference to announce the December signees. “I feel really bad for the recruits that had to go through this.”
Despite no fall season in Illinois, the Redbirds pulled in a total of 20 players, including nine from Illinois high schools.
Eighteen players signed national letters of intent, according to the university, and two joined the program as preferred walk-ons.
Spack recognized one specific member of his staff for exemplary recruiting work during the pandemic – quality control coach Nick Meyer.
“I don’t know if we sign this class without Nick,” said Spack, who noted that Meyer’s responsibilities include creating graphics that are shared with recruits and via social media. “He was instrumental.”
Spack said Meyer was able to create unique ways to communicate with athletes and their families via graphics.
“He deserves a lot of credit,” Spack said.
“We’re always looking for offensive linemen, because we build our team from the inside out.” –Spack said of his class, which included five O-linemen.
Where are they from?
Of the 20 players joining the program, nine are from Illinois, ranging from Rockford to the north down to O’Fallon to the south.
Four players are from Texas, where the program has had a steady stream of recruiting success. Two players are from Michigan and Indiana. Three other states (Ohio, Missouri and Kansas) are represented as well.
Offensive lineman Aidan Kinnaird hails from Austin, Texas, which is the farthest away from Normal in the entire class at 992 miles.
Reese Edwards, a linebacker, grew up a mere 74 miles from campus in Springfield.
What positions do they play?
Along with five offensive linemen and three defensive backs, the Redbirds added two quarterbacks and two running backs.
Those are two crowded positions on the Redbirds’ roster. Eight running backs are on the current roster, and just one is a senior.
“We’re gaining a reputation of having some pretty good tailbacks here,” Spack said.
The team currently has five QBs on its roster, with only one senior.
ISU also brought in two players each at linebacker and tight end.
What accomplishments do they bring?
Sean Allen, a running back from Homewood-Flossmoor High School in suburban Chicago, rushed for more than 2,000 yards and 25 touchdowns in 2019. Allen is related to ISU’s all-time leading rusher Marshaun Coprich. … Linebacker Bobby Babcock (Hobart, Ind.) was named Mr. Football at his position in the state. … Quarterback Timothy Dorsey helped Bishop Miege High School in Olathe, Kan., to its sixth consecutive state title in 2019. … Edwards has an older brother, Grant, who plays at in-state rival Eastern Illinois. … Running back Wenkers Wright (Floyds Knobs, Ind.) was born in Haiti. He rushed for more than 3,200 yards and 46 TDs in his final two prep seasons.
When will they arrive?
Two of the signees will be mid-year additions – athlete Jeff Bowens (5-9, 160) and offensive lineman Carter DeGraaf (6-6, 310). Both players hail from Michigan.
The rest of the class will arrive in the fall, including two preferred walk-ons — 6-7 tight end Jarrett Strate-Lutzow from Rockford and 270-pound offensive lineman Ryan Heffelfinger of Sterling in northwestern Illinois.
ISU December signees:
(Name, position, height, weight, hometown, previous school)
Sean Allen, RB, 5-10, 200 Glenwood, Ill., Homewood-Flossmoor HS
Bobby Babcock, LB, 6-0, 230, Hobart, Ind., Hobart HS
Jeff Bowens, ATH, 5-9, 160, Southfield, Mich., Southfield A&T HS
J’Kalon Carter, WR, 6-0, 170, Aubrey, Texas, Braswell HS
Carter DeGraaf, OL, 6-6, 310, Hudsonville, Mich., Center Grove (Ind.) HS
Timothy Dorsey, QB, 6-0, 190, Olathe, Kan., Bishop Miege HS
Jack Dwyer, DB, 6-0, 185, Hawthorn Woods, Ill., Lake Zurich HS
Reese Edwards, LB, 6-3, 215, Springfield, Ill., Sacred Heart-Griffin HS
Ryan Gudaitis, OL, 6-4, 260, Arlington Heights, Ill., Hersey HS
Nick Kessler, TE, 6-6, 230, Marysville, Ohio, Marysville HS
Aidan Kinnaird, OL, 6-5, 320, Austin, Texas, Westlake HS
Cameron Nelson, DB, 6-0, 175, Dallas Texas, Kimball HS
Scotty Presson, FB, 6-3, 240, Florissant, Mo., East St. Louis HS
Tommy Rittenhouse, QB, 5-11, 180, Geneva, Ill., St. Francis HS
Boden Turner, OL, 6-4, 260, Manteno, Ill., St. Rita HS
Ian Wagner, K, 6-2, 210, Sierra Vista, Ariz., O’Fallon (Ill.) HS
Cam Wilson, DB, 5-11, 170, Cedar Hill, Texas, Trinity Christian HS
Wenkers Wright, RB, 6-1, 185, Floyds Knobs, Ind., Floyd Central HS