BLOOMINGTON — Illinois Wesleyan's football team has won a share of two straight College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin titles.
Veteran coach Norm Eash believes the Titans have racked up back-to-back strong recruiting classes, too.
Eash announced the addition of 50 recruits on Wednesday, including linebacker Austin Spiller of two-time Class 2A state champion Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley.
"We had one of our biggest, largest and most talented recruiting classes last year. I didn't know what to expect this year," said Eash. "But we came back with what I think is a large, talented recruiting class with impact players who will fit into the various pieces of the puzzle."
While several of the recruits could become contributors when the season starts Sept. 14 at Wisconsin-La Crosse, most likely will have to wait until a strong senior class graduates for more playing time.
The Titans didn't lean too heavily on either side of the ball with 25 offensive recruits and 22 on defense, along with three kickers. Others could join the list later when their deposit money comes through.
"You can't just look at next year. You have to look beyond that, and that's how you maintain a high-caliber program," said Eash. "We're recruiting for when those guys leave, but at the same time if someone can come in and make an impact with those guys you're going to do it."
One position open this fall is halfback as Morgan Alexander, who gained 2,109 yards the last two seasons, graduated.
Hamid Bullie, a transfer, could become Alexander's replacement. The 5-foot-11 190-pound Bullie is a Loyola Academy graduate who spent his freshman season at Division II Virginia State.
"He reminds me a lot of a Maurice Shoemaker-Gilmore type of kid," said Eash, referring to the Titans' standout runner who set a school record with 1,143 yards rushing in 2016.
Also joining the halfback mix is Central Catholic graduate Sa'Mond Davis, who transferred from Heartland Community College in January. Davis gained 1,373 yards with 25 touchdowns for the Saints in 2017.
Another Chicago area product who could see significant playing time in the fall is linebacker Anthony Wachal Jr. from Conant High School. The 6-foot, 200-pound Wachal was the Mid-Suburban Conference West Division Player of the Year.
"He's a hybrid like Brinton Wilkey was for us, a bigger strong safety who can play outside linebacker," said Eash. "He was a big one to get."
Among the eight linebacker recruits is Spiller, who led GCMS with nine tackles and scored on an 18-yard interception return early in the fourth quarter as the Falcons beat Maroa-Forsyth, 35-16, in the 2A championship game at Champaign. Kelvin Asamoah of Romeoville and Jimmy Bartell of Maine South are other top linebacker recruits.
Jake Buhe proved last year a freshman could work his way into IWU's starting lineup as the center became a first-team all-CCIW performer. Maurice Mendenhall of Mahomet-Seymour could be the leader of the nine offensive line recruits which includes plenty of size in 6-6, 315-pound Jared Priest, who is another Mahomet-Seymour product, and 6-4, 300-pound Nathan Price of Charleston.
IWU is well stocked with receivers in the fall. But Eash is excited about the potential of 6-4 Nick Mansk of Bartlett and 6-3 Kevin Murphy of St. Viator.
"They are two really long receivers and very similar to the guys who are going to be seniors," said Eash.
Eash, who will be starting his 33rd season as IWU head coach in the fall, has plenty of familiarity with two recruits.
Zach Bozarth is a halfback from Metro-East Lutheran in suburban St. Louis whose father, Troy, is a Normal Community and IWU graduate and a 1991 Titan captain.
Defensive lineman Zack Tencza is a transfer from Division II Truman State. His father, Brian, was an IWU captain in 1994. Zack Tencza played in high school at Lincoln-Way East for another former IWU player, Rob Zvonar.
Six defensive backs are being brought in led by Mark Fassler of Sandburg and Miles Horton of Glenbard South. Among the four quarterbacks are Jarret Easterday of Carlinville and Lucas Sluder of Tuscola.
Eash also has named five captains for the 2019 season — quarterback Brandon Bauer, wide receiver Jack Healy, halfback Bryce Dooley, linebacker Ryan Swift and cornerback Trevor Koepke.