May 10 recruiting/college football

Friday, May 10, 2013 - 1:00pm

Matt Daniels, HQ's recruiting blogger and college football writer while Bob Asmussen recuperates, takes questions at 1 p.m. Fridays. Submit them any time.

Matt Daniels (moderator) — 01:01 PM on Fri, 05/10/2013

Greetings everyone. Matt Daniels here for the next hour to tackle any recruiting related questions and any topic regarding Illinois football. Season opener against Southern Illinois is three and a half months away, but who's counting?

Gotta love the photo of a young Jimmy Fitzgerald playing Little League ball in Champaign. Centennial sophomore QB picked up an Illinois offer this week. And thanks for submitting questions even though I look a little scary in my video post that teases the chat. We're trying to do more video to complement our regular sports coverage in The News-Gazette, so bear with us as we break it out.

Let's get started.

Pete Z — 01:01 PM on Fri, 05/10/2013

Hey Matt, long time chat reader, first time writer. My question doesn't actually have to do with Illinois -- but I'll ask anyway.

 How does Kentucky have so many scholarships????? They have 8 players committed for next year, but not 8 players leaving. Any idea what the deal is? 

Keep up the good work! 

Matt Daniels (moderator) — 01:04 PM on Fri, 05/10/2013

Hey Pete Z,

Thanks for reading and thanks for asking question. Welcome aboard. Will make it a brief answer as I'm not too in tune with Kentucky basketball's scholarship situation (although they have a boatload of McDonald's All-Americans coming in next year). WIth all the one-and-dones that have stopped by Lexington since John Calipari has taken over, it's almost a revolving door of players coming in and out.

Non-basketball related note to anyone venturing to Lexington, Ky., anytime soon. Go to Cane's. Great, great chicken and dipping sauce.

Women's Basketball fan — 01:04 PM on Fri, 05/10/2013

Matt, 2 questions & a comment:

1. It's disappointing to hear the Women's Basketball team has lost an incoming freshman. Shouldn't the coaching staff have had some indication she may not meet admission standards when recruiting her?

2. Why isn't anyone updating HQ's Women's Basketball page? There hasn't been a new item posted there since April 9. There's been articles about Karisma Penn getting signed by the NY Liberty & a couple other WBB items I stumbled accross on the Illini Sports maing page but they're not getting posted to the Women's Basketball page. Which leads to my Comment...

Comment - Not sure who redesigned the HQ website but new doesn't always equate to improved. To say it's totally AWFUL doesn't begin to descirbe how much I dislike the new design!

Women's Basketball fan — 01:04 PM on Fri, 05/10/2013


I submitted a question last night regarding the Women's Basketball page not being updated, clicked on it today & looks like a bunch of stuff has been posted there. Not sure what you did but thanks!

Matt Daniels (moderator) — 01:08 PM on Fri, 05/10/2013

Hey women's basketball fan,

When I checked out your question last night, I went to the website and looked under the women's basketball tab, and all the stories were there. Not doubting when you went there that they might not have been, but I didn't see anything. I personally didn't have anything to do with the stories appearing there or not, but I believe we've corrected the problem.

We are transitioning into a new website that has IlliniHQ under the umbrella of As with any transition, kinks are bound to happen, and we appreciate readers pointing out any critiques, flaws, questions, concerns and more regarding anything we do.

Anonymous User — 01:08 PM on Fri, 05/10/2013

Tyler Ulis is on FIRE with offers!!  MSU and Florida as of late.  Why do you think Johnny will not give him the time of day?  I at first thought it was height....but then I see we are after Starks who stands about the same size.  As far as "The U" goes....he very well may be top 5 in the state next year.

What does Florida or MSU see that "Here's Johnny" does not?  It's not the the two are "chop liver."

Matt Daniels (moderator) — 01:12 PM on Fri, 05/10/2013

Hey anonymous user,

Talking to Tyler Ulis' coach at Marian Catholic last fall and winter, Rantoul native Mike Taylor, he made a good point. Either a Division I team will have the dynamic point guard on their team or they'll play against him. It looks like Illinois will most likely have the latter scenario pop up. Many other schools have already made hard runs at Ulis and will likely keep up the recruiting interest moving forward.

Speed was a bit of a concern about Ulis, according to some coaches, but I'm not buying it. Ulis is a ball player. Even at 5 feet, 9 inches. He can score, create, distribute and lead his team. How well that translates into college remains to be seen, but he has definitely proven himself at the high school level and AAU circuit. He's definitely one of the elite prospects in the state in regards to the Class of 2014.

Illinois would have a lot of ground to make up on schools that have been there from the onset and shown more of an interest. I don't anticipate them spending much time on Ulis as they try to zero in on other prospects who they've spent more time on.

GW — 01:12 PM on Fri, 05/10/2013

Hi Matt,

I recently saw on a site that Illinois has made offers to Elijah Thomas and Diamond Stone. Can you tell me something about them?


Go Illini!!

Matt Daniels (moderator) — 01:15 PM on Fri, 05/10/2013

Hey GW,

Both are in the Class of 2015 and both are elite, five-star prospects who have garnered interest from much of the country. Thomas plays for Prime Prep in Dallas, which is the academy Deion Sanders opened up last year. Stone is from Milwaukee and I believe he was at the Illinois-Auburn game last December at the United Center.

Both would be huge gets for Illinois as they offer size and talent, areas that would come into play for Illinois by the time they would arrive in the college game for the 2015-16 season.

Anonymous User — 01:15 PM on Fri, 05/10/2013

Heard Groce,Beckman,& Thomas on Chicago radio and they sounded very positive. What you heard of the off season FB workouts, how is the team progressing? Also what are the chances we sign Slayton from Crete and Morgan the LB? Do you think the HS school FB coaches are more receptive the 2nd time around?

Matt Daniels (moderator) — 01:22 PM on Fri, 05/10/2013

Hey anonymous user,

John Groce, Tim Beckman and Mike Thomas were up in Chicago earlier this week as part of the Illinois Caravan that is making its way throughout the state this month. They were initially supposed to go to a bar in Evanston, but negative feedback and the possibility of some unhappy Northwestern fans made Illinois scrap those plans.

And it is the offseason for Illinois football and men's basketball, so Beckman and Groce will undoubtedly be positive. They've got new seasons to concern themselves with, plus making radio appearances on 670 The Score will do that since Illinois just partnered with the Chicago all-sports radio station.

Spring ball ended a month ago, and players are on their own for workouts this summer until early August. The new offense looked impressive at times under new offensive coordinator Bill Cubit, but that also opens up the question if the defense has not improved much from last season. We won't really know until Aug. 31 against Southern Illinois.

Crete-Monee definitely had one of the top football programs in the state last year, winning a Class 6A state title. Nyles Morgan, the linebacker you mentioned, has more than 30 offers, including Illinois. I'd put it as a slim chance Illinois has with him considering the other schools that are after him. Chris Slayton is a defensive end from Crete-Monee who has seen his recruiting pick up this offseason as he has garnered more and more offers, but Illinois is in the mix. It should help Illinois that former Crete-Monee defensive back Jaylen Dunlap is on board with the Class of 2013 and could put a word in those two guys' ears.

Talked to Tim Beckman last week about the last question you had in regards to high school coaches, and he feels they are more receptive and in tune with what the program wants to do and the coaches associated with it. Hiring former Illinois players like Greg Colby and Mike Bellamy has helped with that process, plus the fact that they've had time to build those relationships with the high school coaches.

Big Dave — 01:22 PM on Fri, 05/10/2013

With the 2014 class in Illinois so loaded, I wonder if the coaching staff is privately second guessing their decision to take a mid-level recruit like Michael Finke. Finke will probably be a four year project and most likely will contribute his junior and senior year but probably not make any sort of immediate impact. Do you see Illinois staying in the transfer game in the years ahead? Speaking of transfers, any update on Myke Henry or Ahmad Starks?

Matt Daniels (moderator) — 01:29 PM on Fri, 05/10/2013

Hey Big Dave,

Would love to get inside the private thoughts of college head coaches. That would make my job much easier.

All joking aside, I doubt the Illinois coaching staff is second-guessing their decision to have Centennial forward Michael Finke on board with the Class of 2014. Finke provides outside shooting and could develop into a solid stretch four. With every coach and recruiting analyst I've talked to about Finke, they feel his best days of basketball are ahead of him. He did take some forced shots last season for Centennial while adjusting to becoming "the guy" on the team, but that should be an area he improves on during his senior season. Plus, the kid just turned 17. He has time to develop and mature on the court (and recover from his recent appendectomy). The kid's a basketball junkie, too. He constantly wants to get better. You can't teach work ethic. Is Michael Finke a one-and-done? I don't think so. Is Michael Finke someone who won't contribute at all during his career at Illinois? I don't think so either.

I would be surprised if Illinois gets landing the number of transfers they have, but John Groce has proven successful at landing those players in his short time in Champaign-Urbana. Plus, it's a trend that it doesn't seem the college game will go away from anytime soon, unless the NCAA steps in and changes the rules a bit to make it less of a free-agency type scenario it is now.

No news or updates on Myke Henry or Ahmad Starks that I've heard of. Our beat writer, Marcus Jackson, is on top of those developments, though and continues to keep track of any transfer updates.

Trent — 01:29 PM on Fri, 05/10/2013

Hey Matt! 

   I see where Wes Lunt is transferring.  Whats are chances of him comin to Illini.  I read Cubit has a relationship with him from recruiting him at western michigan.  I think he would be a great get


Matt Daniels (moderator) — 01:32 PM on Fri, 05/10/2013

Hey Trent,

News came out of Stillwater, Okla., last night that Rochester graduate Wes Lunt is transferring from Oklahoma State. No idea yet on what chances of him coming to Illinois are, but it is an intriguing topic to ponder. He has had success at Memorial Stadium before in leading the Rockets to a pair of state title wins and definitely put up prolific numbers in his lone season with the Cowboys before injuries took over.

He would certainly be a great get for Illinois, although it would make the quarterback situation a dicey one moving forward since Reilly O'Toole will still have a season of eligibility left after the 2013 season, Aaron Bailey is in tow and could have four years if Illinois decides to redshirt the talented Bolingbrook product and with Newark Catholic (Ohio) QB Chayce Crouch on board with the Class of 2014.

Edroy — 01:32 PM on Fri, 05/10/2013

Thanks for the chats.  I don't understand recruiting mid major transfers when you have young capable players on the roster already.  Henry it seemed had plenty of potential and an offseason of individual workouts surely would have put him in the regular rotation with increased PT.  Same with Langford.  Why not work with these players? Is it because they are Weber recruits? Personalities? Can't shoot? Don't practice hard or work hard? Bad Defense?  Hopefully, we can get a more detailed explanation than "not the right fit". 

Matt Daniels (moderator) — 01:36 PM on Fri, 05/10/2013

Hey Edroy,

Thanks for the questions. Makes the chats possible. It's a topic that can be debated for hours with no right answer.

Henry has potential and can shoot, shoot and shoot the ball some more. Getting him to play more consistently on the defensive end and with a greater motor is something I believe the coaches want to see more of. He could easily start for Illinois to start the season next year based on his offensive capabilities, which he has shown in spurts so far at Illinois.

John Groce and his staff had the chance to see Devin Langford and Henry perform during summer workouts last year, in practices all last season and during games. They're the better judges of what they see in their players than I am and have a better idea of what they want from players in their program. That's why they get paid the big bucks. Groce is an enthusiastic guy. Same goes for his coaching staff. They want players who embrace the same mentality and get after it. For whatever reason, it didn't seem to connect with Langford, who has athletic ability, but never really showed it during his time with Illinois.

Steve in Forsyth — 01:37 PM on Fri, 05/10/2013

I don't want to put the cart before the horse, but what are the chances of locking up Bill Cubit to a long-term contract as OC or as an associate head coach.

Matt Daniels (moderator) — 01:41 PM on Fri, 05/10/2013

Hey Steve in Forsyth,

I doubt Illinois will do that before the season starts since Bill Cubit's offense hasn't throw one pass or ran the ball one time during a game yet. Wait and see how he does, and then a better understanding of what the Illinois offense will look like under him can be made.

Obviously, the offense struggled last year. That's no secret and why changes were made on the offensive staff. I think it helps having one coordinator (never understood the need for co-coordinators) for the players' sake so they have one coach they can turn to and one voice.

All the responsibility of the offense is on Cubit, and the veteran coach has proven in the past his offenses can produce. But it's a tad too soon to start thinking of locking him up with a long-term contract. You do that now, and say, Illinois goes 0-12 and gets shut out in half their games (just throwing crazy scenarios out there), then you'd want Cubit out of a job as soon as possible.


Marcus — 01:41 PM on Fri, 05/10/2013


Thanks for the great coverage! Not living locally anymore it is awesome to be able to stay connected...

How is Bob doing?

Any updates on the Henry & Starks situation?

With the job Groce & Co. did what is the perception of the Illinois program locally and Nationally? How has that changed since they have arrived and how is that impacting their recruiting efforts?

Switching to Football, my question is similar, what is the perception of Beckman and the Illinios Football program Nationally and Locally?

Thanks Marcus

Matt Daniels (moderator) — 01:47 PM on Fri, 05/10/2013

Hey Marcus,

Thanks for reading. We all wish Bob Asmussen was back at work instead of dealing with health problems. Great guy, great writer and great source of knowledge when it comes to Illinois football. The sooner he's back, the better.

Addressed Henry and Starks earlier. Short answer is no updates to either situation as I type this.

The perception of Illinois men's basketball has definitely improved where it's at now from a year ago. The team is coming off an NCAA tournament appearance, an NCAA tournament win and Brandon Paul will likely get drafted by the NBA. John Groce has injected a volt of energy into the program that wasn't there. It's helped him cast more of a vast recruiting net throughout the country and not just the Midwest.

Illinois football is viewed differently than basketball right now. Losing games has a lot to do with that. The struggles Tim Beckman had in his first season have made fans second-guess whether firing Ron Zook was the right move. Improvement is critical for Beckman in his second season, and he realizes it. Another season like Illinois had in 2012 and chances are Mike Thomas is seriously looking for a new head coach for the 2014 season. But, just like with basketball, winning cures all. Beckman and his staff have made it a priority to try to reel in the top players from in state, but kids want to go somewhere where winning happens. Winning didn't happen last year for Illinois, so they have to fight that reality out on the recruiting trail.

Marcus — 01:41 PM on Fri, 05/10/2013


One more, when will the new basketball training facility be finshed?

How do you see that impacting both programs?



Matt Daniels (moderator) — 01:49 PM on Fri, 05/10/2013

Hey Marcus,

Not too sure what new basketball facility you might be talking about. I'm going to assume the State Farm Center. Renovations are scheduled to be finished by the 2016 season I believe, which should boost recruiting for both the men's and women's basketball programs. Having updated facilities with all the bells and whistles certainly leaves an impression on high school players these days.

Pavel Polmickewicz — 01:49 PM on Fri, 05/10/2013


With the caveat that these are a shot in the dark, can we get your predictions on the following:

1)  Illini basketball - highest ranked recruit for 2014 class

2)  Illini basketball - highest ranked recruit for 2015 class

3)  Illini football - highest ranked recruit for upcoming class

Matt Daniels (moderator) — 01:52 PM on Fri, 05/10/2013

Hey Pavel,

Here's who I think would be the biggest recruit in those classes if, and this is a big if, those players chose to come to Illinois.

Cliff Alexander for the men's basketball Class of 2014. Chicago Curie is a man among boys at the high school level and has proven he can score and dominate down low.

Carlton Bragg or Jalen Brunson for the Class of 2015 in regards to men's basketball. Bragg is a forward from Cleveland whose game is sky-rocketing, much like Brunson's, a point guard from Stevenson High School in the northern suburbs of Chicago.

For the Class of 2014, if Illinois football can land a highly-regarded linebacker like Nyles Morgan of Crete-Monee or Kyron Watson of East St. Louis, it would be a big boost for Tim Beckman.

teachdacc — 01:53 PM on Fri, 05/10/2013

Matt,  Great job with the chats!   Is the young man from Danville, Sheffield, projected as a defensive back?  Do you think he will commit to the Illini?Keep up the good work.

Matt Daniels (moderator) — 01:55 PM on Fri, 05/10/2013

Hey teachdacc,

Thanks. Trent Sherfield, a Class of 2014 recruit from Danville, could play quarterback, wide receiver or defensive back in college. Just depends on what school he lands at and what the school wants. Illinois would most likely use him at a defensive back spot, but Northern Illinois and Indiana, two other schools who have offered him along with Illinois, might like at quarterback.

Too early to tell if he would commit to Illinois. He's intrigued by the school a half-hour from his hometown, which he has much pride in, but Indiana and Northern Illinois are also pursuing him with much interest, along with several other programs. Expect his recruitment to pick up this summer if he has impressive performances at whatever college camps he attends.

Kewanee — 01:57 PM on Fri, 05/10/2013

I recently read that Junior College players would be a priority in this year's class.  California and Iowa have strong systems while the Illinois Junior College football programs have dwindled.  Are there other Junior College programs out west or in SEC territory that Illinois is investigating? 

Matt Daniels (moderator) — 02:00 PM on Fri, 05/10/2013

Hey Kewanee,

I don't think Illinois will land five junior college football players like they did in last year's class. The scholarship numbers just aren't there for the Class of 2014 like they were with the Class of 2013. Illinois has developed a solid pipeline with Iowa Western Community College, landing wide receiver Martize Barr and offensive lineman Dallas Hinkhouse from that program in the Class of 2013. It's also where Belleville Althoff defensive tackle Merrick Jackson will likely play at in 2013 since he most likely won't qualify academically.

Look for Illinois to go back to that program along with ones in California that helped them land Abe Cajuste, Zane Petty and Eric Finney in February's recruiting class if they decide to go with one or two JUCO players in the Class of 2014.

Matt Daniels (moderator) — 02:02 PM on Fri, 05/10/2013

Thanks for all the questions today. Sorry for those I didn't get to. Going to wrap up this chat now. Feel free to email me at or hit me up on Twitter (@mdaniels_ng) if you have any other questions.

Talk to you all later and have a great weekend!