Killday’s first recruiting class at QU features local ties, building blocks in trenches
QUINCY — Having spent the past 14 years recruiting the I-55 corridor between Chicago and St. Louis, Quincy University football coach Jason Killday understands there is a wealth of talent between the two metro areas.
You just have to look.
“You have to be able to dig in the dirt a little bit and find it, hit the pavement a little bit,” Killday said. “If you’re willing to do that, you’re going to find some gems and you’re going to find some guys that really care about football.”
If they care, they’ll compete.
“I wanted guys who want to compete,” Killday said. “Are they playing both sides of the football? Are they playing multiple sports? I want guys who want to compete at a high level in everything they do.”
His first recruiting class as head coach contains unearthed gems, high-level talent and a local connection that should make the Hawks competitive in the years to come.
The Hawks unveiled a class of 39 signees who inked their national letters of intent Wednesday. The group includes four players from Quincy High School’s record-setting squad, a member of Camp Point Central’s state championship team and nine players total within a 90-minute drive of Quincy.
“To know you don’t have to look far away is an important piece for these kids,” said Killday, a former QU assistant coach who was hired December 20 to be QU’s head coach. “You can look right down the road and see it’s a program you want to be a part of.”
That started within the city limits.
QHS all-conference offensive lineman Chris Flachs committed to the Hawks last fall and stuck to his commitment after the coaching change. Meanwhile, three of his teammates — wide receiver Adon Byquist, linebacker Ty Douglas and offensive lineman Cole Wagy — followed suit after being recruited by Killday.
The foursome helped the Blue Devils win the Western Big 6 Conference title, go 9-0 in the regular season for the first time since 1935, win the first home playoff game in program history and finish with an all-time best 11-1 record.
That was after the Blue Devils went 1-5 in the COVID-19 shortened spring season their freshman year.
“They helped turn around a program that is pointed in the right direction,” Killday said. “They played a key role and know how to build it from the ground level up and what it looks like.”
The Blue Devils will be joined by Central long snapper Robert Gooding, who helped the Panthers win the Class 1A state championship last November, and South Shelby wide receiver Cameron Wiseman, an all-state kick returner.
Three Central State Eight Conference standouts inked with the Hawks as well — Jacksonville all-state running back Cam’Ron Mitchell, Springfield defensive back Kameron Beckman and Springfield linebacker Raylan Byars.
“I’m always wanting people who want to be here and see it as a destination place,” Killday said.
The Hawks’ class features 25 players from Illinois, 11 from Missouri, one from Iowa and one from Arizona. There are five defensive linemen, five linebackers, six offensive linemen, six defensive backs and seven wide receivers in the class.
“You’re always looking for bigs on both sides of the football,” Killday said. “They’re hard to come by. You walk around Wal-Mart and there’s not a lot of 6-foot-7, 260-pound guys rolling around. Anytime you have the ability to find those guys with a little bit of length you have to take them, whether you need them or not. You never know when they’re going to come around.”
Killday felt the class is the right mix of size and speed, and the Hawks were able to maintain relationships with recruits during a pivotal transition period that left him and his staff six weeks to put together a complete class.
“It couldn’t have been done without the groundwork of the coaches who stayed on staff and did a fantastic job of keeping the lines of communication open during the transition,” Killday said.
The reaction he received on the road from high school coaches and athletes, as well as parents, was positive. So were the reviews from those who made on-campus visits and saw the campus-wide effort — from Chris Blakeman and the food services crew to Saadia Aschemann and the student success department to the athletic administration and financial aid offices — to make QU the destination place Killday desires.
“It’s been a great team effort,” Killday said. “And it’s been extremely receptive across the board.”
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