CARBONDALE — More than 11,000 yards can't be wrong.
Javon Williams Jr., a 6-foot-2, 237-pound quarterback from Centralia High School that signed with SIU Wednesday, ran for more yards than he threw for last season. SIU coach Nick Hill still wants to see what he can do behind center at the college level.
"He'll start at quarterback, and we're excited about that. He's an athlete, a big, strong, physical athlete," Hill said. "He's a competitor. That's what gets me the most excited about him. I get excited watching him compete on the basketball court. Whatever he's doing, he's competing at a high level. He'll do the same thing when he gets here."
Williams rushed for 2,395 yards and 30 touchdowns on 244 carries for the 7-3 Orphans. He passed for 1,967 yards, completing 124 of 207 passes for 22 touchdowns and eight interceptions. He is one of three Illinoisans with more than 11,000 career yards, and his 52 touchdowns this season tied John Dergo of Morris' 2005 state record for a single season.
Williams was one of five high school seniors that signed with SIU on National Signing Day. The Salukis also added wide receiver Je'Quan Burton (5-10, 175 pounds) from Orlando, kicker Griffin Cerra (6-foot, 160) from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, cornerback D.J. Johnson (6-foot, 195) from Kansas City, Missouri, and linebacker Eric Owens (6-1, 210) out of East St. Louis High School.
Williams joins two quarterbacks SIU inked in December during the NCAA's first early signing period for football, Rochester's Nic Baker and Austin Reed from St. Augustine Beach, Florida. The Salukis also added Stone Labanowitz, a 5-11, 180-pound junior from ASA Junior College in New York, as a mid-year transfer.
SIU started 4-3 last season before starting quarterback Sam Straub broke a bone in his throwing wrist at South Dakota in late October. The Salukis lost their last four games to finish 4-7 overall and 2-6 in the Missouri Valley Football Conference.
Third-year sophomore Tanner Hearn was ineffective and left the program, and fourth-year junior Matt DeSomer was thrust into the position after playing safety and special teams most of the season. DeSomer returns this fall, along with fellow fifth-year senior Straub and redshirt freshman Brandon George. Hill said one of his staff's top recruiting priorities was improving the depth behind those three and building for the future.
"We went 0-4 without our starting quarterback, and we've gotta do a good job of having multiple guys ready to go," said Hill, a former Saluki quarterback who is sixth in school history in passing yards. "That's my job. We want guys that compete. When we were recruiting, all of them knew we were recruiting other guys, because you want guys that come in here and compete. That's how it was when I was here. When I came in here, there were five other guys. I was the sixth guy, and, you compete, you do the best job you can do, and that's what these guys will do."