NORMAL — Four consecutive winning seasons and ongoing Hancock Stadium improvements played an instrumental role in Illinois State signing 16 high school football players to national letters of intent Wednesday, according to Redbird coach Brock Spack.
“It’s been really big,” Spack said. “When families come to visit, you see the construction of the stadium and see there is a strong commitment to football here. And the winning part has really helped us. We’re getting better for a reason.”
Spack also is pleased most of the recruits hail from successful high school programs.
“Winners produce winners,” he said. “They’re used to winning, and that’s what we’re about.”
Four of Spack’s new players are defensive linemen, a previously stated position of need, in Jareid Combs of Minneapolis, Adam Conley of Franklin, Wis., Dean Helt of Dane, Wis., and Will Pretty of Quartz Hill, Calif.
“We hit on some guys we feel can help us,” said Spack. “We got some long-limbed guys. That’s important.”
The lone linebacker is Chicago Mount Carmel’s D.J. Romero. Spack said Romero comes highly recommended from veteran Caravan coach Frank Lenti.
“He’s very fast, very sudden,” Spack said of Romero. “When Frank Lenti says he’s a player, he’s a player.”
ISU added possible impact secondary players in safeties Jalen Battle and Dennis Oxendine and cornerback Davontae Harris.
Battle originally committed to Kentucky but that offer was withdrawn after a coaching change. Harris suffered a season-ending injury in the first game of his senior season.
“Harris is really fast and long. We felt comfortable offering him off his junior tape,” said Spack. “Oxendine is a physical safety who can run and hit. We looked on south Florida’s top 50 players and Battle was the only one signed to an FCS school. The rest were all FBS.”
The Redbird coach believes he has Indiana top two prep receivers in Anthony Warrum and Jon-Marc Anderson. Warrum holds state career records of 269 receptions, 62 touchdowns and 4,942 receiving yards. Anderson caught 78 passes for 1,323 yards and 20 TDs as a senior.
“Anthony has great ball skills and he can get in and out of cuts quickly,” Spack said. “Jon-Marc is a slot receiver with excellent speed. He’s tough and physical.”
More speed comes in the form of 5-foot6, 175-pound running back Jamal Towns of Harvey Thornton.
“He may be the fastest high school player we’ve been able to recruit since I’ve been here,” said Spack.
Jacksonville tight end Dalton Keene chose ISU over several FBS programs including Cincinnati. The 260-pounder has 160 career receptions.
Another possible tight end is 6-7, 205-pound Michael Clements, who also played outside linebacker, defensive end, wide receiver and safety at Roncalli High School in Indianapolis.
The Redbirds landed two offensive linemen in Central Catholic’s George Hoselton (see accompanying story) and Tyler Brown of Peoria Richwoods.
Spack first saw Rockford Boylan kicker-punter Sean Slattery, who has a career long field goal of 45 yards, while taking his son Brent to a camp at Iowa.
“Sean is a very good athlete who happens to kick,” said the ISU coach. “We’re very high on him. We should get better and better.”
Mid-year transfers: ISU also has three mid-year transfers already enrolled in classes in former Iowa State quarterback Jared Barnett, 260-pound junior college tailback Collin Keoshian and defensive back Dion Starnes of Air Force Prep.