Jan. 3 football/recruiting chat

Jan. 3 football/recruiting chat

Friday, January 3, 2014 - 1:00pm

Watching all these bowl games and wondering when Illinois will get back into one? How many recruits will Tim Beckman sign in February? What's John Groce and his staff up to on the recruiting trail? Anything is fair game for Matt Daniels in his weekly chat. And feel free to submit questions ahead of time.

Matt Daniels wrote on January 03, 2014 at 1:01 pm
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Good afternoon everyone. Matt Daniels here to answer any Illinois football and recruiting questions you all might have.

Hope everyone has had a safe and worthwhile holiday season. Along with watching plenty of bowl games. Safe to say I've seen a few minutes of at least every game. I know, I need a life. My wife agrees.

It's a bitterly cold, yet sunny day here in Champaign-Urbana. And it's going to get even colder. Joy.

Enough weather talk. Illinois football is a little more than a month away from signing the rest of its Class of 2014 recruits. John Groce and Co. are checking out some Chicago guards more closely, especially after some strong showings at the Proviso West Holiday Tournament by Luwane Pipkins from Chicago Bogan and Cain Harris from Chicago Morgan Park.

Let's get the chat rolling.

granite wrote on January 03, 2014 at 1:01 pm

Any chance that Illinois is in at all with any of the uncommiteds on EdgyTim's Illinois top 45?  A linebacker or two would be great. 

Matt Daniels wrote on January 03, 2014 at 1:01 pm
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Hey granite,

Haven't seen EdgyTim's list that you refer to, although he always has a keen sense of noteworthy high school football players in Illinois. 

Illinois' class for 2014 is nearly full. Tim Beckman has already signed nine players who are set to enroll early, and nine more commits are expected to sign on Feb. 5. Recruiting coordinator Alex Golesh said a few weeks ago he anticipates the class to be between 17-20 players, and that was before Illinois received a commitment from highly-touted defensive tackle Jihad Ward from Globe Tech in New York City.

If Illinois does add another player or two in the class, I don't expect it will be at the linebacker spot. Illinois has fairly good depth at that position for the next two seasons, even without taking a linebacker in the Class of 2013, although defensive back James Crawford is slotted to play at the STAR position moving forward.

Illinois has three linebackers in the class already, with Austin Roberts from Rice Lake (Wis.), Henry McGrew from Blue Valley (Kan.) and Tre Watson from Tampa (Fla.) Catholic. Carroll Phillips is another possibility at linebacker, although the junior college transfer seems more suited to play the LEO spot, the hybrid defensive end/linebacker role Illinois likes to use.

rickyb wrote on January 03, 2014 at 1:01 pm

Hi matt thanks for the chats I'm still disgusted at the fact that Tim banks is still going to be the defensive coordinator in my eyes this is the worst thing for the teams after the ridiculous numbers opposing teams put up against illinois this past season but anyways as an illini fan what should we expect from illinois defense this upcoming season should I look forward to changing the channel at halftime?

Matt Daniels wrote on January 03, 2014 at 1:01 pm
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Hey rickyb,

Your sentiment about Tim Banks is shared by many Illinois fans. It's understandable considering how Illinois played on defense in the 2013 season. The hope, and this is why Tim Beckman decided to stick with his current defensive coordinator, is that the defense will take leaps similar to what the offense did this past season. The reasoning Beckman is using is that at least nine starters will return on defense, along with several backups who saw the field at times this year.

The defense has to be better. Has to. Or else Beckman and his staff might have to look for another coaching job for the 2015 season. The loss of Jonathan Brown will be the biggest hole Illinois has to fill, although I'd expect T.J. Neal will be groomed for that linebacker spot Brown had.

The secondary has to improve in forcing some turnovers, particularly with interceptions. Taylor Barton and V'Angelo Bentley had the only two picks from that unit, a number that is simply too low during the course of a 12-game regular season.

That said, a key reason why teams have success in picking off passes comes from a consistent pass rush. The Illinois pass rush was inconsistent all fall, giving quarterbacks plenty of time to scour the field for a receiver.

The experience Illinois brings back on defense should provide better results in 2014. Then again, it can't get much worse than what Illinois showed in 2013.

dc1 wrote on January 03, 2014 at 1:01 pm

Nice to see the Illini have a guy playing in the All-American High School Bowl tommorow. What do you think the prospects are for Nick to get some playing time with the Illini. I know it's rare for even the best O-lineman to play right away. Is he likely to stay at center or be moved?

Matt Daniels wrote on January 03, 2014 at 1:01 pm
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Hey dc1,

Nick Allegretti from Lincoln-Way East was the second Illinois commit in the Class of 2014. I'll go out on a limb and say of the 18 commits Illinois has, Allegretti loves Illinois the most. He has rocked Illinois gear all week in San Antonio getting ready for the U.S. Army All-American Bowl.

I'd say Allegretti could develop into a guy who starts for multiple years. Illinois typically likes to redshirt all of its offensive linemen (a common theme across college football), so don't be shocked if Illinois uses a redshirt season on him next year. Alex Hill will likely enter spring ball as the starting center, with Tony Durkin, given that he's fully healthy from a shoulder injury that forced him to miss all of the 2013 season, a likely backup.

But, as was the case with Austin Schmidt this fall, Illinois showed it wasn't shy about playing true freshmen on the offensive line. I'd imagine Allegretti will start his career at center and, depending on how he performs, injuries and a multitude of other factors, will likely stay there, although there is always an option of moving him to a left guard or right guard spot if that's where the Illinois coaches think he could help out the team more. But for now, Allegretti will get his first crack at center.

billandgayle46@yahoo.com wrote on January 03, 2014 at 1:01 pm

I know there are still a few 4 star defence players on the board.  Do we have a chance to sign ant of these guys?  Do you think that we will add anyone to this class?  How about that RB from Florida that left the team.  Is he back?

Matt Daniels wrote on January 03, 2014 at 1:01 pm
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Hey billandgayle46,

The likelihood of Illinois signing a four-star player isn't all that great. Illinois' class will likely consist of three-star and two-star prospects. Paul James, who initially signed with the Class of 2013 before academic issues surfaced, will count towards the Class of 2014, and at least one recruiting service had him as a four-star prospect out of high school.

Coaches love to point out the fact when they sign four-star and five-star talents, and then downplay those factors when classes aren't filled with them. The Class of 2014 is pretty much set for Illinois, so perhaps one or two more players might be added, but I don't anticipate this class, when it's all said and done, has more than 20 players in it.

Dami Ayoola didn't play a single game for Illinois in 2013 after going through Camp Rantoul and preseason practices. Rumors have floated out there for some time he might return after Beckman dismissed him the week after the season opener for a violation of team rules, but I haven't heard anything solid to suggest he might return.

Anonymous Jim wrote on January 03, 2014 at 1:01 pm

Happy New Year Matt! Is Beckman making progress with in-state recruits for the upcoming classes?

Matt Daniels wrote on January 03, 2014 at 1:01 pm
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Hey Anonymous Jim,

Happy new year to you as well. Illinois had several in-state prospects in the Class of 2015 at several home games this fall.

The big names in that class are mainly on the offensive side of the ball in New Lenox Providence Catholic wide receiver Miles Boykin, Chicago Marist wide receiver Flynn Nagel and DeKalb running back Dre Brown. Cameron Green, a wide receiver from Stevenson, is another one to keep an eye on.

I'd say the progress Beckman has made in the state is trending upward. It should considering he's been the head coach at Illinois for more than two years and has all of his assistants recruiting parts of Illinois, mainly in Chicago and its surrounding suburbs.

The type of offense Illinois displayed this fall was a big pitch Beckman's staff is making to potential recruits on the offensive side of the ball, along with a defense that they think will have a much better season in 2014. We'll wait and see if the latter holds true or not, but Beckman has done a solid job of getting out throughout the state and trying to make it known he wants the top in-state players to seriously consider Illinois.

John from Tucson wrote on January 03, 2014 at 1:01 pm

Is Nick Allegretti enrolling early? Do you expect that he would be red-shirted?

Matt Daniels wrote on January 03, 2014 at 1:01 pm
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Hey John from Tuscon,

Nick Allegretti is not enrolling early. Illinois will have nine recruits enroll in the upcoming spring semester, but Allegretti is not one of them.

The Lincoln-Way East product is a big-time wrestler in the 285-pound class, and he didn't want to miss out on his senior wrestling season. It's a good chance he could make a run for a state title at State Farm Center in late February when the state finals descend upon Champaign-Urbana.

Given the depth Illinois has at center, which is decent, but not great, I'd imagine the Illinois coaches will go into preseason camp with every intention of redshirting Allegretti. But, if they like what they see from him, they might be more inclined to possibly play him, especially if injuries decimate the unit, like it did in 2012.

Marky wrote on January 03, 2014 at 1:01 pm

Your cohort mentioned in his last chat that it would be difficult to get Jalen Brunson to come here at this point and he would be surprised if he were to commit here.  Why is that?  I would think especially given our point guard need that a full court press would be on to get him here.  To me at this point he should be our #1 priority with Matthews/Jordan etc. as a close second.  We are desperately in need of a top point guard in that class and Brunson its the mold Groce is looking for.

Matt Daniels wrote on January 03, 2014 at 1:01 pm
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Hey Marky,

Jalen Brunson is, and it's pretty clear-cut, the top in-state point guard prospect in the Class of 2015. He still has some time left in his recruitment before he makes a decision among a handful of schools and a multitude of schools who could factor into his decision in the coming year.

Marcus Jackson, my cohort you refer to, is always on top of information when it relates to the Illinois men's basketball program he covers. I'd side with him on this one, if that's what he's hearing.

Every recruitment is different, and high school players have a multitude of factors they consider when it comes to choosing a school. If Quentin Snider didn't back out of his commitment to Illinois (after he backed out of one from Louisville), then the focus on where Brunson decides wouldn't be much of a factor since Illinois already would have a point guard who's only a year ahead of Brunson.

Much can change between now and when the Class of 2015 recruits make their decision. All Illinois fans experienced it in 2013 with Leron Black picking Illinois after initially committing to Baylor, and then again with the Snider/Cliff Alexander drama. So much can still change, and most likely will, when it comes to Brunson's recruitment.


Matt Daniels wrote on January 03, 2014 at 1:01 pm
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Going to wrap up this week's chat. Thanks for the questions. We'll be back at the same time, same place next week.

Need anything else, feel free to email me at mdaniels@news-gazette.com or hit me up on Twitter (@mdaniels_NG).

Have a great weekend everyone and stay warm!