College football fans will get one of their first tastes of the 2013 season in less than two weeks.
National Signing Day, which takes place Wednesday, Feb. 6, is almost like a national holiday for those folks.
Last year Illinois football signed 19 high school seniors in Tim Beckman's first recruiting class, which came together in a little less than two months after Beckman replaced Ron Zook.
This year's class is up to 26, with 10 already on campus after enrolling for spring classes so they can participate in spring practice while Illinois coaches try to keep the 16 other verbal commits on board before signing day.
While true freshmen do contribute at times, not every high school player automatically gets onto the playing field in their first college season.
Here's a look at the 19 players Beckman signed last year and how their first year transpired with the Illini last fall.
— Dami Ayoola: The running back from St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., (the same school as recent Class of 2013 commit James Crawford) showed flashes of his potential with 117 rushing yards on 26 carries, including two touchdowns. He had his best game with a team-high 55 rushing yards on eight carries, including a 28-yard touchdown run, during Illinois' 44-0 drubbing of Charleston Southern on Sept. 15, and added a 16-yard touchdown run in the 20-17 home loss to Purdue on Nov. 17.
— Robbie Bain: The offensive lineman from Bolingbrook (Ill.) High School might find himself blocking for high school teammate and Class of 2013 quarterback Aaron Bailey in the future, but Bain did not play in any of the 12 games, meaning the 2012 season was likely his time to redshirt.
— Taylor Barton: The defensive back from Lake Highland Prep in Orlando, Fla., did not see any action in the 12 games last year.
— B.J. Bello: Like Barton, the defensive back from Lincoln-Way West (Ill.) High School did not take the field in any of the 12 games.
— V'Angelo Bentley: The defensive back from Glenville (Ohio) High School in Cleveland played in all 12 games and recorded 11 tackles, broke up three passes, deflected three passes, forced one fumble and recovered one fumble.
— Devin Church: The running back from Brother Rice (Mich.) High School did not play in any game last season.
— Ryan Frain: The kicker from Indianapolis saw action in one game — the 52-22 loss at Ohio State on Nov. 3.
— Ta'Jarvis Fuller: The defensive back/linebacker from Dunbar (Fla.) High School who enrolled early last year appeared in the Charleston Southern game before he was kicked off the team for violation of team rules.
— Justin Hardee: The wide receiver from Glenville (Ohio) High School in Cleveland finished sixth in receptions with 17 while compiling 192 yards and making five tackles on special teams. His best game came in the Charleston Southern win, where the 6-foot-1, 190-pound Hardee caught five passes for 99 yards.
— Jevaris Little: The defensive back from Lakewood (Fla.) High School did not see the field in any game.
— Mason Monheim: The Orrville (Ohio) High School graduate — who was the first player to commit to Beckman once he started his tenure — made a team-high 86 tackles and became a fixture in the linebacking corps. He led the team in tackles in four games, including a career-high 15 against Minnesota, and ranked 15th in the Big Ten Conference in tackles.
— T.J. Neal: The McKeeseport (Pa.) High School linebacker saw the field once in a 17-3 home loss to Minnesota on Nov. 10.
— Teko Powell: The Miami native and Norland (Fla.) High School defensive tackle did not see the field in any of the first five games before he played sparingly at Wisconsin on Oct. 6. Powell ended up playing in six games and made four tackles.
— Daniel Rhodes: The tight end from Charlotte, N.C., never appeared in a game and didn't finish the 2012 season after he was dismissed from the team in October.
— J.J. Robertson: The wide receiver from Lincoln-Way East (Ill.) High School did not suit up for Illinois last season and his future remains uncertain. He is not listed on the team roster.
— Joe Spencer: The offensive lineman from Mason (Ohio) High School did not play in any game last season in a likely redshirt season.
— Mike Svetina: The linebacker from St. Ignatius (Ohio) High School appeared in all 12 games and wound up with 40 tackles, good for eighth on the team. He ended his season with a team-high 9.5 tackles in the season-ending 50-14 loss at Northwestern on Nov. 24.
— LaKeith Walls: The big running back from Rhodes (Ohio) High School checks in at 6-2, 195, but never checked into a game for Illinois last year.
— Vontrell Williams: The defensive lineman from Chicago Mt. Carmel High School did not play in a game last year.
So the breakdown looks a little like this. Of the 19 signees, 13 either did not play in any games last year or only one.
Two linebackers — Monheim and Svetina — became key defensive contributors while Ayoola and Hardee had brief highlights on the offensive side of the ball.
How will the Class of 2013 compare in their first season at Illinois and how many will still be around in 2014? Stay tuned.