Daily Egyptian

Saluki football announces 2016 recruiting class

By Brent Meske, @brentmeskeDE

SIU football finished the 2016 National Signing Day with 18 commitments for coach Nick Hill’s first roster as a head coach.

The Salukis welcomed 11 players from Illinois, the most of any state. The team had seven in-state recruits last year.

“It’s a day that myself, as well as the staff, will always remember as our first signing class,” Hill said. “It felt like Christmas morning.”

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QUARTERBACK

Jhakari Harrison combined for more than 100 throwing and rushing touchdowns in his Coconut Creek High School career and set a county record with eight touchdown passes in the final game of his career.

Coach’s Take: “I’ve been recruiting Jhakari for a long time, and we’re lucky to get him,” Hill said. “I was down in the Spring time watching about 30 south Florida teams and he put on a show. I went to Detroit to see him workout at another camp. He and his dad came in on an unofficial visit.”

RUNNING BACK

Clay Rendleman ran for 2,490 yards and 36 touchdowns in his career and was All-State and academic All-State twice at Murphysboro High School.

Coach’s Take: “He comes to every camp we have,” Hill said. “He’s the strongest kid in southern Illinois … He wanted to be a Saluki.”

KICKER/PUNTER

Nico Gualdoni averaged 41.6 yards per punt and also played running back and linebacker AT Johnston City High School. In a 26-14 win against Fairfield in the playoffs, Gualdoni accounted for all his team’s points as he rushed for three touchdowns, made two field goals and a point after attempt.

Coach’s Take: “He’ll compete for our kickoff spot probably, and that’s exciting,” Hill said. “He’ll have to come and earn it but he’s got the ability to do it. He can put it in the end zone consistently.”

DEFENSIVE LINEMAN

Jordan Berner was All-State his senior year at Chester High School and was named conference Player of the Year the last two seasons. He had 310 tackles and nine interceptions.

Coach’s Take: “He’s done it all for Chester … he’d line up at quarterback and middle linebacker and he’s got almost 1,000 receiving yards in his career,” Hill said. “He’s been coming to camps here since he was a sophomore, so we’ve been recruiting him a long time. Physically, he’s probably ready to play right now.”

ZeVeyon Furcron, a Crest Hill native who attended Joliet Catholic High School, was named an All-State special mention honoree by the Chicago Tribune as a senior.

Coach’s Take: “We want to get guys who are used to winning,” Hill said. “He is super athletic for 310 pounds. He is as strong as probably anyone on the team right now. He’ll compete to play as a freshman.”

Malik Haynes was named first-team All-Conference by the Chicago Sun-Times as he led Al Raby High School to its first playoff win in school history. The Chicago native recorded 90 tackles, 20 tackles for a loss, five sacks, two blocked punts and two defensive touchdowns.

Coach’s Take: “He plays a little bit of linebacker at 300 pounds, he’s an athlete,” Hill said. “There will be a lot of teams wishing they would have gone after Malik.”

Blake Parzych was academic All-State as a senior at Minooka High School and was invited to play in the Blue-Grey All-American Bowl. He recorded 45 tackles for a loss and 16.5 sacks in his last two seasons.

Coach’s Take: “He committed to us before I got the job and he stuck with us,” Hill said.

OFFENSIVE LINE

Matt Chmielewski was part of a Lockport High School offensive line that blocked for a team total of more than 1,000 rushing yards, and he finished as an honorable mention All-State selection in his senior season.

Coach’s Take: “He was one of the nine kids who committed before I got the job,” Hill said. “He is rated as one of the top-10 offensive linemen in the state of Illinois. He could probably play guard or tackle.”

Hayden LaPointe was a captain of the DeKalb High School team that advanced to the 6A quarterfinals this season, the longest playoff run for the school in 35 years. Last year the Barbs won the program’s first conference title since 1989.

Coach’s Take: “He’s probably one of the best looking offensive lineman we’ve brought in … since I’ve been around here,” Hill said. “We’re going to have to develop [him], but we’re excited about that.”

WIDE RECEIVER

Sam Bonansinga tallied 1,034 receiving yards and 17 touchdowns as a senior and was part of a Sacred Heart-Griffin team that won back-to-back state championships during his sophomore and junior seasons.

The Springfield native had 1,950 receiving yards and 30 touchdowns in his career. Sam’s father, Joe, played for the Salukis as he earned his bachelor’s in physiology from 1989 to 1993.

Coach’s Take: “As soon as I got the job I said we need to get someone from Sacred Heart-Griffin, anytime we’ve been good here, we’ve had someone from Sacred Heart-Griffin,” Hill said. “When he was a junior he played in the state championship game and never came off the field.”

Landon Lenoir attended Crete-Monee High School and was part of a team that won 34-straight conference games and was the Illinois Class 6A state runner-up last season. He had more than 600 receiving yards and caught four touchdowns as a senior.

He, too, comes from a family of football as his brother Lance holds the Western Illinois record for career touchdowns. His cousin, Laquon Treadwell — a wide receiver at Mississippi — is a top 2016 NFL Draft prospect.

Coach’s Take: “Landon wanted to be his own guy, he didn’t want to follow in his brother’s footsteps,” Hill said. “It’s scary how similar he and his brother are.”

Mason Wilfong had 1,715 receiving yards and 17 touchdowns in his career with John Carroll High School in Palm City, Fla., and was a two-time honorable mention Class 3A All-State selection.

Coach’s Take: “I watched him compete during Spring football [in Florida],” Hill said. “He reminds me of Billy Reed. He’s ready to play right now.”

TIGHT END

Jaylin Carter. He had 406 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns as a senior on a Wheaton-Warrenville High School team which advanced to the Class 7A playoffs.

Coach’s Take: “Kinda has that look MyCole [Pruitt] had and he’s taller than MyCole,” Hill said.

LINEBACKER

Bryce Notree was the only Texan to sign with the Salukis and was the seventh recruit overall to commit to SIU.

The Arlington, Texas native recorded 96 tackles, 18 tackles for a loss, three interceptions and two forced fumbles at Lamar High School.

Coach’s Take: “Our defensive [graduate assistant] Michael Williamson went to this high school and kept bringing his name up,” Hill said. “He’s actually from Illinois … He’s coming back home.”

SAFETY

Qua Brown recorded 73 tackles, six interceptions and five tackles for a loss as a senior at University High School in DeLand, Fla. He also set a school record with four interceptions in a game as a senior and was named Class 8A All-State by the Associated Press.

Coach’s Take: “Que is a kid we’re lucky to get, he had four or five bigger offers through the Spring,” Hill said. “We got him on a trip … It was the Wichita State [men’s] basketball game. I called him up at halftime and he came to my office and committed right there.”

Victor Abraham II, of Dearborn, Mich., was the second secondary signing of the day.

Abraham was an honorable mention All-State honoree during his senior year at Plymouth High School where he recorded 64 tackles and four interceptions along with 746 receiving yards during his senior season.

Coach’s Take: “I think the most impressive thing about Victor is he’s pre-Med,” Hill said. “Not only were we looking for talent … But we made sure they passed the character test as well.”

CORNERBACK

James Ceasar, Jr., the other Michigan signee, was the fourteenth NLI of the day for the Salukis.

The Detroit native recorded 40 tackles, five interceptions and one defensive touchdown as a senior at East English Village High School. He also scored 10 total touchdowns on offense.

Coach’s Take: “[Wide receivers coach] Ashton [Aikens] kept saying ‘He’s the best corner in the city,’” Hill said. “He’s an all-around ball player.”

Jeremy Chinn, the lone Indiana recruit, began the day’s signing at 6:25 a.m.

The Fisher, Ind., native was named All-State by the Associated Press during his senior year at Fishers High School and set school records for interceptions in a season, four as a senior, and career interceptions with seven. He also played running back, averaging 6.9 yards on 101 carries.

Coach’s Take: “He’s probably ready to play and he’s got the mentality that he is going to play this year,” Hill said.

Brent Meske can be reached at [email protected] or at 536-3333

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