The Illinois football team continues to snag junior college players for the Class of 2013.
Kyle Kragen, a defensive end out of Diablo Valley College in Pleasant Hill, Calif., verbally committed to the Illini on Tuesday, according to Rivals.com. Kragen's verbal brings the Class of 2013 up to 24 commits, which includes five from the junior college ranks.
Expect Illinois to sign possibly 26 or 27 players in early February, even with scholarship limits at 25. Illinois didn't use all 25 scholarships in the Class of 2012, and if a few Illinois players opt to leave early for the NFL, it could open the door for more scholarships.
"That's why that number is somewhat up in the air," Illinois recruiting coordinator Alex Golesh said. "We didn't fill up all the way last year, so you can actually count some back."
Golesh was on the road recruiting in Ohio this week, with the rest of the staff spread out in California, Texas, Chicago and St. Louis, he said.
Illinois has tapped into the JUCO programs in California, securing four commitments in the last three weeks from players out west.
Defensive coordinator Tim Banks, offensive line coach Luke Butkus and defensive line coach Keith Gilmore hit up the Golden State in an effort to bring players who could make an immediate impact once the 2013 season arrives.
It appears head coach Tim Beckman and his staff realize a quick fix is needed, hence the sudden emergence of junior college players committing to Illinois.
Don't be surprised if Illinois lands a few more in the next few months, particularly on the offensive line.
So far, the Class of 2013 only has two offensive line commits (Jesse Chadwell from Clarkston, Mich., and Austin Schmidt from Lewis Center, Ohio) with plans for Christian DiLauro, a tight end from Green (Ohio) High School, to play offensive line at Illinois.
The biggest barrier for Illinois in landing junior college players — the 2012 roster had none and in Ron Zook's seven seasons, the program had eight total — is having them qualify academically.
"You narrow your pool down quite a bit as far as junior college guys because of the academic standards," Golesh said. "The biggest challenge is getting them into school because we know once they get here, they'll be just fine because of the academic support we have. It's the actual (process) of getting them into school."
We'll have more from Golesh in Friday's blog.