Southern Illinois Football celebrates National Signing Day with addition of 13 new players

SIU+wide+receiver+Hunter+Milligan%2C+middle%2C+runs+onto+the+field+with+the+SIU+football+team+during+the+Homecoming+game+on+Saturday%2C+Oct.+16%2C+2021+at+Salukis+Stadium+at+SIU.+

Jared Treece | @bisalo

SIU wide receiver Hunter Milligan, middle, runs onto the field with the SIU football team during the Homecoming game on Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021 at Salukis Stadium at SIU.

Southern Illinois University signed a total of nine freshmen and four transfers on Feb. 2 to a Salukis team that has won a playoff game in each of the last two seasons, and was ranked as high as third in the country last season. This is Head Coach Nick Hill’s seventh recruiting class at SIU.

National Signing Day is a major event for college football programs. Coaching staff across the country watch their dreams come to fruition as the recruit they have spent months pursuing finally chooses his next home.

Hill said he enjoys the thrill of it.

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“Signing Day is always an exciting day for your program. This is our seventh class that we’ve signed here. It’s crazy how fast those go,” Hill said, “It really hits home when you watch those guys who are now all the way through your program, and you remember their signing day.”

For SIU, the program pulled in five players from the increasingly popular transfer portal. This includes players from schools like Memphis, Texas A&M and James Madison.

One of those players, former Memphis defensive back La’Andre Thomas, said he cannot wait for the new opportunities he will have at SIU.

“It’s clear that this is the best conference in the FCS and I love the competition level,” Thomas said, “The coaching staff let me know I was wanted here and I feel like I can help us win a championship.”

These days, recruiting in the transfer portal is just as important as recruiting high school athletes. SIU received major help last season from transfers like freshman cornerback David Miller, junior safety Clayton Bush and senior running back Donnavan Spencer.

Just like last season, the Dawgs have done most of their recruiting in the transfer portal to help supplement its need for defensive backs. Hill said he is thrilled about Thomas and cornerback Mark Davis Jr. from Buffalo.

“Adding those guys was really big for us,” Hill said.

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Thomas said he has talked with defensive coordinator Jason Petrino and Hill. The fact Thomas and the coaching staff are on the same page was a major factor in his commitment.

“I really like what he [Hill] and Petrino are doing right now. I think I’ll be able to fit in perfect to the defensive scheme we have right now,” Thomas said.

Of course, it’s not just transfers who decided to make SIU their next home. The Salukis haul in an impressive lineup of freshmen as well.

“You see these new guys coming in each year and you think about what they can be […] Once they get here, it’s about the hard work and overcoming things,” Hill said.

In fact, defensive lineman Jaylen Banks and offensive tackle Jimmy Lansing both rank in the top seven of SIU recruitment all-time. It’s safe to say Southern Illinois will have some interesting practice duels over the next four years.

Charles Young III is a freshman defensive back. Young just led his high school, Lutheran St. Charles, to its first ever Missouri State Championship over Lamar, 37-33.

Young said he brings a winning mentality to SIU in his ability to win by example.

“I definitely feel like my actions do the talking. I try my best to lead by example and my teammates in high school really [fed] off that,” Young said.

Hill agrees, as he said he knows exactly what he’s getting from players like Young.

“Charles Young won a state championship in Missouri and made a huge play in that game. We’re always looking for winners that come from great programs,” Hill said, “We’ve found they know the level of expectations and what it’s going to take to work.”

Young has shown a unique ability in keeping his man in front of him when making a tackle, but is also someone you can feel comfortable with dropping back in coverage. This is what makes Young such a highly touted prospect.

However, Young said he understands his game isn’t perfect, and part of the reason he came to SIU was to hone his skills on the field.

“The thing that I really want to improve upon is my zone coverage. I feel I’m good at it, but I know that I can be great at it,” Young said.

It seemed the players’ admiration for Hill played a large part in the signing of this initial class. Both Thomas and Young raved about their first interaction with the head coach.

“When we sat down and talked he let me know that if there was anything that I needed from him, he could always help me out,” Young said, “I feel like Coach Hill is a real down-to-Earth guy who’s really understanding.”

While all players in the recruiting class chose Southern Illinois for the experience, it’s clear that winning is on the front of everyone’s mind. Young said he’d put his life on the line to help the Salukis reach its full potential.

“I’m willing to do anything and everything that I can to help our team reach its goals. Anywhere they need me I’ll do it and give it my best,” Young said.

Needless to say, Hill said he is very excited about this year’s signing day.

“We’ve proven that we can recruit at a high level and develop guys. There’s a checklist that goes into (recruiting) and these guys met that criteria and we’re excited about them,” Hill said.

Salukis aren’t done yet, Hill said publicly that the Dawgs expect to sign more student-athletes as the signing period continues.

Sports Reporter Cole Daily can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at cdaily_de. To stay up to date on all your southern Illinois news, follow the Daily Egyptian on Facebook and Twitter

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