Mason Monheim didn’t have a cadre of Big Ten schools lined up with scholarship offers.
In fact, Illinois was the only one before he committed to Tim Beckman’s program in December 2011.
The Illinois defense struggled last year.
That’s a given based on watching them play and where they ranked in vital defensive categories.
But Monheim turned out to lead the Illini in tackles last season with 86 stops and enters the 2013 season with a starting linebacker spot secure.
A year ago at this time, Monheim was about to embark upon a college career after he compiled 468 tackles at Orrville (Ohio) High School, tops in school history.
Yet he only had offers from Mid-American Conference programs like Akron, Eastern Michigan, Kent State, Miami (Ohio) and Toledo, along with Illinois.
Offer lists are a trendy topic when it comes to recruiting.
Aaron Bailey, the Bolingbrook quarterback who is labeled as the stud recruit in Beckman’s Class of 2013, had offers from Big Ten programs like Nebraska, Ohio State, Wisconsin and others, along with the likes of Notre Dame and Arizona.
Easy name recognition for the casual college football fan.
Incoming running back Kendrick Foster from Peoria Richwoods, meanwhile, had Illinois State aside from his Illinois offer before he chose the Illini last spring.
Point is not every recruit coming to Illinois will wow and impress on first glance.
They’re also not damaged goods, either.
“When we evaluate them, we don’t care who’s offered them,” Illinois recruiting coordinator Alex Golesh said. “I think the one thing we did well at (Toledo), and Coach Beck has really stressed to me as the recruiting coordinator, is we’re going to evaluate better than anyone in the country. We evaluated (Class of 2014 recruits) early.
"We spent a lot of time early, maybe more, I’d argue, than a lot of people in the country do. We stress getting them on campus early. We were done relatively early too, (with the Class of 2013), so in January we were able to see a lot of these kids.”
That, of course, happened since Illinois wasn’t playing in a bowl game last season for the first time since 2009.
“We had a little bit of extra time in December,” Golesh said, “but there’s no plus to not going to a bowl game.”
The four commits Illinois has so far with the Class of 2014 didn’t have glamorous offer lists before choosing the Illini.
Naperville Neuqua Valley wide receiver Mike Dudek had Football Championship Subdivision school North Dakota. That’s it.
Lincoln-Way East center Nick Allegretti had Cincinnati, Northern Illinois, Toledo and Western Michigan.
Centerville (Ohio) defensive tackle Tito Odenigbo had Akron, Bowling Green, Kent State, Ohio and Western Michigan.
Newark Catholic (Ohio) quarterback Chayce Crouch had Kent State, Toledo and Western Michigan.
“Some kids blow up early,” Golesh said. “He gets a couple offers and it just goes. That happens with some kids. Some kids it doesn’t. We don’t care who the offers are coming from. What would be interesting is if you let all these kids go through the camp process and the recruiting process is who they would have at the end of the day. For the fans, it’s important. For us, it’s not.”