The junior college football players keep on rolling in for Illinois.
And Tim Beckman might have received the most prized one so far with regards to the Class of 2014.
Defensive tackle Jihad Ward, listed at 6-foot-7 and 285 pounds, gave Beckman an oral commitment Thursday night, picking Illinois ahead of offers from South Florida, Temple, Tennessee, Washington and West Virginia.
Ward spent the past two seasons at Globe Institute of Technology in New York City after playing high school football at Edward Bok Tech in Philadelphia.
He compiled 26 tackles and had two sacks in seven games for the Knights, who went 3-6 this fall.
He will sign in February and enroll in June.
Ward is the sixth junior college player in this upcoming recruiting class for Illinois, which now sits at 18 players, and is the third one to commit to Illinois this week.
Since Beckman arrived at Illinois, he has landed 11 junior college players.
In Ron Zook’s seven seasons, Illinois had eight players from the JUCO ranks.
Depth and talent are key reasons why Illinois has gone the juco route, according to Illinois recruiting coordinator Alex Golesh.
Golesh said Illinois would ideally only take one or two junior college players in future recruiting classes after the Class of 2014 is complete.
“You want to keep building with young kids,” he said Wednesday after Illinois signed four junior college players. “You look at this last senior class and the senior class we’re going in with now (for the 2014 season), look at who signed here and look at who’s still here. You can blame whoever you want. It doesn’t matter. Our objective is to address the issue, and the issue is half of each one of those two classes are not here.
"How do you fill that void? You can fill it with young guys. We’ve tried to do that, to a point, but at key positions where you can get exposed, like at (defensive) line and secondary, you have to have a solution other than we’re going to play young guys. That answer has got to be that we’re going to get some junior college guys who are going to bridge the gap, but you can’t stop recruiting high school guys.”