News From Terre Haute, Indiana

February 7, 2013

Sycamores excited about explosive class of playmakers

ISU football's new coaching staff worked hard to put first class together

Craig Pearson
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — #Explosiveness

#Championshiphungry

With approximately 45 days on the job, Indiana State head coach Mike Sanford took advantage of an enthusiastic and technologically savvy young group of assistant coaches to assemble a quality recruiting class.

Recruiting coordinator Eric Brown, a holdover from Trent Miles’ staff, said he would summarize the Sycamores’ 2013 football recruiting class with the above hashtags — a keyword tool used heavily on the social media site if you’ve not joined the 140-characters-or-less club that is Twitter.

Sanford was also able to secure possibly the first national letter-of-intent in the United States. Sanford recruited Australian punter Rhys Felton with the aid of a conversation on Skype. Felton faxed his NLI at 6 p.m. Tuesday, which corresponds to the 7 a.m. Wednesday that recruits could submit their paperwork to colleges.

“It’s the first time I recruited a guy on Skype, which was exciting,” said the 57-year-old Sanford, who admitted he was a little concerned about putting a class together after being hired in mid-December.

Several players may have committed to prior to Miles’ departure, but Sanford’s enthusiastic coaching staff worked hard to retain those while finishing a class full of athletes that can help in short and long-term capacities.

“I was nervous about that, but we got guys hired, got them on the road recruiting, had high standards and were aggressive on it. I’m excited about the class that we’ve put together,” Sanford said.

After he unveiled his first class to supporters of the program Wednesday in Hulman Center, Sanford backed up Brown’s assessment: This is an explosive group of athletes that is hungry to help the Sycamores contend for Missouri Valley Conference and Football Championship Subdivision titles.

The highlight film of the class displayed five wide receivers, three running backs and several defensive backs with ball skills offensively or in the return game.

“There’s a lot of speed in this class. We’ve got a bunch of playmakers,” said Sanford, who repeated the fact that the foremost goal with this class was to add depth at wide receiver and linebacker. “We wanted to make sure people weren’t able to stack people in the box [to stop All-American running back Shakir Bell]. Of the two linebackers, one is a mid-year player and he’s already here.”

That linebacker is T.J. Tuuu, a Polynesian who grew up in California and played the last two years at Monterey Peninsula College. The other linebacker is Decatur Central product Jordan Jackson, a 6-1, 230-pounder that was an All-Marion County performer.

“He was first guy to send in his papers this morning. He loves football and he’s wanted to play for Indiana State for a long time,” ISU defensive coordinator Brian Cabral said. “He’s a physical player. This guy loves to hit. We see him making a big difference inside.”

Sanford added that the Sycamores were still in the process of recruiting more talent at linebacker.

Jackson was one of four recruits from the state of Indiana, as he’s joined by Sampson Levingston, a 6-1, 200-pound wide receiver out of three-time defending Class 4A state champion Cathedral.

The other Hoosiers are Aaron Killebrew (5-10, 165), a defensive back from Evansville Harrison and defensive tackle Weston Painter (6-3, 260) of Fort Wayne Snider.

The class includes six junior college transfers, with the idea being to strengthen a relatively small junior class. ISU will have five senior wide receivers for the 2013 season so players like Kayani Harris (5-10, 170) of San Fransico City College, Justice Berry (6-1, 209) of Coffeyvile Community College and Miguel Johns (5-11, 185) of Hutchinson Community College will add depth to that position. They’ll also have the potential to be relied upon seniors for the 2014 season.

ISU also added players at running back — with the goal to complement Shakir Bell in 2013 and to plan for life without the star back in 2014.

Logan Lanier, at 5-9, 215, could provide a strong complement to Bell next fall. ISU passing game coordinator Brian Shepard referred to him as a “bowling ball,” while offensive line coach Vince Natali said “he will fight for every yard, every inch.”

Lanier ran for 1,330 yards and six touchdowns for Sacramento City College in 2012.

“We know we had Shak. We’ve leaned on him. We wanted a 1-2 punch. We brought in the big bowling ball,” Shepard said. “He’ll be a senior type guy after that when we get Dimitri [Taylor] and Lemonte Booker going.”

Taylor is a 5-10, 190-pound back from Montini Catholic in Wheaton, Ill., and Booker (6-0, 180) displayed a long stride and breakaway speed running for Carl Sandburg High School in Orland Park, Ill.

Offensively, the Sycamores also added a freshman quarterback that could fit into Sanford’s spread offense plans. Matt Adam (6-1, 210) of Camino Capistrano, Calif., passed for 1,500 yards and rushed for 800 yards as a senior.

Tight end Braxton Shirley (6-3, 245) is new to the position after switching from quarterback at California powerhouse Mission Viejo.

Zach Borens (6-8, 350) adds depth at offensive line. Juice Davis (5-10, 185) is one of three players recruited from Colerain High School in Cincinnati.

The other two are cornerbacks Lonnell Brown (5-7, 160) and Dejuan Lang (5-9, 181). Tyler Lee (6-2, 180) is another Ohio defensive back recruit, while Jameer Thurman (6-0, 195) will also join that group out of Chicago. Antonio Broadus (6-3, 230) of Aurora, Colo., will add depth at defensive end.