Daily Egyptian

Football recruits bring mix of youth and experience

By Brent Meske, @BrentmeskeDE

The Salukis have to fill 21 roster spots, vacated by players who finished their eligibility after the 2014 season.

SIU has signed two junior college transfer players and received commitments from at least five high school players for the 2015 season.

Coach Dale Lennon said the points of emphasis for this recruiting class were the running back, linebacker and cornerback positions.

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Lennon said he cannot compare the recruits with the current freshman class for compliance reasons.

“You’re always trying to combine the current recruiting class with what you had done the year before,” he said. “If you can get a good mesh, that definitely bodes for a very bright future.”

Recruiting Coordinator David Elson said establishing a relationship with the prospects and parents is crucial.

“Having a connection, getting to know them and being a mentor is important,” he said. “You have to show that you want to help them do what they want to do with their lives.” 

Andrew McCrea, a cornerback, spent two years at Los Angeles Pierce College in California. In 14 games, McCrea recorded 3 interceptions and 24 tackles. As a sophomore, McCrea was invited to play in the Junior College All-American Bowl in Glendale, Ariz., for the California team.

“We have some good recruits that can come in and play right away,” McCrea said. “We want to win.”

Darius Merriweather, a sophomore inside linebacker, said he and McCrea met through Instagram. After texting, Merriweather gave McCrea’s information to Elson.

Merriweather said McCrea has his head on straight and will use spring camp to potentially earn a starting spot.

“He fits our needs right now, we need guys that can play immediately,” he said. “We’re losing a lot in our defense so we’re going to need guys to fill those roles.”

Nine of the graduated seniors played defense, including cornerbacks Boo Rodgers and Courtney Richmond.

Lennon said McCrea’s experience could help him fill the vacant spots at cornerback. He said freshmen Jefferson Vea and Darrius Spivey-Nunn will also be considered for the position.

The other junior college transfer is Aaron Stanton, a running back from Ventura College in California. Stanton rushed for more than 1,500 yards and added 18 touchdowns in two years there. He also had 78 receptions for 662 yards. Stanton averaged more than 29 yards as a kick returner.

SIU lost last season’s punt and kick returners, LaSteven McKinney and Tay Willis respectively.

“You’re always looking for people who have the skills to be a return man,” Lennon said. “Stanton has those abilities.”

Elson said the freshman class looks good, but it will take time to evaluate the prospects.

High school recruits include Airan Reed, who played free safety for South Gibson County High School in Tennessee. He was named First Team All-Region his sophomore, junior and senior years. He also played in the West Tennessee All-Star game his senior year.

Reed said he came to SIU for the bond between players and coaches. He also liked the team’s outlook for the future.

“We’re going to try to turn it around,” he said. “One of the recruiting pitches they gave me was the freshman class combined with my class could really make a run in the FCS playoffs.”

SIU also added high school cornerback Julius Washington. At Lake Mary High School in Florida, Washington was named First Team All-Conference his junior year. His school also named him the Defensive Back of the Year his senior year.

Washington said he felt at home at SIU and loved the team camaraderie. He said determination is his strength on the field.

“I’m a ball hog. Every time the ball is in the air, I want to go up and get it,” he said. “My speed helps me get into position to do that.”

For high school offensive recruits, the Salukis added quarterback Tanner Hearn, offensive lineman Graham Lawrence and tight end Tyler Mabry.

Mabry, who is from IMG Academy in Florida, said he could tell Carbondale was a football town.

“My goal is to come in and be a factor on the team and be a leader on and off the field,” he said. “I want to take SIU to the playoffs.”

Hearn, who is from East River High School in Florida, said getting to know the coaches was pivotal in choosing SIU.

“When I took my official visit and went to a camp I really loved the coaches,” he said. “I was able to build a relationship with them… other schools didn’t take the time to get to know me.”

Lawrence, who is from Trigg County High School in Kentucky, said SIU was always his top choice and although he had offers from six other schools, he only made an official visit to SIU.

“I had SIU on my mind all the time,” he said. “As soon as they offered, I talked with my parents and it felt like the right choice.”

Recruiting will continue throughout the spring.

Brent Meske can be reached at [email protected], or at 536-3311 ext. 269

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