The Upland High School football program has attracted its share of transfers over the years, but it may reach new heights this season.
If all players who have transferred from other schools since last season are approved by the CIF-SS, the Highlanders could feature at least eight new faces in the fall.
That figure doesn’t include incoming freshman receiver Nathan Tilford, who received scholarship offers from USC and Arizona State while he was still in eighth grade.
“We work really hard at what we do and if people move in for whatever reason and we’re the benefactor, then I’m happy for that,” said Upland head coach Tim Salter, who is entering his 19th year. “We’re not out there recruiting kids, but I think we have one of the best programs around.”
Most, if not all, of the transfers figure to be impact players this season for an Upland team that has reached the CIF-SS Inland Division semifinals two seasons running.
Quarterback Tyler Hilinski, a 6-foot-4 rising junior that spent his first two seasons at Sherman Oaks Notre Dame, is expected to be the starter for the two-time defending Baseline League champions. Though he is unproven after two years behind older brother Kelly Hilinski on the depth chart, Salter proclaimed the younger Hilinski a Division-I prospect.
The quarterback, whose family has returned to a previous residence in Claremont, is one of four transfers to Upland already approved by CIF-SS along with Elijah Jones from Damien, Tatum Slack from Rancho Cucamonga and Eric Turner from Victor Valley. All four attended Upland the second semester of last school year.
Of the four other transfers hoping to be approved, one has already been denied.
A CIF-SS ruling came down last week that the transfer of running back Jake Payton, whose 1,658 yards and 22 touchdowns at San Dimas last season earned him the Valle Vista League MVP, was athletically motivated. Unless Payton wins his appeal, he will be ineligible for his senior season.
“I can’t really comment on Jake’s case but we just hope the appeals process goes OK,” Salter said. “We anticipate if he has the opportunity to play, he could play a key role in what we do offensively.”
Rising senior Marquis Wimberly is one of three coming to Upland that played at Victor Valley last season. The 6-foot, 180-pound rising senior is joined by offensive lineman Gary Baker and Turner, who was Victor Valley’s starting quarterback last season.
Turner, a rising junior who passed for 1,157 yards last season, will play receiver for Upland. Baker’s family is still in the process of moving to Upland and will submit paperwork for transfer approval once their address is confirmed. Wimberly’s paperwork has already been submitted for approval.
A likely starter at receiver for the Highlanders, Wimberly spent the first part of last season at Diamond Ranch before transferring in time to play the final three games of the 2012 season with Victor Valley.
Slack, who played quarterback for the Rancho Cucamonga junior varsity last year before transferring to Upland in the midst of football season, will primarily play defensive back for the Highlanders.
Joining him in the secondary will be Jones, who had 15 tackles and one interception as a sophomore last season at Damien. Jones is also a capable running back, but Upland returns three others aside from Payton who will be competing for carries.
“With the new guys coming in, it’s tough on the kids that have been here,” Salter said. “But the kids here know what they’re getting into. This program has always been based on internal competition and we’ve never represented it any other way.”
PLAYERS TRANSFERRING TO UPLAND
Tyler Hilinski, QB, Jr., Sherman Oaks Notre Dame
Elijah Jones, RB/DB, Jr., Damien
Tatum Slack, DB, Jr., Rancho Cucamonga
Eric Turner, WR/QB, Jr., Victor Valley
Not yet approved
Marquis Wimberly, WR, Sr., Diamond Ranch/Victor Valley
Gary Baker, OL, Jr., Victor Valley
Vincent Elefante, DL/OL, Jr., Damien
Jake Payton, RB, Sr., San Dimas