Looking to the junior college ranks
Illinois football had some success with in the 1980s with Mike White bringing in junior college players.
Since Ron Zook's first season at Illinois in 2005, it's been a mixed bag.
Zook brought in linebacker Trulon Henry (College of DuPage), special teams contributor Aaron Gress (College of the Sequoias), running back Daniel Dufrene (College of the Sequoias), defensive back Donsay Hardeman (Georgia Military College), running back Tyler Pacha (Ellsworth Community College), defensive back Justin Sanders (Northeast Mississippi Community College), linebacker Antonio Steele (Long Beach College) and wide receiver Jacob Willis (Joliet Junior College) during his tenure.
Eight total junior college players in seven seasons.
On Tim Beckman's first Illinois roster, none came from the junior college ranks. Zero.
That will change next year.
So far, the Illini have two junior college prospects who have committed to join the team for the 2013 season.
Zane Petty, who committed in mid-November, is one of them. Petty is a 6-foot-1-inch, 180-pound safety from American River College in Sacramento, Calif.
Petty made more than 80 tackles and seven interceptions this fall for the Beavers, who went 8-3.
Petty went to Corning (Calif.) High School and spent one season at Colorado State before moving on to American River.
Martize Barr is a 6-0, 200-pound wide receiver for Iowa Western Community College in Council Bluffs, Iowa.
The Reivers are the top ranked junior college program in the nation this season and will play for the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) national championship game this weekend.
Iowa Western (11-0) will take on (11-0) Butler Community College out of El Dorado, Kan., at 3 p.m. on Sunday in the UNI Dome on the campus of Northern Iowa University in Cedar Falls, Iowa.
Barr, who originally went to New Mexico after his prep football career at Calvin Coolidge High School in Washington, D.C., is third on the team with 426 receiving yards in 25 receptions, including five touchdowns.
The Reivers' offense averages 337 passing yards a game, with wide receiver Deon Long, a Maryland commit, leading the team with 1,489 receiving yards on 86 receptions and 25 touchdowns.
Long — who went to the same Dunbar High School in Washington, D.C., as former Illini Arrelious Benn — originally went to West Virginia before heading to New Mexico, where Barr was, to play under former Illinois offensive coordinator Mike Locksley.
When Locksley was fired after the 2011 season, Long and Barr both left.
Follow all that?
That's the often convoluted process junior college players take before landing somewhere to play two years of Division I football.
How they landed at a junior college in the first place varies from academic issues to character issues to coaching issues to criminal issues.
Every JUCO player has a different story for why they went that route out of high school.
Illinois' Class of 2013 is up to 21 commits, with Beckman and his staff staff in the process of finalizing it in the next two months.
Don't be surprised if one or two more JUCO players find their way on that list or if Petty and Barr are the only ones who sign on Feb. 6, 2013.