Saturday, April 30, 2016 83
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Illinois football writers Matt Daniels and Bob Asmussen will chime in all day long as recruits sign letters of intent with Tim Beckman's program. Feel free to submit questions ahead of time.
Good morning and happy National Signing Day. Or, as some college football fans like to call it, a national holiday.
Matt Daniels here to kick off our chat/discussion regarding the signings for Illinois football. Tim Beckman's class grew last night with two additions in West Orange-Stark (Texas) defensive back Chris James and Indianapolis Warren Central quarterback Jeff George Jr.
Yes, he is the son of former Illinois quarterback Jeff George. No, he's not the same type of player his father was, as he is coming to Illinois on a grayshirt scholarship, essentially meaning he'll sit out next season, but will still have five seasons of eligibility to play four seasons.
Feel free to submit questions of any kind throughout the day. Hopefully you picked up your News-Gazette already and saw our feature on Springfield Sacred Heart-Griffin wide receiver Malik Turner. More on him, as well as the other signees, throughout the day here on HQ and in Thursday's News-Gazette.
Will be interesting to see how the weather that hit the Midwest on Tuesday will affect signing day. Most of the Illinois recruits are slated to sign their letters of intent this morning, with ceremonies planned at school later in the afternoon. Well, some of those players might not have school today.Talked to George McGrew, the father of Blue Valley (Kan.) linebacker Henry McGrew, on Tuesday, and he said they didn't have school yesterday with all the snowfall and didn't anticipate they'd have school today either.
But Henry still plans on signing around 7 a.m. at his house, with Blue Valley holding a ceremony on Friday if school is canceled today. Checking on that at the moment to see what schools, if any, featuring Illinois recruits are canceled today.
Looks like Tre Watson from Tampa (Fla.) Catholic High School is the first letter of intent to arrive for Illinois. The linebacker's fax came in a few minute ago.
Watson is a two-star recruit who committed to Illinois on Dec. 15 after a weekend visit left him impressed with Illinois.
Watson visited in December when Champaign-Urbana had snow. When exactly hasn't C-U had snow this winter, though? I've got about 6 inches in my backyard right now that my dogs are absolutely loving right now. Me, not so much.
But Watson said he won't mind the adjustment to living in East Central Illinois during the winter. We'll see how he feels in a year or two after he's endured it.Watson comes from a solid high school program in Tampa, and played in the Blue-Grey All-American game a few weeks ago. A random tidbit on his high school is outfielder Denard Span hails from Tampa Catholic. For what that's worth.
One aspect of signing day I find so ironic is the players still have to fax their letters of intent in. I'm going to go out on a limb that many recruits who sign today throughout the country have never used a fax machine before. Just saying.Illinois found out recently two of its early enrollees won't arrive on campus until this summer in twins Tyrin Stone-Davis and Tyree Stone-Davis. Tyrin is the wide receiver and Tyree is the defensive back.
Tim Beckman said Monday night on "The News-Gazette Sports Page," on WDWS 1400-AM he already can tell the difference between the two. For more from Beckman on signing day and other items (like who is the better basketball player in the Beckman household), check out our podcast from Monday night right here.
Want to find out more on Tre Watson, the first Illinois recruit to send his letter of intent in today? Here is our story after he committed in mid-December. Watson's commitment started a flurry of them for Illinois in a short amount of time the week before Christmas. Junior college defensive linemen Joe Fotu, Carroll Phillips and Jihad Ward followed that week.It sure was a busy time for Illinois recruiting coordinator Alex Golesh, who criss-crossed the country for two weeks after the 2013 season ended. For more from Golesh, check out our Q&A we had with the 29-year-old who can probably recite more information about each recruit Illinois will sign today than just about anyone.
Illinois' class won't find itself near the top, or even the upper half of the Big Ten, when final rankings of this class are done. Last check I saw for most of the major recruiting services like Rivals, Scout and 247sports, had Illinois either 13th or 14th in the league.
Yes, that's weird to type 13th and 14th since Rutgers and Maryland's recruiting classes will factor into the rankings. The big appeal of a four-star or five-star recruit just isn't there for Illinois with this class.
Going 6-18 in the first two seasons doesn't make recruiting necessarily easy when the Illinois coaches go out on the road and are going up against the rest of the Big Ten.
A breakdown of this class, including grayshirt QB Jeff George Jr., reveals the following. Illinois will have two quarterbacks in George Jr. and Chayce Crouch, an early enrollee from Newark (Ohio) Catholic. Chicago Mt. Carmel's Matt Domer is the lone running back in the class.
There's a hearty supply of wideouts in this class, with Iowa Western Community College standout Geronimo Allison headlining the group. He received second-team All-American honors are he caught 69 passes for 872 yards.
Tyrin Stone-Davis from Pierce College in California is another one, along with two First Team News-Gazette All-Staters in Malik Turner from Springfield Sacred Heart-Griffin and Mike Dudek from Neuqua Valley. Dudek is already on campus as an early enrollee. He and Turner both had more than 1,300 receiving yards this past fall.
Two offensive linemen are in the class with center Nick Allegretti from Lincoln-Way East and tackle candidate Peter Cvijanovic from East Coast Prep in Massachusettss. Cvijanovic, a Cleveland native who is the younger brother of Illinois left tackle Simon Cvijanovic, is already on campus. Allegretti will likely be on campus in a few weeks for the state wrestling finals, but the U.S. Army All-American did not graduate early. He'll arrive this summer.Defensively, four defensive linemen in Joe Fotu from Laney College in Oakland, Calif., Jihad Ward from Globe Tech in New York City, Carroll Phillips from Copiah-Lincoln Community College in Mississippi and Tito Odenigbo from Centerville (Ohio) High School are in the class. Fotu is on campus already, with the other three set to sign today. It's funny to think about that Odenigbo was the first commit for Illinois and only defensive lineman Illinois had in this class until mid-December. Then Fotu, Phillips and Ward all committed within a 72-hour span of one another.
Three linebackers are in the class. The first one to pledge to Illinois was Henry McGrew from Blue Valley (Kan.) when he did so in mid-June. He hails from the suburbs of Kansas City, Mo., and is about a half-hour from the city.
It's in the same part of the country that former Illinois quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase grew up in. And no, he reassured me, he's not a huge Kansas fan.
Was when he was little (understandably), but said he's "All Illinois all the time," now. Austin Roberts from Rice Lake (Wis.) and Tre Watson, who was the first recruit to sign this morning, are the other linebackers in the group.
Roberts was having a standout senior season at Rice Lake through his first two games last fall before he tore his left ACL late in the third game. He still compiled 46 tackles in a little more than 11 quarters of football.
He's still going through the rehab process, but hopes to be back at full strength by May or June. And, he says, he can cook one-minute rice in 58 seconds. Don't ask how, though, because he told me he's not revealing his secret.
The defensive backfield recruits consists of Lincoln-Way North's Julian Hylton, Pierce College's Tyree Stone-Davis and West Orange-Stark (Texas) High School's Chris James. All three are projected at cornerbacks.
Hylton will be one I'm intrigued to watch develop. He's really, really fast (Loren Tate can't even beat him in a foot race), but he played primarily at running back in high school. He was good enough there to rush for more than 2,000 yards and more than 30 touchdowns in 2013 and garnered First Team News-Gazette All-State selection.
James just committed to Illinois less than 24 hours ago, but he is another speedster who the Illinois coaches are hoping is an under-the-radar recruiting steal.
Nick Allegretti from Lincoln-Way East became the second recruit to fax in his letter of intent. The center, who has an older brother who attends Illinois, was also the second Illinois player to commit in this class, way back on March 11, a few hours after Tito Odenigbo became the first commit.
And Allegretti is very smart. Takes almost all honors classes at Lincoln-Way East. Plus he can figure out how to solve a Rubik's Cube in less than a minute. Impressive.
Tito Odenigbo from Centerville (Ohio) became the third Illinois commit to send his letter of intent in today. Odenigbo is a defensive lineman who could possibly see time at either defensive end or defensive tackle. He played defensive end in high school, but has the size where he can still put on weight and become a contributor at defensive tackle. He was the first commit in the class and never wavered.
He lived in Decatur growing up, and never lost his allegiance to Illinois. Basically, if Illinois offered him, he would commit, which is what happened last March.
Austin Roberts is the fourth recruit to fax his letter in to the Illinois football offices. The linebacker from Rice Lake (Wis.) is originally from New Jersey and is dealing with a torn left ACL that sidelined him for most of his senior season.
Was a two-way starter at Rice Lake, playing tight end and serving mostly in a blocking role at that position. But all he'll have to worry about at Illinois, along with recovering from his knee injury, is making tackles and providing pass coverage out of his spot at linebacker.
Early perusal of where Illinois' class stands with the rest of the Big Ten doesn't exactly give off great news.
Rivals.com has the class 13th in the Big Ten, just ahead of Purdue. It gets worse with Scout.com's ranking, which has Illinois with the worst class in the Big Ten. And at 247sports.com, the Illini come in 13th, again ahead of Purdue.
We'll see what happens in the next 4-5 years and how accurate those rankings are.
Linebacker Henry McGrew from Blue Valley (Kan.) High School is fifth recruit to sign with Illinois, so all three linebackers Illinois received commitments from in this class are now signed. Which comes a year after Illinois did not sign a linebacker, so that was a big position of need for Illinois with this recruiting class.
McGrew helped Blue Valley win a Class 5A state title this past season with Blue Valley, and was a big reason why. He compiled 159 tackles, had 3.5 sacks, forced two fumbles and rushed for two touchdowns as a quarterback used in goal-line situations.
Julian Hylton from Lincoln-Way North is the sixth recruit to send in his letter of intent. The athlete is expected to play cornerback at Illinois after he thrived as a running back this past fall.
The speedster knew from the get-go that football might be his best sport. In his first football game in eighth grade, he returned a kickoff 90-plus yards for a touchdown. After he initially dropped the ball. First Illinois recruit from Lincoln-Way North and second in this class from the same school district (Nick Allegretti from Lincoln-Way East).
Carroll Phillips is the seventh recruit and first junior college recruit to sign his letter of intent today.
Phillips played last fall at Copiah-Lincoln Community College in Mississippi after the Miami native fell one credit shy of enrolling at Cincinnati, who he originally signed with in 2011.
Has the capabilites to possibly play some at the LEO spot, the hybrid defensive end/linebacker role Tim Beckman's team uses.
Illinois has had seven recruits fax in letters of intent so far today. Here are stories on the seven after they committed to Illinois, in order of which they've signed today.
Matt, do you see any defections like last year? Do you see us picking up any surprise signees?
Illinois has lost one commit in this class. That was tight end Jordan Frazier from Springfield, Mo. Frazier chose to go ahead and pick Oklahoma State after a late offer from the Cowboys, combined with the fact his family is moving from Springfield to the Dallas area.
Other than that, Illinois has held on to all the other commits in the class. Don't believe Illinois will add any surprises today, although it did pick up a commit yesterday from Chris James, a defensive back from West Orange-Stark (Texas) High School, and a few hours after that, received a commitment from Jeff George Jr., who will grayshirt in 2014.
The one recruit to watch and see if his letter of intent arrives is defensive tackle Jihad Ward from Globe Tech in New York City. The junior college player is a mammoth presence inside and had the best offer list of any Illinois recruit when he committed. He posted some interesting tweets a few weeks ago that had people wondering if he'll waver from Illinois and wind up at West Virginia.
Eight letters of intent are in so far, with four more expected to arrive today, including one from Ward.
Reading Jihad Ward's tweet from this morning. i expect his LOI in the house by the end of the day. thx for the coverage.
Jihad Ward is signed and delivered to Illinois. His letter came in about 20 minutes ago. The defensive tackle from Globe Tech (N.Y.) is a big get for the Illini, who need as much help as they can along the defensive line, especially along the interior.
Ward fits the bill on paper. Now he just needs to translate that into his play on the field.
Now is Paul James, I think that's his name, from Miami still an Illini recruit? Did he have to resubmit LOI or did he enroll early, or both?
Paul James is still an Illinois recruit. Enrolled early in mid-December and is on campus. I saw him around the football offices last week, so he is in fact here. He had academic issues surface right around the time school started in August, which came after he went through some early fall practices and Camp Rantoul.
He could have been recruited by any program in the country, but chose to stick with Illinois based on the relationships he had formed with the coaching staff and his chance to contribute. I'd imagine he could find himself in competition this spring for a spot at a defensive end, either in the role of a starter or a backup who could see playing time.