SIU football welcomes new players

By Gus Bode

Salukis reel in 21 on National Signing Day

For the second year in a row, the SIU football team has reeled in a recruiting class full of “paper tigers” that makes SIU head coach Jerry Kill very happy.

Kill announced the signing of 21 high school and junior college athletes to national letters of intent Wednesday on the first day football players are allowed to sign with their respective schools.

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Kill said every coach in the nation is going to say he signed a solid recruiting class on paper, and the Salukis are no exception.

“Boy we’ve got a nice looking piece of paper here in front of us so that’s always exciting to see,” Kill said.

Of the 21 players, 10 are offensive players, 10 are defensive players and the remaining player is a punter.

Kickers as a whole are not usually a position people get excited about, but Kill can’t wait to get his new specialist on campus.

Zach Kettlekamp, who hails from Springfield, was named to the all-state team as both a punter and a linebacker and was rated the 23rd best linebacker in the country by Rivals.com. Other schools that were recruiting him include Minnesota and Western Illinois.

However, despite those credentials on the defensive side of the ball, Kill said for now he only intends on using Kettlekamp as a punter.

“Zach is a very, very, very good punter,” Kill said. “He’s got a leg that we’re hoping, Western Illinois was recruiting him and you know [All-Gateway Conference punter Mike Scifres] from Western Illinois’ had a cannon. I’ll never compare anyone we recruit to that kid, but he’s got that kind of potential.”

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Another highly rated signee is quarterback Jonathan Cairns from Blue Springs, Mo., who was ranked the 20th best quarterback in the nation by Rivals.com. During his senior season, Cairns threw for 1,421 yards and 15 touchdowns and ran for 698 yards and eight touchdowns.

The signing of Cairns likely means the coaching staff will switch last season’s backup Stanley Bryant to defensive back, a move Kill said he had been pondering but didn’t want to make unless he knew he had someone who could back up Joel Sambursky.

Another player who will be switching positions is Quorey Payne who moves from cornerback to wide receiver.

Kill said he doesn’t put much stock into where Cairns was ranked, but knows that he will fit the Salukis’ system because his high school team ran the same exact same offense.

Another credential Kill doesn’t put much stock into is if someone is named to the all-state team.

“Don’t get too much into that all-state stuff,” Kill said. “Shoot, I was all-state and hell, nobody wanted me.”

While no one may have wanted Kill, the Saluki coach was able to find a lot of players he wanted. Two areas he wanted to solidify were the defensive backfield and the offensive line, and he did that as he signed five linemen and five defensive backs.

SIU also signed six junior college players who are expected to contribute at some point this season like Muhammad Abdulqaadir and Courtney Abbott did last year.

“Athletically and physically they’re going to help us,” Kill said. “They’ve got to.”

While the Salukis secured depth at some positions of concern, they are not yet done searching.

Kill said the team is still trying to find an athlete, a big fullback and a defensive end/tight end combination.

“Hopefully we can get done here in the next week or two,” Kill said.

Even though some of the new Salukis will be expected to step up and contribute to the team next season, Kill said if the returning players improve like they should, the newcomers can just sit back and learn next season instead of being thrown into the fire.

“The most important recruits we have right now are down in our weight room,” Kill said. “We’ve got to keep developing those guys and make them bigger, stronger and faster, and if those guys down there progress the way they need to progress and get better the way they need to get better, then we won’t have to use some of these people.”

Reporter Jens Deju can be reached at [email protected]

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