(Editor’s note: This is one part of a four-part series on December signees by Illinois FCS programs. Tomorrow: Eastern Illinois)
In its only game of the 2020 fall season, Southern Illinois University showed off a new-look secondary.
That group limited Southeast Missouri to 53 yards passing in a 20-17 victory that featured interceptions by new transfer safeties Clayton Bush (Western Kentucky) and Aaron Maddox (Colorado), along with five combined pass breakups from starting cornerbacks Jon Thompson and P.J. Jules.
On Wednesday’s national signing day, SIU welcomed 16 new recruits, including an old friend in former Saluki defensive back James Ceasar to strengthen its defensive backfield.
“It’s going to make them better,” SIU head coach Nick Hill said of his secondary. “James is a talented guy. Our job as coaches is to find where they fit. It doesn’t matter what position you’re playing. The ultimate thing is winning. Competition makes us all better. It’s going to make them better.”
Ceasar started four games for the Salukis in 2018 before transferring to Division II Ferris State, which is closer to his native Detroit. He earned first-team all-America honors in 2019 at cornerback for Ferris, compiling six interceptions and seven pass breakups, then chose to transfer back to SIU.
The defensive back group also will welcome back safety Qua Brown, who entered the transfer portal during the pandemic but recently decided to return to the program.
SIU currently has four former defensive backs in the NFL – Jeremy Chinn (Carolina), Madre Harper (New York Giants), Craig James (Philadelphia) and Ryan Neal (Seattle).
“We’re proud of the guys that have come here and got an opportunity to play on Sundays,” Hill said.
“This year has been met with a lot of challenges, just like a lot of things in 2020. I’m proud of the way our staff quickly adjusted to the dead (recruiting) period. We weren’t able to get on the road, weren’t able to have guys on campus this summer, and we weren’t able to get out to camps and watch these guys in person.” – Nick Hill, SIU head football coach
Where are they from?
Along with Ceasar, the Salukis’ class includes another transfer in former Western Kentucky wide receiver Jacquez Sloan. The 5-9 native of Atlanta had 77 career catches for the FBS Hilltoppers in 31 career games while seeing time at receiver, running back and kick returner.
Of the 16 members of this class, two are from Illinois high schools – defensive back Jalen Bates (Oak Park River Forest) and offensive lineman Sam Buck (Highland).
Ten different states are represented in the group, including four players from Tennessee and two each from Florida and Georgia.
Buck hails from the closest to campus at 91 miles, while Leviticus McAffee, a 6-2 defensive back from Orlando, Fla., will play more than 900 miles from home.
What positions do they play?
Five recruits are defensive backs, while four play on the offensive line and three are wide receivers. The class did not include a quarterback or a running back.
What accomplishments do they bring?
St. Louis wide receiver T.J. Atkins Jr. switched to quarterback as a senior and threw for 28 touchdowns. “He was the No. 1 guy we wanted to get,” Hill said. … Ceasar was part of Hill’s first recruiting class as head coach in 2016. … McAffee holds the Robinson High School career interceptions record with eight and limited opposing wide receivers to two catches during his senior season at cornerback in 2020. … Defensive back Delmontre Pryor played prep ball at Jones High School in Orlando. That’s the same high school that produced current Salukis P.J. Jules and Calvin Francis Jr. … Defensive line recruit Caden Reeves is a native of Kansas and joins his older brother and fellow D-lineman Peyton on the SIU roster.
SIU December signees:
(Name, position, height, weight, hometown, previous school)
T.J. Atkins Jr., WR, 6-1, 187, St. Louis, Cardinal Ritter College Prep
Jalen Bates, DB, 6-0, 175, Oak Park, Ill., Oak Park River Forest HS
Sam Buck, OL, 6-3, 295, Highland, Ill., Highland HS
James Ceasar, DB, 5-10, 195, Detroit, Ferris State University
Mani Jackson, DL, 6-2, 250, Brownsburg, Ind., Brownsburg HS
Michael King, WR, 6-2, 180, Memphis, Germantown HS
Leviticus McAffee, DB, 6-2, 175, Tampa, Fla., Robinson HS
Jon Nalley, OL, 6-6, 295, Utica, Ky., Daviess County HS
Cejai Parson, DB, 6-1, 180, Memphis, White Station HS
Delmontre Pryor, DB, 5-11, 190, Orlando, Fla., Jones HS
Aidan Quinn, TE, 6-1, 210, Greenbrier, Tenn., Davidson Academy
Caden Reeves, DL, 6-3, 260, Basehor, Kan., Saint Thomas Aquinas HS
Rahyiem Rowe, OL, 6-3, 300, Fairburn, Ga., Creekside HS
Jacquez Sloan, WR, 5-9, 165, Atlanta, Western Kentucky University
Ethan Tyla, OL, 6-3, 280, Fairfield, Ohio, Fairfield Senior HS
Louis Wilbert, LB, 6-2, 220, Memphis, Ridgeway HS