Early signing day ’22: Western Illinois stocks recruiting class with youth at LB, OL spots

Western Illinois head coach Myers Hendrickson added 21 players this week in a recruiting class that was heavy on linebackers and offensive linemen. (Photo by Barry Bottino, Prairie State Pigskin)

By Barry Bottino

Judging by Western Illinois’ recruiting class this week, the Leathernecks are clearly focused on running the football and stopping the run.

The Leathernecks pulled in six offensive linemen and seven linebackers among a 21-member class, which included 11 players from Illinois high schools.

“Having a presence in the state of Illinois for high school recruiting was a big emphasis for us and will continue to be moving forward,” WIU head coach Myers Hendrickson said. “We will continue to build classes with high school players, while also adding transfers that can impact our program in big ways at key spots.”

The linebacker group is highlighted by Noah Epley, a transfer from Iowa Central Community College. Epley was the second-leading tackler on a team that won seven games and collected a bowl victory this fall.

Among the six prep linebackers added, Springfield’s Cory West of Sacred Heart-Griffin High School, led the state with 192 tackles and was one of the Champaign News-Gazette newspaper’s Top 100 prep players in the state.

On the offensive line, immediate help should come from 6-foot-5, 325-pound transfer Ryan Merklinger, a Georgia native who spent his freshman season at Valparaiso University, a non-scholarship FCS program.

Biggest need filled on offense:  Offensive line. The Leathernecks stocked their roster with five prep players at this spot, including four from Illinois high schools. Merklinger should be able to help right away. Among last year’s starters, Ty O’Janovac of Joliet Catholic graduated and took a job offer, while Sidney Fugar and Aidan Chance left via the transfer portal.

Biggest need filled on defense: Linebacker. There was a big void at this spot as three linebackers were graduate students or seniors last season, while three others (including WIU leading tackler Juan DelaCruz) entered the portal.

Where they come from by level: Seventeen high school players are included in the 21-member class, while four transfers in the class feature one from FBS, one from FCS and two from junior colleges.

Where they come from by state: Eleven of the players hail from Illinois, while two each are from Iowa, Missouri and Oklahoma. One player each represents Minnesota, Virginia, Arkansas and Georgia.

Player closest to campus: 2.2 miles. Macomb linebacker Ethan Ladd played high school football just over two miles from the WIU campus.

Player farthest from campus: 845 miles. Long snapper Matt Nelson, who was ranked No. 1 at his position in the state, hails from Lorton, Va., a suburb of Washington, D.C.

Tallest: 6-5. Three offensive linemen tie for this honor – Merklinger, Arguelles and Hansen.

Shortest: 5-10. Minnesota prep defensive back Cordell Wilson earns this title.

Heaviest: 325 pounds. A year in a college weight room allowed Merklinger to achieve this.

Lightest: 170 pounds. Suburban Chicago prep standout Terangie Eskridge Jr. is the lightest player in the class.

Early Signing Day List

Full Name, Position(s), Height, Weight, School, Hometown

Cordell Wilson, DB, 5-10, 175, Robbinsdale Armstrong HS, Minneapolis

Kaleb Randolph, DL, 6-0, 280, O’Fallon Township HS, O’Fallon, Ill.

Marcus Hansen, OL, 6-5, 300, O’Fallon Township HS, Fairview Heights, Ill.

Noah Wright, OL, 6-2, 280, Galesburg HS, Galesburg, Ill.

Brayden Hartman, OL, 6-3, 300, Washington HS, Washington, Iowa

Scott Webb, OL, 6-3, 275, Clinton HS, Clinton, Ill.

Marcus Moore, LB, 6-2, 240, Moore HS, Moore, Okla.

Dorian Arguelles, OL, 6-5, 300, Edwardsville HS, Edwardsville, Ill.

Cory West, LB, 6-1, 200, Sacred Heart-Griffin HS, Springfield, Ill.

Oshobi Odior, LB, 6-2, 240, Oswego East HS, Oswego, Ill.

Nick Naujokas, LB, 6-1, 210, Mount Carmel HS, Chicago

Randall Ward, LB, 6-1, 210, Lee’s Summit North HS, Lee’s Summit, Mo.

Matt Nelson, LS, 6-0, 230, South County HS, Lorton, Va.

KaRon Coleman, DB, 6-1, 197, Arkansas State University, Eutaw, Ala.

Noah Epley, LB, 6-2, 230, Iowa Central Community College, New Hartford, Iowa

Fredrik Greenhoward, DB, 6-1, 185, Northeastern Oklahoma A&M, Luther, Okla.

Ethan Ladd, LB, 6-1, 220, Macomb HS, Macomb, Ill.

Keshawn Harrington-McKinney, DL, 6-2, 300, Harlem High School, Chicago

Ryan Merklinger, OL, 6-5, 325, Valparaiso University, Savannah, Ga.

Terangie Eskridge Jr., DB, 6-1, 170, Richards HS, Chicago

Dylan Van, RB, 6-0, 180, Christian Brothers College HS, St. Louis

2 responses to “Early signing day ’22: Western Illinois stocks recruiting class with youth at LB, OL spots”

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