Signing day ’23: Thirteen mid-year transfers, new defensive line coach joining Eastern Illinois program

The Panthers begin spring practice in late March. The 2023 season opening kickoff is Aug. 31, a Thursday night game at Indiana State. (Photo by

By Dan Verdun

Eastern Illinois football added 13 mid-year transfers as the January semester began.

This follows the 16 players inked by second-year head coach Chris Wilkerson and his staff in the December early signing class.

On Jan. 9, as the spring semester started, EIU officially announced the roster additions.

According to EIU’s release, the mid-year transfers were comprised of “two veteran FCS running backs along with several key junior college additions on the defensive side of the ball.”

The Panthers lost four key defensive players in the transfer portal shortly before the holidays. Thus, the mid-year signees are vital to retooling coordinator Adam Gristick’s defense.

From an accolades standpoint, Adonis Forest Jr. tops the list. Despite missing part of last fall with an injury, Forest is rated as the No. 1 junior college safety in the class by the recruiting website

Forest, who played at Contra Costa College in California, is listed at 6-foot-4 and 210 pounds.

The Panthers added five other defensive players: linemen Alex Alteus (Stetson University), Zed Asowata (Midwestern State), Nicholas Oliveira-Chace (Franklin Pierce College), linebacker Jack Pilson (Leigh) and safety D’zjon Hal (Ventura College).

Pilson, listed at 6-foot and 210 pounds, played at nearby Mattoon High School. His older brother Jared and father Jaime previously played for the Panthers.

On offense, Eastern brought in running backs Kevin Daniels and Juwon Farri.

Daniels, listed at 6-foot-2 and 225 pounds, played three seasons at Northern Arizona, an FCS program in the Big Sky Conference. He was a preseason all-league selection in 2022 by analyst Phil Steele.

However, Daniels appeared in just the first three games last fall. In 2021, he rushed for 1,146 yards becoming NAU’s first 1,000 yard rusher since 2015 and ranked 10th on the NAU single-season rushing list.

Farri, listed at 5-foot-10 and 205 pounds, was a five-year member of the Monmouth University football program where he rushed for 2,845 yards with 28 touchdowns in four seasons. The Maryland native was a 2022 preseason second team All-American, preseason CAA All-Conference honorable mention and on the Walter Payton Award Watch List.

EIU also added quarterback Pierce Holley, who played for Georgetown in the FCS Patriot League. The 6-foot, 215-pound Holley passed for 2,882 yards and 18 touchdowns while earning second team all-conference honors.

Offensive linemen Sebastian Pares (University of Sioux Falls) along with junior college teammates Brennan Anderson and Drew Wilder (Iowa Western Community College) are joining the Panther roster.

Pares, listed at 6-foot-6 and 290 pounds, is a Joliet native who prepped at Wheaton Academy.

Both Anderson and Wilder played for the NJCAA national champions. They blocked for an offensive unit that averaged 31.3 points per game and 354.8 yards per game of total offense (200.8 rushing yards per game).

Anderson, listed at 6-foot-4 and 330 pounds, is an Iowa native.

Wilder, listed at 6-foot-3 and 320 pounds, began his career at the U.S. Naval Academy, redshirting for the 2021 season.

Long snapper Zac Cowan is another addition. The 6-foot-4, 225-pounder appeared in eight games for Rochester (Minn.) Community Tech College in 2022.

Coaching change

EIU announced Wednesday that Fred Wyatt is the program’s new defensive line coach.

Wyatt replaces Adam Morris, who coached at Eastern for the past three seasons. Morris left Charleston to join the Ball State staff, where he played for the Cardinals from 2008-2011.

Wyatt comes to EIU following two seasons as the defensive line coach at Missouri Western.

Fred Wyatt (Missouri Western photo)

According the official release, Wyatt coached three players that earned honorable mention All-Conference honors while the defensive line unit racked up 30.5 tackles for loss and 12 sacks. The unit held opponents to 146.9 rushing yards per game this past season. 

“He’s coached a gritty defensive line over the past two seasons. These experiences have allowed Fred to compete and coach at the highest level. He is well-connected and highly-respected in the defensive line community,” Wilkerson said in the release.

Prior to Missouri Western, Wyatt was a graduate assistant for two seasons at Kansas State. During that time he worked with the Wildcats defensive backs and alongside his father, Buddy. 

Wyatt played defensive tackle at Northwestern University for head coach Pat Fitzgerald. He appeared in 40 games in his career, starting 10 times as a senior. 

Wyatt helped the Wildcats win the Big Ten West title in 2018 and capped his career with a win over No. 17 Utah in the Holiday Bowl. He finished his career with 57 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss, two pass break-ups and a blocked kick.   

He was a three-time Academic All-Big Ten honoree.  He earned his bachelor’s degree from Northwestern in 2018 and a master’s degree from the Kellogg School of Management in 2019.
Wyatt played professionally in Japan before starting his coaching career at Kansas State. 

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