Ask HQ recruiting expert Cody Westerlund about Tim Beckman and John Groce's upcoming classes.
Afternoon folks, Cody Westerlund joining you for a chat. Apologize for the late start -- you can partly blame me and partly blame construction on I-57 near Champaign that had us at a complete stop. But that happens. Hardly any questions in the queue at all today, so if you have something you want answered, send it my way. I will be able to get to it.
Hey Cody. I know that the big recruiting focus for John Groce and company is the 2013, 2014, and 2015 classes. But i would like to know if we are still recruiting for the 2012 class. Is there anybody else out there that could sign at the last minute and come play immediately next year?
At this point, no. There's only a couple prospects in the top 100 or so of the national rankings who haven't decided, and Illinois is not in on them. Anyone else who is undecided probably isn't good enough to play at the high-major level, or there are too many troubles surrounding them. So don't expect that.
Also, the transfer wave was over back in June. Illinois got Sam McLaurin, the forward from Coastal Carolina. So he and walk-on Mike LaTulip are it for guys coming on board to help in 2012.
How many commits will we take for next class? Also with the o-line struggling last year we don't seem to be bringing in too many players, why is that? Also what is the quality of the class in Illinois for FB in 2014? In your estimation are we getting the word out to the future classes better than we have in the past, and are their particular players interested that you know of?
To a degree, it's a fluid number. If a top-notch player wants on board late, there will be room. But I'd guess in the 23-24 range. This staff still wants to add probably three, maybe even four, receivers or a couple receivers and a versatile type who can play the slot. They want another O-lineman. They want another defensive back, preferably a true safety type, but they will take a talented corner as well. And they are still looking at adding a defensive end/outside linebacker type who can rush the passer.
So there is six at least, maybe seven. And the way this staff has recruited successfully to start, I'd wouldn't be surprised to see a good prospect they can't pass on to give a verbal close to or on signing day (a la Jon Davis in 2011, when you weren't passing him up). So that's how I get to 23-24.
Several points to your O-lineman question. One, it's a position in which players take lots of time to develop. So it's not like adding six O-linemen in this class is going to help next year or the one after. Basically, the O-linemen already in the program have to get better and respond to coaching.
Two, the staff viewed DBs and WRs as areas that need addressed. Beckman wants more speed and more playmakers at those spots -- in terms of wins/losses, that will be as important as O-linemen in the next two years. His offensive system isn't going to work to its full extent with the current crop of skill players.
Three, the 2011 class had five O-linemen in it who remain with the program. Though they haven't really contributed yet, there's some talent and depth there. Look for Ted Karras and Pat Flavin to play bigger roles in the next couple of years.
With Okafor saying that he wants to play with his team USA teammate, does that essentially take the illini out of the running?
Illinois has never been in quality position in Jahlil Okafor's recruitment. He's a top-five player in the 2014 class from Chicago, so history doesn't say the Illini will get him. I'm not here to rule Illinois out of Okafor's recruitment -- only he can do that. But I don't expect Illinois will have much of a chance to land him. Something would really have to change course here soon.
Your chances with Curie's Cliff Alexander are better -- not good, but better. He visited recently, which was a positive sign. This staff believes in itself and believes it has a lot to sell kids when they get on campus.
Regarding out of state kids at several positions are there any new names starting to bubble up? Reciever and o tackle in particular. Same positions and cb again out of staters, names that we might keep an eye on that are not the usual suspects?
Receiver is tough, the staff is still looking hard and scouring all over. With Northwestern recently getting a commitment from WR Matt Harris -- a player Illinois felt it had a quality shot to get -- I expect more receivers will be evaluated and a few offers could go out. I'd also expect new WR names to pop up in late September or so after senior season high school film has gone out on some players who were originally overlooked.
So haven't heard many new names for WR right now. One to keep an eye on -- though it's not real new -- is Ryan Timmons of Franklin County in Kentucky. Arkansas seems to be in the lead, but his coach tells me Timmons likes what he's heard from Illinois. The staff has pitched receivers the idea of contributing early in their careers. Everybody likes to hear that.
A cornerback to keep an eye on is Noel Padmore from Flowery Branch in Georgia. Talked to him the other day, and he has a good impression of Illinois. The Illini are in as good shape as anyone now, the only problem there is he doesn't seem on track to decide until December or January. Illinois may fill its secondary up by then. Another DB to watch is Troy McCollum out of Miami. He's supposed to decide in August and has Illinois very much in the mix.
Give me some names for WR recruits to follow. I know Treadwell, but there has to be more players the staff is pursuing. Give me 2 that we have a realistic chance at landing for 2013. Thank you.
Ryan Timmons of Franklin County in Kentucky and John Armstrong from Orlando Olympia in Florida. Illinois in very good shape with Armstrong, who would be the versatile slot-move-all-over-the-field guy. Still there with Timmons, though not leading.
Cody, we've seen that from the outset Beckman and his staff have made significant efforts to develop relationships with Illinois high school coaches. I've heard rumblings in the past that during Zook's tenure, some IL high school coaches actively discouraged their players from attending Illinois. Do you anticipate a closer relationship between the staff and high school coaches to result in a better chance for Beckman to pick up the likes of a Laquon Treadwell or Ty Isaac in the future? Thanks for the chat.
I heard the same rumblings, which were true to some degree but not as much as many make it out to be. It still had more to do with the wins/losses on the field and the direction of the program than any beef with Ron Zook. Then there's the chicken-and-egg part to it. Zook looked outside of state often for talent -- is that what made Illinois prep coaches upset, or did he do that because he didn't find success in Illinois? I think that leans more to the last point near the end of the Zook tenure. He believed he could get better players elsewhere.
Establishing closer relationships with in-state coaches has already paid dividends. It helped big time in the recruitment of Aaron Bailey, the prized pupil of the class. Bolingbrook coach John Ivlow was all for his quarterback choosing Illinois. And that's in no way an insinuation of his relationship with the previous Illinois staff -- I don't know one way or the other there -- but he was pro-Illinois for Bailey, who already really liked the program, with this staff in charge.
So those relationships figure to play a large role going forward, and yes, there should be a little more hope there. To be clear, though, you still have to get it done on the field. If you go back to being an inconsistent program, the strength of those relationships wane.
Thanks for the chats and sorry about the late submission. Last night I was able to see Aaron Bailey and Bolingbrook in a 7 v 7 at the local high school. I have to say that he looks like the real deal physically. I'm excited that he will be wearing Orange and Blue. But, I have to say that I thought the most impressive player on the field was the CB, Parrker Westphal. Obviously a lot can change over the next two years but I would imagine he is a top 2014 target for Beckman. Can you give us any insight on his recruitment and some other 2014 players to keep an eye out for this fall?
Glad you wrote in. I'd be interested to ask how did Bailey look throwing the ball? He's got all the physical tools in the world and is a terrific runner, but the one knock on him (listen to the Chicago media ask him questions if you don't believe this) is that he's not a consistent passer yet.
Don't know much about Westphal. Some top targets in the 2014 class would be LBs Clifton Garrett (Plainfield South) and Nyles Morgan (Crete-Monee), athlete Tommy Mister (Oak Lawn Richards) and OL Jamarco Jones (Chicago De La Salle). And there are many more, already at least 40 offers out in the 2014 class.
I'm going to wrap it up for this week folks. Thanks for the questions, as always. Be back same time, same space next week. Have a good weekend.