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SIU running back D.J. Davis (9) is slowed down by Youngstown State safety Billy Nicoe Hurst (17) and linebacker Lee Wright (5) last season against Youngstown State.

Here are SIU football coach Nick Hill's comments on his 16 recruits for the 2018 class, courtesy of the sports information office.

Hill's third class was high on skill players, as the Salukis return eight of their top linemen on both sides of the ball.

NIC BAKER, QB, Rochester, 5-10, 180

A lot of people around here know about Nic. He's had as good of a high school career as you can have, especially in the state of Illinois. He's probably won as many awards as you can win. He's a winner--he's 27-1. Both the quarterbacks we're signing in this group are winners, and that's the first thing you want in a quarterback. (Baker) has won back-to-back state championships. Everyone knocks him because he's not as tall, but he can throw the football. He makes plays. He's a winner. He's a really, really smart kid. We're excited about Nic.

BEAU BRANYAN, OL, Decatur, 6-5, 265

He's exactly what you want as a high school offensive lineman recruit. He's about 265 pounds right now. He's a really good basketball player; we went and watched him practice basketball, and he can dunk the ball. He gets up and down the court well. Once we get him here and put on weight, he will gain 30 pounds and be in that 295-pound range. He's really athletic and can play tackle. We're excited about Beau and having his family here. He fits in to what we're trying to do here.

CHANCE BUSH, CB, Apopka, Fla., 5-10, 176

You know exactly what you're going to get when you get a kid from Apopka. That's one of the best high school football programs in the country. Coach (Rick) Darlington does an outstanding job. With my time coaching down there, he's kind of a legend in Florida, for sure in central Florida, as far as the program and how he runs things. They're going to be disciplined. Chance is their captain. Anytime you go down, Coach Darlington talked about what a great kid, person and player he is. We knew we wanted to offer him. We offered him in the spring. He came up with his family twice now. He's been on an official visit, came to games, came on an unofficial visit. He's just a great kid. I really can't say enough about him. He'll come here and be a leader for us and one day be a captain, in my opinion.

JACOB GARRETT, TE, Sellersburg, Ind., 6-2, 230

We take so much stock into getting kids on campus. They might not be the most highly recruited kids; but when they come to camp and impress you in person, there's not a better evaluation than in-person. Jacob impressed us every time we saw him. We saw him three times this summer in person and felt the same way about him every time. When you watch his highlight film, he plays both sides of the ball in high school, but he'll start on offense, an H-Back, fullback-type guy like Hans (Carmien). He probably can do more things at the tight end spot than Hans could, but he's in the same type of mold as Hans, who we've had around here for a while.

DAVID GRENIA, WR, St. Louis, 6-3, 210

He led the city in receiving yards. We signed two kids--Rico Payton and David--from the same high school. Rico was an early commit that we had been on for a long time. We knew about David, but I went to watch them during one of their high school games, and David really impressed me in person. He plays both sides of the ball. He never came off the field. He's a big kid. He's 6-3, 200 pounds right now. He will keep getting bigger. We had some other schools in our conference after him, and we were able to get him. I think the future is really bright for David. He's one of those bigger receivers that have a lot of success in our conference. He's big, physical, can run, has great ball skills, smart, all the things we look for. I couldn't be happier than to sign David.

BRETT GROVES, OL, Cary, 6-5, 305

He's a big, physical kid. He came to camp. They're in a different type of offense, so when you watch his highlight video, it's a lot of run blocking. They almost run a triple-option-type offense. For pass blocking, we had to get him in camp. He really has a big future. He's as big as any offensive lineman we've signed here, not height-wise, but physically ready to play. I wouldn't say that as a true freshman, but he's physically where you want him to be size-wise already; now we just have to fine tune him and get him going. We're signing three high school offensive linemen. That's a spot where we could probably use to add one more. You're always want to be building depth in your offensive line. You don't want to be stuck looking for transfers. You want to build them within our program--redshirt them and build them up. We feel like we have three of them that we can do that with.

TREMAYNE LEE, RB, Springfield, Ill., 5-10, 195

Tremayne comes from one of the best high school programs in the state in Sacred Heart-Griffin. He's been committed since before his senior year. He knows how to win, and he's an explosive kid that we're excited to add to the running back room.

OLIVER MCDOWELL, LB, East St. Louis, 6-2, 200

Just really a playmaker. He committed to us before the season started. If he didn't lead the St. Louis area in sacks, he was right up there. We know what type of program coach Sunkett has at East St. Louis. We had two players this past year who were seniors, Markese Jackson and Kyron Watson, that come from that program. We know how they play. They play physical. They just are trained to be physical football players when they come from that program. They're used to winning. Oliver is actually going to be enrolled in classes in the spring and will go through spring ball. He will graduate in December. That says a lot about the kid that Oliver is. He has a great ACT score. He's graduating early. We're fired up about Oliver.

BRODY PARKER, TE, Blue Springs, Mo., 6-6, 235

He plays quarterback, kind of like Jake Varble. Jake played quarterback his entire high school career but came to camp and worked out as a tight end. He definitely has the size. He's already 6-6, 230. He could probably be 250 pounds by the time the season starts. He's a great kid with a great family. We're fired up he can be one of those big tight ends. He's a physical kid that has played linebacker, defensive end, quarterback, tight end. He's an athlete that does a lot of things that really attracted us to him.

RICO PAYTON, CB, St. Louis, 6-2, 180

He's long. He reminds me of Jeremy Chinn. I'm really excited that he's here. He could have went a lot of different places, but he believes in what we're doing with this program. He had other FBS offers. He went on FBS official visits, and he chose us. Like I said, he reminds me of Jeremy Chinn. He has that type of feel to him. Jeremy came in and played as a true freshman. (Rico) is long. He's athletic. When you watch his highlight video, he jumps off at you. He's a tailback, a receiver, a corner. We saw him live. He's as good of a recruit as you're going to get at the cornerback position. He will have a chance to fight and play as a true freshman. We're losing two seniors (at cornerback). It was similar to the conversations I had with Jeremy when he came here, about that mindset of wanting to play as a true freshman.

AUSTIN REED, QB, St. Augustine Beach, Fla., 6-2, 210

He's a great kid. Really, this is his first year starting, which says a lot about him. He could have easily been one of the kids who transfers and changes schools. He was a great teammate, and then he absolutely crushed his senior year. He went to the semifinals in the state of Florida in a big class, and he was the leader of that team. Like I said speaking of quarterbacks, that's what we wanted to see. Not passing yards or stats, just leading your team to wins. Austin almost had them in big-class state championship in Florida, and we know what kind of football is down there. An awesome family. Coach Van Dam and I have really enjoyed recruiting Austin.

JADEN ROBERTS-THOMAS, WR, Champaign, 6-4, 200

He's like David. We're signing two high school receivers over 6-3. Jaden is probably pushing 6-5. He's a big kid. We wanted to address that, getting a couple big kids at the wide receiver spot that we feel like will help us down the road. He came to camp. Same thing--we saw him at two camps, and then he came down to our camp, and that's when he got the offer because he impressed us in person and what type of person he is. All of these kids, that's the biggest thing. This is our third recruiting class, and the type of kids we're signing is great, and Jaden fits right in with them.

MIGUEL RODRIGUEZ, DL, Viera, Fla., 6-3, 223

He was Jaylin Wilson's high school teammate. When we were recruiting Jaylin, who played for us as a true freshman and had a couple starts on the defensive line this year, we knew about Miguel for a long time. I've talked Jaylin, that he can be as good as anyone we've had. He has to keep working, but Miguel is right there with him. Athletically, he's listed at 223. When I saw him two weeks ago, he was over 230 pounds. He'll be 250 pounds and play defensive end, and he's as athletic as anyone as we've signed. He will have a chance like the other kids that we've been signing--Skinner and Knighton and Berner--add another piece to that room. Last year was a big year for us signing defensive linemen. There's not as many on here because we have a room full of defensive linemen. Miguel is one of those guys that if we could get him, we had to add him. It says a lot about him, too. He had FBS offers. To sign him on the early signing date is big for us.

JUSTIN STRONG, S, Fairview Heights, 6-0, 191

I feel like I've done more home visits at the Strong residence than anyone ever in back-to-back years. He comes from an awesome family. I talked about them a bunch last year. Great mom. Great family. Won a lot of games there at Althoff. His brother (SIU freshman linebacker Bryson Strong) is going to be a great player here, and Justin has that same makeup in terms of work ethic. He's taller and plays a different position. He had a great high school career. When you watch his film, we're excited to have Justin. He'll play safety and has a bright future there.

JACOB TRAXLER, DE, Eldorado, 6-4, 225

I say this up and down, but the No. 1 thing is what type of people we're signing. Jacob is an outstanding kid. He's a three-sport athlete, really a four-sport athlete. He was the Black Diamond Player of the Year. He's a different size as (Jordan) Berner, but Berner just got honored as a Freshman All-American right out of the same conference. That means a lot to me. When you can sign kids from our own back yard, that means a lot. Justin is from the South 7, and Jacob is in the Black Diamond. He's as good looking of a recruit, I don't care where you go to find them, as you'll see. When he walks into the room, he looks like a man. He's 6-3, 225 pounds and not an ounce of fat on him. He's a worker. We're fired up. He brings a mentality that we need to keep adding to our team. He has a bright future. He'll come here and work, and you'll almost forget he's on your team because he does everything right. He has great grades. He's appreciative. We're fired up about him.

JIMMY WORMSLEY, OL, Carpentersville, 6-3, 296

He's been committed for a long time. We appreciate that. His sister goes to school here. He's a four-year starter in 7A high school football in Chicago. He hasn't missed a start in four-straight years, and they played in the playoffs every year and deep into the playoffs twice. I don't know if I've ever seen that before, especially on the offensive line, a kid who can come in and play 7A football as a freshman on the offensive line. That's the toughest spot to do it. He's tough. He brings a mentality that we can keep on growing on the offensive line in terms of physicality, toughness. That's probably what you would say the most about Jimmy. He's a worker; he's strong; he's durable; and he brings a mentality that we want.


On Twitter: @THefferman


Sports reporter

Todd Hefferman has covered SIU athletics since 2008. A University of Iowa grad, he is a member of the U.S. Basketball Writers Association and a Heisman Trophy voter.

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