QUINCY — Getting promoted to offensive coordinator on January 10 gave Ryan Olson less than a month to help steer the Quincy University football program's recruiting efforts toward players who fit his offensive mentality.
Luckily, it's quite similar to how QU coach Gary Bass envisions things. They want the Hawks to be big, physical and tough.
A 45-player recruiting class featuring five transfers and 40 high school signees looks like it fills those needs. The Hawks signed eight offensive linemen, three running backs and three wide receivers who are likely to redshirt next fall and increase their physicality and toughness along the way.
“If they get a year to develop, they could be a special class,” Olson said. “That's the most exciting thing to me. We have talent that can play, but we also have time to let them develop and be ready to play.”
It's going to take more than talent to find a spot in Olson's offense.
“I want guys who are going to be physical,” Olson said. “If we're going to get bigger and more physical up front, we have to get big physical backs to match that.”
Schaumburg running back Shamaree Brown fits the mold. The 6-foot-3, 210-pounder was a dual-purpose threat for the Saxons last fall, rushing for 324 yards while catching 19 passes for 224 yards to earn all-area honors from the Daily Herald.
Columbia (Mo.) Rock Bridge running back Miles Cheatum possesses similar size and speed. The 6-foot, 210-pounder rushed for 439 yards and six touchdowns. Plainfield South running back Jaylin Eison might not have the same build at 5-11, 185 pounds, but he has similar speed.
All three have run on their high school track teams.
“We needed guys who are dynamic with the ball in their hands, not just guys who are physical when they run,” Olson said. “We needed guys who can take a 5-yard catch and go deep or guys who can make plays down the field or running backs who can hit a hole and go deep.”
Defensively, the Hawks had an immediate need right down the middle of the field and they addressed it with five transfers.
Three defensive backs will help ease the graduation losses in the defensive backfield as Jonas Filer, a cornerback from Eastern Illinois University, Marcell Ellis, a safety from Drake, and Dante Smith, a cornerback from Independence Community College, provide experience and maturity.
“I like that we got speed on the back end,” defensive coordinator Sean Kelly said. “The more guys you can have back there who can be versatile is big for us.”
Jaaron Taylor, a defensive tackle from Washburn, and Jordan Vence, a linebacker from Arkansas Baptist, fill immediate holes left by the graduation of Bryce Johnson and Sam Mock.
All five transfers enrolled in classes in January and will participate in spring drills.
After that, it was about building for the future.
The Hawks recruited linebackers who can use next fall as a redshirt season and be prepared to replace Peyten Chappel, Marvion Harris and Jackson Connell when they graduate in another year or two. The same was the case up front where the Hawks signed eight defensive linemen, notably Kha'Nari Williams from Lincolnshire Stevenson and Mark Cox from North Polk, Iowa.
“We're building for the future,” Kelly said. “We have some really good guys already here, but we need to continue building depth and opportunities for guys to get their feet wet before taking over.”
Last year was the start of that as Kelly redshirted every incoming freshman on the defensive side for the first time since he joined the QU staff in 2012.
“It gives us the ability to play more sound defensively and the ability to put more on guys to go make plays instead of being as simple as we can be so guys don't make mistakes,” Kelly said.