DEKALB, Ill. — The Northern Illinois University Huskies announced the addition of 18 players, including 15 freshmen and three junior college transfers, for 2023 on National Signing Day Wednesday. The signees hail from 10 different states and included at least one player from every position group on the team.

Head coach Thomas Hammock, who completed his fourth season at NIU in 2022, was excited to begin putting together the Huskies’ 2023 roster with Wednesday’s announcement.

“This was certainly a great start to the recruiting process for us,” Hammock said. “There are a lot more ways to construct your roster now than in the past, and this is the first phase for us. The second phase will be when school starts when we’ll announce several transfers and then we’ll have another group in February, including our preferred walk-ons, who we consider recruited players. We couldn’t be more excited about how we’ve been able to add to our football team today.” 

The Huskies’ class features four players from Georgia, a state already well-represented on the NIU roster, with Illinois and Michigan each sending three student-athletes to DeKalb. NIU added a defensive back and a tight end from Florida. Both coasts are represented by two of the Huskies’ three junior college additions with tight end Grayson Barnes from Rocklin, California and American River College and New Jersey product via Butler (Kansas) Community College Azhaun Dingle. The Huskies also signed players from the neighboring states of Indiana, Wisconsin and Missouri as well as a kicker from North Carolina.

Of the 18 players announced Wednesday, 10 played offensive line (4), tight end (3) or defensive line (3), positions – along with quarterback – that Hammock referred to as important to develop for the future.

“With this group, we had a long-term vision of filling some needs, some developmental positions that we need to address including the offensive line, tight end, defensive line and quarterback,” Hammock said. “Those are premium positions for us as a program, positions that take time to develop.”

Several of the student-athletes signed today – including quarterback Mason Kidd and defensive back Santana Banner – will join the incoming mid-year transfers on campus in January.

“We’ll have approximately 10 guys join us at mid-year as we continue to build our roster for 2023,” Hammock said. “There are a lot of moving parts [to recruiting]. We are certainly happy with a talented group that we added today, we’ve known these kids a long time and this class so far is the culmination of a lot of hard work through this first phase. We have a lot more pieces coming, but today is a good day.”

The 2023 spring semester at NIU begins January 17. See below for the roster of the newest Huskies.


Name                      Pos.     Hgt.     Wgt.     Cl.     Hometown                High School/Previous

Santana Banner         DB       6-3      183       Fr.     Flint, Mich.                Mountain View (Ga.)
Grayson Barnes         TE       6-5      215        Jr.      Rocklin, Calif.         American River (Calif.) CC
Phillip Baynes            LB       6-2      195       Fr.      Social Circle, Ga.       Social Circle
Azhaun Dingle          RB       6-2      226        Jr.      Jersey City, N.J.         Bayonne/Butler (Kans.) CC
Zach Gordon              K        6-0      160       Fr.      Lillington, N.C.          Rosewood
Bryce Harrison           TE       6-5      235       Fr.      Apopka, Fla.              Apopka
Mark Hensley            DL       6-4      265       Fr.      Labadie, Mo.             Washington
Michael Jimmar         OL       6-5      285       Fr.      Plainfield, Ill.             Plainfield East
Mason Kidd               QB       6-3      194       Fr.     Lawrenceville, Ga.     Mountain View
Thomas Paasch         OL       6-5      285       Fr.      Green Bay, Wis.         Green Bay Southwest
Jaylen Poe                 RB      5-11     210       Fr.      Dallas, Ga.                  North Paulding
RaSean Randall         DL       6-5      218       Fr.      Detroit, Mich.             Cass Tech
Mahki Rolle               DB       6-2      185       Fr.     Miami Beach, Fla.     North Miami Beach Senior
Nevaeh Sanders        DL       6-4      220        Jr.     Flint, Mich.                  Iowa Western CC
Luke Skartvedt          OL       6-3      300       Fr.      Indianapolis, Ind.        Roncalli
Jay’shon Thomas       TE       6-4      220       Fr.      Cataula, Ga.                Harris County
Kyle Thomas             WR      6-3      175       Fr.      Richton, Ill.                  Marian Catholic
Jacob Welch              OL       6-6      300       Fr.      Johnsburg, Ill.             Johnsburg