Tuesday, February 21, 2017 83
Tuesday, February 21, 2017 Today's Schedule Listen Now!
Login to comment or to shop for deal of the day or books.
Login to your member account to read premium articles.
Football writers Bob Asmussen and Matt Daniels will take your questions all day Wednesday when Tim Beckman announces his Class of 2013. Submit them ahead of time - or follow along during Signing Day.
Welcome to our Signing Day chat. Bob Asmussen here at the start, with recruiting guru Matt Daniels joining in later.
Our plan is to keep you updated with what's going on with the Illinois signing class. We will also provide information on the Big Ten and national recruiting, too.
Hope you saw Matt's story today on Kendrick Foster. Nice work.
Feel free to hit us up with questions. We will keep the conversation going most of the day, with a short break in the afternoon to attend Tim Beckman's press conference.
Bob previously you said no Illini was on the Ravens super bowl team. Well Jack Cornell is a part of the team and does get a super bowl ring.
My bad. I should have watched the postgame celebration on the field, where Jack was seen multiple times. Jack is one of my all-time favorite Illini. He was very easy for reporters to deal with and understood our jobs. He is on the practice squad with the Ravens. Hopefully, he gets some playing time with the champs next season.
Jack's name came up as I researched the list of the top Illini in each of the last 10 recruiting classes. Jack was originally going to Michigan State, but changed his mind when the school fired its coach. Credit there goes to Tom Sims for continuing to let Cornell know the door was open at Illinois.
Also, A.J. Jenkins was on the field, though he didn't have any catches. And after the game, I was told he was distraught about the loss. He should be a bigger part of the offense next season.
It isn't going to be a very long signing day for the Illinois coaching staff. Why? Because 10 of the 25 players in the class have already enrolled and are on campus getting ready for spring ball.
Signing day is difficult for the coaches because they are never sure what kind of surprises are on the way. The Illini staff got bad news Tuesday when linebacker Reggie Spearman from Simeon decided to go to Iowa. I don't think anyone was too sure what Spearman would do. That's the nature of dealing with 18-year-olds on a critical day. Sometimes, it is hard to make up your mind and even harder to tell the runner-up schools that you are going someplace else.
What are, in your opinions, the greatest strengths and weaknesses of this first full Tim Beckman recruiting class?
Great question. I would have to say the strengths are at receiver and defensive backs, two areas where Illinois needs immediate help. Remember, the secondary loses Terry Hawthorne and Justin Green. While there are some younger players ready to step in, Illinois needed to improve the quality and depth at the position.
At receiver, Illinois will lose key players after this season. Loading up now makes a lot of sense.
The lack of any linebackers is a weakness, though it obviously wasn't a priority after the pickups in last year's class. It tells you Illinois feels good about the freshmen who played linebacker in 2012. Look for linebacker to be a priority in 2014.
The lack of a large amount of players from the Chicago area might also be considered a weakness by some. Illinois continues to make a push with those players, but many of them are going elsewhere. I think that will continue to be a major priority for Beckman and his staff. You just have to keep trying and it will work out. More imortant than anything for Illinois when it comes to Chicago recruiting is to get back on the winning track.
I am looking forward to the 2013 edition of the football Fighting Illini (especially in light of what is going on at the Assembly Hall thesedays). I attribute this past season's debacle to a cupboard left bare (especially on offense) by the previous regime and the lack of Zook-recruited seniors to buy into the system. I think a fresh start and infusion of new talent will do wonders for attitude and competiveness.
Do you have any optimism like mine?
No question that the last couple of recrutiing classes were difficult for Ron Zook and his staff. Rival schools were using Zook's job status against him in recruiting and I think the school took some players it normally would not have considered. That happens sometimes.
I think the younger guys are much more willing to buy into the Beckman program. The older guys had become used to a certain way of doing things and didn't want to have to start over. That's the difficult part about college sports. Turnover in a coaching staff can have a major impact on the mindset of the players. You need them to jump on board. If it happens, the transition is much smoother.
The biggest challenge for Illinois in 2013 besides coming off a 2-10 season might be the schedule. The nonconference games against Washington and Cincinnati rival any recent set of games for the Illini. And the conference schedule starts with a string of games where Illinois will be a heavy underdog.
With Spearman on his way to Iowa, the Illinois class will have 25 total players. No surprise gets are expected today, though the school will have one additional scholarship it can hand out. Remember, this is simply the start of the signing period.
Most of the 15 players expected to turn in their letters today have sent them in. That's a relief for the coaches, who don't believe in a commitment until they see the signature.
The player I am most looking forward to seeing on the field is Kendrick Foster. Why? Because he was productive in high school at an off-the-charts level. He is the first player ever to be a three-time News-Gazette All-Stater. We have picked that team for about 80 years, so that is a big deal. Don't worry about Foster's size. I think that is a nonfactor. In fact, smaller running backs are harder for the defense to find.
Where are they happiest today? Probably at Alabama, which has the No. 1 recruiting class according to Rivals.com. That is assuming that Nick Saban ever smiles. (He does have that fake grin he flashes).
No surprise, Florida, Ohio State, Notre Dame, LSU and Michigan are also having big days.
LSU has one recruit I thought would strongly consider Illinois: Ethan Pocic. Graham's brother was apparently swayed by the food court at LSU's football complex. Maybe Illinois should add a few restaurant chains to the Varsity Room.
You never know what will entice a player to pick a school. But No. 1 has to be the potential for success, both personal and as a team. Guys who pick Alabama and LSU know they have a good chance to win at a high level and likely enhance their ability to move to the NFL.
So who has sent in their NLI and committed already? Must be some . . aren't there?
As I understand it, Dawuane Smoot, Aaron Bailey, Kendrick Foster, Tyler White, James Crawford, Caleb Day, Bryce Douglas, Jaylen Dunlap, Michael Hermosillo, Paul James and Darwyn Kelly have turned in their letters of intent.
That leaves Jarrod Clements, Merrick Jackson, Marchie Murdock and Dionte Taylor as the letters yet to be turned in. I wouldn't read much into that. Often, players have signing day ceremonies at their schools and then send in the letters. I'm guessing that is the case with these four.
Matt Daniels here. So far, 11 of the 15 high school seniors who are expected to sign today have faxed their letters of intent in.
They are: QB Aaron Bailey of Bolingbrook, DB James Crawford of St. Thomas Aquinas (Fla.), Darby (Ohio) DB Caleb Day, Plainfield Central DT Bryce Douglas, Crete-Monee DB Jaylen Dunlap, Peoria Richwoods RB Kendrick Foster, Ottawa RB/WR Michael Hermosillo, Groveport-Madison (Ohio) DE Dawuane Smoot, Plainwell (Mich.) TE Tyler White, Miami Norland DE Paul James and DB Darwyn Kelly from Maryland.
The four remaining players Illinois is waiting on are Belleville Althoff DT Merrick Jackson, Trotwood-Madison DT Jarrod Clements, Fort Lauderdale University (Fla.) School WR Dionte Taylor and WR Marchie Murdock from Legacy High School in Mansfield, Texas.
According to Rivals.com, the Illinois class is ranked No. 44 nationally. That puts it seventh in the Big Ten behind Ohio State, Michigan, Nebraska, Michigan State, Penn State and Wisconsin.
The worst class in the Big Ten belongs to Minnesota, which is at No. 64. Purdue made a surge in the final few weeks and so did Indiana, which is at No. 45, just behind Illinois.
How has Mississippi come on so strong? They have to be among the Happy Camps today.
Hugh Freeze has done an amazing job in a short time at Mississippi. Rivals has the school among the Top 10 nationally.
The biggest get came today when superstar defender Robert Nkemdiche picked Mississippi. He originally made a commitment to Clemson, but changed his mind and opened it up to all schools, which basically means all schools in the SEC.
I think he can be an impact defensive player immediately, like Jadeveon Clowney.
Again, give Freeze credit for lining up a monster class. And he is an even better coach than recruiter.
Mississippi could challenge for the SEC title in the coming years. Of course, Alabama is the favorite until Nick Saban leaves.
Illinois just had its 12th national letter of intent faxed in. Marchie Murdock, a wide receiver from Legacy High School in Mansfield, Texas, joins the fold. Only three more players who are expected to sign haven't faxed their letter of intent in. But like Bob said, wouldn't read too much into that. They most likely have signing ceremonies planned for later today.
Word on the street, the Illini just received letter of intent No. 12, from Texas receiver Marchie Murdock. Cool name, by the way, and getting into Texas is always a good idea.
Scout.come is kinder to Illinois and the Big Ten in its national rankings. It has Illinois at No. 38 overall and has Michigan No. 1 and Ohio State No. 2. Mississippi, the team of the day, is at No. 10.
What should you read into these national rankings? Not much other than what you already know: Michigan and Ohio State dominate Big Ten recruiting. Always have and probably always will.
It was interesting to see Brady Hoke at the Michigan-Ohio State basketball game Tuesday night. Probably not a bad place for him to be. And sure enough, the ESPN cameras found him in the stands.. That has to help with recruiting.
Here are a couple of recruiting sites for you to check out today. CBS Sports does a great job with this. Lots of folks who know what they are talking about.
And, of course, ESPN nails recruiting:
Why are there so many de-commits in football as opposed to basketball recruiting? I know there are more and more these days in basketball but it seems like there is so much drama in football. Is it because there are more players and the coaches can't be quite so personal and constantly re-recruiting football players (with a few exceptions for top notch recruits) in the recruiting process?
I think you came up with part of the answer: the volume of players who are recruited in football. And the changing landscape of the game with coaches moving to different schools each year. I think Texas A&M got a huge boost from the addition of Kevin Sumlin. That success has continued in recruiting. And who doesn't want to play with Johnny Football?
I wonder if football would benefit from an early signing day like they have in basketball. Guys make commitments in June and don't sign for eight months. That has to be hard to hold onto those guys. If there was a November date, maybe you would have fewer decommits.
Schools also use the numbers against their rivals to get players to decommit. You point out to a great offensive lineman that his school of choice already has five guys on the way at his position. That works.
Mississippi just got another big-time player, an offensive lineman rated the nation's No. 1 tackle.Look for the class to move up the final ratings.
In the Big Ten, it sounds like Urban Meyer has made a couple of key late additions. Did you have any doubt the guy would be a huge hit in Columbus? The only question is how long he wants to stay in coaching. (Of course, I don't think his broadcasting career is going to be Jon Gruden-like).
Peoria Richwoods running back Kendrick Foster posted this to Twitter about 10 minutes ago
"All this 5 star 4 star or whatever means nothing it never did!! Time to do work and work hard like never before #BigTen #IlliniNation"
Foster was definitely a little peeved when I talked to him last week about his lack of suitors before he chose Illinois last April. His coach, Roland Brown, told me Foster's work ethic is second to none. Constantly wants to get better. Always a good thing, especially for a kid who rushed for more than 6,000 yards in his high school career.
Don't forget Matt Daniels and I will be on "SportsTalk" with Steve Kelly tonight at 5 p.m. That's after we listen to Tim Beckman's press conference at 1 p.m.
The BTN plans a special signing day program tonight. That will give you more of the conference feel than you will get on ESPN or CBS Sports. Those two tend to concentrate on the SEC first.
A couple of funny things I'm picking up while listening to CBS Sports coverage. First, they are using the term War Room. And they keep asking the different experts who they think will have the biggest impact in the upcoming year. I'm telling you that any answer to those questions are a guess.
All this talk about Kendrick Foster has me a little excited. With the names the Illini have in backfield for 2013 how much can we expect from him in his first year? How can Beckman not lean on his RBs in 2013? Any early news on the 2014 recruiting front?
I think Illinois will try to use Kendrick a bunch of different ways. As a runner, out of the backfield as a receiver and I think he could get a look as a returner, too.
He is durable, tough, speedy and productive. Plus, he seems like a guy willing to do anything to get on the field. Read Matt Daniels' story about Kendrick for some insight into his work ethic.
I think the running game will be important for Illinois in 2013. The big question is how big of a part the quarterbacks will play in that running game/ That might determine the starter.
Illinois is making good contact for the 2014. A lot of those offers go out today. Illlinois will cast a wide net, both in Illinois and other parts of the country. Expect Ohio, Florida and Pennsylvania to get a lot of Illinois attention today.
Wondering how Chip Kelly's departure from Oregon is impacting the school's recruiting class? Scout has the Ducks in the Top 20, so apparently not much.
Auburn, with Gus Malzahn taking over for Gene Chizik, is at No. 13. Very good. Arkansas, with Bret Bielema now in charge, is at No. 36. Behind Wisconsin.
Tennessee, with new coach Butch Jones, is at No. 30. Look for that to improve in coming seasons or the Vols will be looking for another new coach.
I always ask about the offensive line so I will stick with that. How are the OL prospects in this class?
The most important point with the offensive line class is that the four guys are already on campus. That means a bonus spring practice and a chance to contribute early. The offensive line was a flaw for Illinois in 2012, probably the major reason the offense struggled. If that gets corrected some, the team has a chance to more than double the win total.
You would think Dallas Hinkhouse, a JC transfer, would be the first to contribute among the newcomers. But Jesse Chadwell, Christian Dilauro and Austin Schmidt will get a jump start in the spring. Don't be surprised if one or two of those guys contributes in 2013.
Smart move by new Wisconsin coach Gary Andersen, who is on the air with CBS Sports. The more a coach can get out there today, the better recruiting will go for the upcoming season. Give Andersen credit for putting a good class together in a short time. After recruiting at Utah State, he had to love the access he had in Madison.
There are three Illinoisans in the Wisconsin class, including News-Gazette All-Stater Garret Dooley from Rochester. He could be the next great Badger linebacker.
Jarrod Clements has sent in his letter of intent to Illinois. That leaves just two players out there, Merrick Jackson and Dionte Taylor. Don't expect any hiccups with those two.
I don't know what the plans are for the future of Illinois recruiting, but I would think the school will continue to push for early enrollees. It has to fit both athletically and academically, but it gives the school a huge advantage moving forward in recruiting.
I've got to believe there aren't many schools with 10 midyear enrollees. That's a big number.
There will be tweeting from the Tim Beckman press conference. For Matt Daniels, check out mwdaniels08. For Bob Asmussen, go to BobAsmussen.
While researching the top player from each of the past 10 Illinois classes, the most amazing revelation was Juice Willliams' place among the pro-style quarterbacks in his class. The only two guys listed ahead of him were Matthew Stafford and Mitch Mustain. Juice was listed just ahead of Josh Freeman, with Sam Bradford and Colin Kaepernick far behind him.
The most top-heavy Illinois class of the past decade is pretty easy to identify: 2007. It included Arrelious Benn, Martez Wilson and Josh Brent. There were a bunch of washouts in that group too, including Deries Hodge, who never made it to campus. It shows you the difficulty of recruiting.
hugh Freeze is on with CBS Sports right now. He comes across as a smart guy with a plan. And he seems humble. I had a real nice interview with him when Arkansas State played here a couple years ago and predicted big things for him.
Freeze first gained notoriety as the high school coach of Michael Oher (The Blind Side). He has used that to his advantage.
His recruiting doesn't have any borders. He came to Illinois to get News-Gazette All-Stater Laquon Treadwell of Crete-Monee.
Asked who can contribute early, Freeze was able to rattle off five guys. The Rebels will improve on last year's surprising .500 season.
Press conferences with coaches are a big part of signing day. Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Northwestern will kick them off at 1 p.m. with the others to follow.
If you want to check out Michigan's recruiting coverage, go to: http://www.mgoblue.com/sports/m-footbl/spec-rel/signing-day-2013.html
For Ohio State, go to: http://www.ohiostatebuckeyes.com/signingday/index2013.html
This class is a filler class and nothing more, I do not see the talent other schools are getting. Do you see on field product being better in 2013, I do not?
I think the 2-10 record in 2012 kept the current class from being better. I think there are some players in the state and beyond who would have picked Illinois had Tim Beckman won seven or eight games in his first year. But there is enough doubt that it became a problem for some of the top guys.
I think there is potential for on-field improvement in 2013. It starts with the addition of Bill Cubit, who will become the head coach of the offense. I don't sense that there was a ton of direction for the players in 2012 and that led to the lack of production. The offense will be better. It probably can't be worse.
On defense, there were some hits, but there is also some talent returning, starting with Jonathan Brown. And injuries hit the defense pretty hard in 2012. If that doesn't happen again, there will be a chance for improvement.
It's going to be interesting to see how it plays out in 2013.
Quick Twitter correction. Follow me at mdaniels_ng for any tweets related to signing day extravaganza
One of The News-Gazette All-State quarterbacks, Jerseyville's Mitch Kimble, has signed with Syracuse. Mitch was coached by former Champaign Central coach Dave Jacobs and helped the program make a huge turnaround.
Kimble is considered a two-star recruit, but I'm guessing he ends up starting for the Orange. He also strongly considered North Carolina State and Northern Illinois. Really couldn't go wrong with any of those choices.
Belleville Althoff lineman Merrick Jackson is the 14th player to send in his letter to Illinois, leaving Dionte Taylor as the only remaining commit the school needs to hear from. Not even 11 a.m. and all but one letter is in. That's a good day for the Illinois staff, which can start working on the Class of 2014.
Matt Daniels is going to take over the chat in a few minutes. I will be back later in the afternoon. Thanks for all of your great questions.
Matt Daniels here for about the next hour or so until I have to head over to Memorial Stadium for Tim Beckman's press conference. Illinois is waiting on its last letter of intent to come in. Fourteen of the 15 players who were expected to sign today have already faxed in their letters.
Last comment from me for a few hours. Matt Daniels is taking over until both of us head over to Tim Beckman's press conference.
I realized again how much I love signing day. Lots of excitement and not really much negativity. At Illinois and beyond. It's kind of like watching the NFL draft.
It is great to hear the coaches today, even though they say mostly the same thing. The next time a coach says "We weren't happy with this class": will be a first time.
The increased media coverage of signing day is awesome. I'm really liking the work done by CBS Sports, except for the constant use of the term War Room. The BTN coverage, with former Illini Howard Griffith, should be excellent.
Mississippi is definitely the buzz of college football this morning. Even LeBron James has chimed in.
"Ole Miss ain't messing around today! Big time recruits coming in. SEC is crazy" tweeted the best NBA player in the game about 10 minutes ago.
Who would have ever thought Mississippi (my birth state, by the way) would ever have caught the attention of King James?
I talked with Jared Shanker, ESPN.com's Midwest Regional Recruiting Coordinator, yesterday. He's a fan of Aaron Bailey. Here's what he had to say about the Bolingbrook QB.
"The player that stands out for me is Bailey," Shanker said. "When Nathan Scheelhaase is done, things could open up and Bailey could have the opportunity to come in and be the man. I don't know if they'll redshirt Bailey or give him some time to learn behind Reilly O'Toole, but things are shaping up for Bailey to at least make a push for the starting job."
According to Rivals.com, Ohio State has No. 1 recruiting class in the nation right now. Numbers are fluid and could change by the end of the day. Illinois checks in at No. 46, just behind Kansas (No. 45) and in front of Texas Tech (No. 47). Illnois stands 8th in the Big Ten, with Iowa (No. 52), Northwestern (No. 53), Purdue (No. 54) and Minnesota (No. 60) rounding out the league
Is the class of 2013 over or will we take someone in Spearman's place? Has to be very frustrating to spend alot of time on Spearman just to see him bolt! Any chance a good player falls through the cracks and signs with the Illini today or in the next few days? What do you think of the stars ranking system?
Always good to hear from you. Hope you're enjoying the signing day festivities.
The Class of 2013 is pretty much sewn up. I'd say there's a slim to almost none chance Illinos goes above its 25 players it will have in this class. Would have been nice to add a player like Reggie Spearman at linebacker and possibly get a foothold with one of the top programs in the city of Chicago in Simeon, but perhaps it's best Illinois didn't land him. It was pretty amusing watching all his tweets about where he might go when and where. Every recruit handles the process differently. Spearman definitely kept college football fans guessing until the last minute last night when he picked Iowa.
As far as the stars ranking system, by no means does it mean all 5-star guys that are signing or are having their annoucements shown live on ESPN will turn into first-round NFL draft picks. The likelihood of them, however, developing into potential pro players, is greater than the average high school football player. It's the best way to evaluate high school players. The only other system I can think of off the top of my head that could possibly replace that is by giving the kids grades (A, B, C, etc.), but the star system most likely won't go away in the foreseeable future.
quick note about some local high school quarterbacks. Charleston senior Sean Hussey, a teammate of Illnois early enrollee Dillan Cazley just down Interstate 57 from Champaign-Urbana, will join Illinois as a preferred walk-on. I saw Hussey play twice in high school, and the kid had pinpoint accuracy. Of course, both games were against a Rantoul team that finished 1-8 each of the last two seasons, so not sure if that's a fair assessment, but Charleston did make it to the state playoffs each of the last two seasons with Hussey taking the snaps. And he's quite the badminton player and tennis player, for what that's worth.
Also, Urbana QB Cameron Mammen is expected to sign in a few hours with Malone University, a Division II school in Canton, Ohio. He'll play quarterback there. Illinois was interested in the local product — who could very well win a state wrestling title at Assembly Hall next weekend — but it came down to a numbers/money situation. If Mammen would have wanted to walk-on at Illnois, he very well could have, but most likely at a wide receiver or defensive back spot. Now, he'll get a full ride and a chance to play QB at the college level.
Chat will quiet down for a few hours now. 15th and final expected letter of intent from Florida prep WR Dionte Taylor came in a few minutes ago for Illinois.
I'm heading to Memorial Stadium soon for Tim Beckman press conference. Bob and I will try to get to any questions you have the rest of today later this afternoon. Follow along on Twitter @mdaniels_ng and @BobAsmussen, plus hear our made-for-radio faces tonight on WDWS 1400AM at 5 for SportsTalk with Steve Kelly.