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Notebook: Kaneland football players on college coaches’ radars

Meeting with college coaches quickly transformed into something of an off-field agility drill for Kaneland football players during the offseason.

“When we’d go talk to coaches, there are a lot of kids in there, and it’s [Division-I], D-II, D-III coaches that come in,” Knights senior two-way lineman Justin Diddell said. “We were still all there talking to them, no matter what.”

Inquiries stretched from the winter semester into the summer for a program that has won three successive Northern Illinois Big 12 East titles. As the Knights opened practice Wednesday, three players – Diddell, left tackle Joe Komel and running back Jesse Balluff – already had fielded offers from major programs.

Coach Tom Fedderly called the interest unprecedented. On some summer days, he estimated taking 12 to 15 calls.

“There’s a lot to do, but it’s fun, because it’s good to see these upper-level colleges excited about our kids,” Fedderly said. “And our kids get excited about that, and the confidence just goes through the roof.”

Komel, who Fedderly said is “really interested” in nearby Northern Illinois, has garnered the most attention so far, weighing offers from such schools as Kansas State, Eastern Michigan, North Dakota, South Dakota, Southern Illinois and Indiana State, Fedderly and Diddell said.

Eastern Michigan and North Dakota offered Diddell, while Balluff has an offer from Colgate.

Fedderly said kicker Matt Rodriguez also is on several schools’ radars.

Diddell and Komel use their prospect status as motivation in practice.

“I mean, me and Joe, we push each other. He’s getting D-I offers, I’m getting D-I offers, so we’re always having at it,” Diddell said. “We’re head-to-head, pushing each other to get better. That’s what we have to do in order to be successful in the long run.”

Touchdown, Templar: Geneva maintained its fortress of relative solitude to begin fall practices, shifting to Good Templar Park on the east side of the city after the program was unable to secure its usual preseason haunt, the old Broadview Academy campus in LaFox.

Assistant coach Nick Herrera, a former Viking, grew up near the park and suggested the location to Vikings coach Rob Wicinski, who began working the phones Monday.

“We were scratching our brains where we could go and just kind of separate ourselves,” Wicinski said. “I didn’t know this was all back here until two days ago, till Monday. We talked to them and we made it work out, so we’re going to be out here for two days.”

Multisport manpower: St. Charles East coach Mike Fields is a big proponent of multisport athletes, and said this year’s roster is loaded with them.

Among the team’s newcomers are a pair of towering presences better known for their basketball skills, 6-foot-4 wide receiver A.J. Washington and 6-6 defensive end David Mason. 

Mason hasn’t played football since middle school, while Washington played football his first two years at East before sitting out his junior season.

“He’s done everything we’ve asked him to do,” Fields said of the high-rising Washington, who will look to crack what projects as a deep wide receiver corps for the Saints. “We’re looking forward to him adding a lot to that [wide receiver] mix as well. We’ve got some athletes, we’ve just got to get them the ball and get them in position to be successful.”

Quote of the day: Marmion coach Dan Thorpe is in midseason form on the quote front, cleverly summing up what it will mean once players are allowed to practice in full pads.

“… Next week, when we put the full pads on, we can get after it and see who are the hitters, and who are the hittees,” Thorpe said.

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