Nazareth's McKinney picks SIU

LaSteven McKinney's mind has always been set on playing running back, and the Nazareth senior initially committed to Central Michigan because it recruited him as one.

But with a change in coaching staff at Central Michigan, McKinney was no longer considered at his preferred position. The new coaches were still interested in McKinney, but more as a defensive back.

On Wednesday, McKinney passed on offers from Central Michigan and a number of other Division I-A schools to be a defensive back as he signed with I-AA Southern Illinois to run the ball.

"All the bigger schools wanted him to play defensive back," Nazareth coach Tim Racki said. "He really in his heart of hearts wants to run the ball, catch the ball, return kicks."

Southern Illinois does have a long history of successful running backs, including the New York Giants' Brandon Jacobs. Just last season, Southern Illinois' Deji Karim was among the top running backs in the country.

"With his speed, absolutely he'll be successful," said Racki, who played at Southern Illinois from 1986-1989. "More importantly, that's what Southern thinks.

"They think he can contribute right away, which even at that level can be tough to do. He knows he's going to a program where he's the headline signing."

McKinney, who visited Southern Illinois last weekend, compiled 3,800 rushing yards and 62 touchdowns over his last three last seasons.

Scott Powers covers high school and college sports for ESPNChicago.com and can be reached at preps@espnchicago.com.