It came down to three schools for Nick Allegretti.
Indiana, Illinois and Northern Illinois.
“NIU was straight up with me. I knew they wanted me a lot, but I didn’t feel like they were the best fit academically,” the 6-foot-4-inch, 280-pound center from Lincoln-Way East High School said Tuesday, a day after he verbally committed to Illinois. “I wanted a school that was challenging. When I think of schools like that, I think of Illinois and Indiana. They’re challenging academically, but they’re not ridiculous like a Duke or a Stanford.”
Allegretti committed to Illinois late Monday night, hours after the Illini landed their first commit in the Class of 2014, Centerville (Ohio) High School defensive end Tito Odenigbo.
Allegretti said he has a 4.5 grade-point average at Lincoln-Way East and plans on majoring in accounting at Illinois.
“My brother is at Illinois, and I love the school,” Allegretti said. “Illinois is a little closer to home than Indiana. I just feel that Illinois outweighs Indiana.”
Illinois linebacker coach Mike Ward was the lead recruiter on Allegretti. The two talked often not just about football, but wrestling, Allegretti said.
Allegretti finished with a 36-4 record during his junior wrestling season at Lincoln-Way East, which ended with a trip to the Class 3A state meet at Assembly Hall in Champaign.
“I was able to talk with him about wrestling because I can talk about wrestling for days,” Allegretti said with a laugh. “He just was always on me. He was my main recruiter, but after they had their coaches’ meeting, I’d get Facebook messages from all eight coaches saying ‘You need to make an early impact here.’”
Allegretti and Lincoln-Way East posted a 13-1 record last fall and placed second in state last year in 7A.
The Griffins operated the spread offense last year behind quarterback Tommy Fuessel, a Northwestern signee, who rushed for more than 1,500 yards.
Allegretti said he’s not sure what type of offense the Griffins will run during the 2013 season.
“When you have a quarterback like Tommy, you can be blocking for a while,” Allegretti said. “You may be thinking that your blocking is done, but all of a sudden, he’s right there. You have to hold on to your blocks longer.”
Allegretti indicated he could play guard or center at Illinois, and does not anticipate a shift to a tackle spot. He said the Illinois coaching staff indicated to him if he can show he can start when he’s a true freshman, he’ll play during the 2014 season.
“If I’m going to be a second-string or third-string guy, they might sit me out and red-shirt me,” Allegretti said. “I believe last year I showed I can play with anybody. This year I want to basically manhandle everybody.”
Illinois coach Tim Beckman stressed the importance of landing players from Chicago and its surrounding suburbs last month on National Signing Day.
Allegretti is on board with that.
“I would definitely love to see that happen,” he said. “I’ll do my part. The more kids from up here that I can get to come to Illinois in my recruiting class, the better.”