Fresh off an 8-2 season and a second place finish in the Great Lakes Valley Conference, McKendree University football coach Mike Babcock and his coaching staff have restocked the Bearcats talent pool for the ‘16 season.
Althoff senior and record-setting quarterback Jordan Augustine highlights a list of 42 players who signed national-letters-of-intent on National Signing Day last Wednesday and make up the Bearcats freshmen recruiting class for ‘16.
Babcock, who was a finalist for the Hero Sports NCAA Division II National Coach of the Year, led the Bearcats to one of the finest seasons in school history in ‘15. But graduation to several key performers including GLVC Offensive Player of the Year in quarterback Isaac Fisher, defensive lineman Brett Pearman, two-time all-GLVC offensive tackle Derrik Starrett and wide receiver/kick returner Cameron James forced the Bearcats staff to focus on certain areas in its ‘16 recruiting.
“I think we have a very good recruiting class coming in. We tried to specifically target certain positions and I think we were able to bring in some top guys at those positions,” Babcock said. “Of course you have to wait until August until they come in and you see what they can do. But for the most part, I’m pleased with our recruiting class.”
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Babcock said the Bearcats addressed needs in both the offensive and defensive lines and at wide receiver. But one position of great local interest is at quarterback, where McKendree must replace Fisher who in ‘15 put the finishing touch on a record-smashing four year career which saw him throw for over 8,500 yards, rush for over 1,700 and have a hand in 87 touchdowns.
Fisher threw 64 touchdown passes in his McKendree career.
While McKendree has quarterbacks on its roster, Babcock was also able to land Althoff senior Jordan Augustine and Jordan Reichert of Collinsville, both of whom are expected to come in and battle for the startinq quarterback job.
The 6-2, 185-pound Augustine threw for over 3,700 yards and 40 touchdowns last Fall as he led Althoff to a second place finish in the Class 4A playoffs.
“Jordan’s a great kid and one of the intangibles I like the most about him is that he’s a smart kid. He’s probably smarter then you and I combined,” Babcock said, laughing. “But one of things I was really looking for with some of these guys, not only Jordan, was the ‘it factor.’ meaning how can I get the competitiveness out of some these guys.
“Jordan is one of those kids. Sure, Althoff had a lot of talent at the wide receiver and running back positions, but they had a quarterback in Jordan with the ability to rally the troops and get them going. He’s exciting to watch and he ran basically the same offense at Althoff as we do here.”
Reichert (6-3, 195) accounted for nearly 900 yards of total offense this season with the Kahoks. “He’s a kid out of the same mold at Jordan (Augustine). Jordan (Reichert) is a very competitive player with a strong arm who isn’t satisfied with just being .500. He’s a good athlete and that’s why I wanted to bring him in.’’
Babcock also concentrated on bringing in high quality offensive linemen and help at the wide receiver spots on the offensive side of the football.
To help fill the void left by the departure of Starrett, the Bearcats are bringing in Quinn Polaski (6-5, 290) from Lockport High School and Austin Huls (6-4, 240) from Pattonville, (Mo.), while at wide receiver, Babock is bringing in bigger more lanky pass catchers
“We have a lot of very good, fast and skilled wide receivers in this football program but we don’t have a really big receiver that we can line up on one side of the field in man-t0-man coverage and let him go,” Babcock said. “In a kid like a Colton Lockwood (6-3, 220) out of Decatur Eisenhower and Sean Ballinger from Chicago (Foreman) who is 6-3, 210 I think we’ve got a couple of guys who can do that when we need them.’’
On defense, Babcock looked to replace Pearman, one of leaders in quarterback sacks in the GLVC a year ago. With Pearman gone and ‘14 GLVC Defensive Player of the Year Lucky Baar, going into his senior season in ‘16, Babcock has brought in several highly-touted defensive players up front including William Fleming (6-2, 230) from Chicago Urban, Luis Medina (6,3, 245) from St. Mary’s High School in St. Louis and MIke Smith (6-1, 270) from Freeburg.
With all-American linebacker A.J. Wentland also entering his senior season, Babcock brought in Brandon Purnell (6-2, 220) from Chicago Simeon, Mike Tucker (6-2, 210) out of North Lawndale High School (Chicago) and John Lechtenberg (6-4, 215) from Ottawa Marquette to help in ‘16 and then help in the future.