May 9 UI football/recruiting chat

May 9 UI football/recruiting chat

Friday, May 9, 2014 - 1:00pm

Classes are winding down at Illinois. What are the plans this summer for Tim Beckman's program? How's recruiting going? Anything is fair game in Matt Daniels' weekly chat.

Matt Daniels wrote on May 09, 2014 at 1:05 pm
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Apologies for getting a late start on this week's chat. Working on finishing up a few items for Sunday's sports section.

Let's get started with the questions.

JK-ILLINI wrote on May 09, 2014 at 1:05 pm

Hey Matt,

It seems like a large amount of the Big Ten schools plus ND feeds off of the Chicagoland area and it's pretty well known that U of I has not done well there.  If we are not getting our players from in-state, is there a different Midwest state that fills a big portion of our roster spots or is it just all over the map?

Matt Daniels wrote on May 09, 2014 at 1:05 pm
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Hey JK-Illini,

You're right. Chicago and its surrounding suburbs are prime recruiting territory for the rest of the Big Ten, along with Notre Dame, and other programs across the country. As far as the Midwest goes, there is no better area for recruiting than this piece of real estate.

Illinois has not fared well there in the past. Some of it is because of an unwillingness to recruit certain schools. Tim Beckman doesn't feel that way about Chicago. He had recruited the area before arriving at Illinois, and he considers the Chicago area another state when it comes to recruiting.

He has each of his assistant coaches recruit in the area, with some focused on the city and others on the surrounding suburbs.

Ohio is a big recruiting area for Beckman given that he's from Cleveland and has considerable ties throughout the state, along with several of his assistant coaches. Outside of Illinois, that state has been the kindest to Illinois, and that dates back to when Ron Zook was in charge as well.

Bill Cubit has solid ties in Florida, having coached high school football there and serving as a college assistant at Florida and Central Florida during his lengthy coaching career. Mike Bellamy and Al Seamonson have ties to the Atlanta area, and while Illinois hasn't developed a pipeline from there to Champaign-Urbana yet, it's an area they still try to recruit from.

They want to develop a foothold in Texas as well, and have done a decent job scouring the junior colleges in California for recruits, along with building a pipeline with Iowa Western Community College in Council Bluffs, Iowa, near the Iowa-Nebraska border.

John D'Feliciantonio wrote on May 09, 2014 at 1:05 pm

Does a player like Tacko "Taco" Fall, a 7'5" junior at Liberty Christian Prep School in Tavares, Fla. interest Coach Groce? Is this type of center one that would be able to work within Groce's system?

Also, what is Doug Altenberger up to these days? Players like him prove that all your players do not need to be 5 star recruits.


Matt Daniels wrote on May 09, 2014 at 1:05 pm
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Hey John,

Not too sure about Illinois' interest in a player like Fall. His height is particularly intriguing, but I'm not too sure where he falls on the Illinois radar right now.

You just don't see height like that at the college game, so I'm not too sure how he might fit in with anyone's system. Wherever he does wind up, teams would tailor their offensive style around his skill set.

Will have to find out and do some checking as to what Doug Altenberger is up to these days. Might be a question for our basketball beat writer, Marcus Jackson, who has his weekly chats every Wednesday afternoon.

Dyno McClain wrote on May 09, 2014 at 1:05 pm

Basketball recruiting question: who do you think they wind up with for the final 2 spots in 2015?  I know you've said a PG and a big guy.  With Brunson, is it close to 50/50 he'll come here?  

bonus question if you have time.  Has recruiting reporting forced almost unrealistic demands and expectations?  I remember reading magazines on the upcoming seasons 30 years ago and they always put a few pages in back of the magazine on the potential recruits.  That was about it.  And it was difficult for a casual fan to follow up on that information.  Now there is almost an expectation of instant news on recruits.  Avid follower of yours and appreciate all you do.




Matt Daniels wrote on May 09, 2014 at 2:05 pm
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Hey Dyno,

Almost always an impossible question to answer about predicting what recruits might go to certain schools. John Groce has cast his lot in trying to bring in four-star and five-star recruits, and Illinois is not going to land everyone they've offered or recruited the hardest. Case in point: Cliff Alexander.

To me, the needs are a point guard and another big body. It could be a power forward or a true center, if true centers even exist anymore. With D.J. Williams from Simeon having the ability to play almost any position in high school, he gives Illinois versatility in the Class of 2015, and Plainfield East shooting guard Aaron Jordan gives Illinois a proven three-point scorer who is improving in other facets of his game offensively, like getting to the basket and developing a mid-range game.

It's good for Illinois that Brunson has them among his final eight schools. But Illinois will have to ward off several top-notch programs, including the defending national champions in Connecticut, to land a player who has emerged as likely the top point guard prospect in the country in the Class of 2015.

Reporting on recruiting is a never-ending job. It makes it fun and challenging, all at the same time. With the explosion of social media like Twitter and Facebook in the past decade, especially among high school athletes, recruiting is now a 24/7 type of deal. The process is stressful enough for recruits who are trying to determine what college they want to attend, and then you add on the expectations of fan bases and media trying to find out what players are going where, and it can get taxing.

But the interest in recruiting is probably at its highest, especially because you're seeing recruits in both basketball and football decide on schools at an earlier age each year, particularly with football. My best advice when it comes to recruiting news? Just relax and enjoy it. Don't get too stressed about it.

BrianAn wrote on May 09, 2014 at 2:05 pm

What does Houston do with mercilus now ?

have watt and know clowney 

not saying mercilus is a pro bowler but averaging 7sacks a season isnt bad in my book 

Matt Daniels wrote on May 09, 2014 at 2:05 pm
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Hey BrianAn,

I doubt Houston does much different with former Illini Whitney Mercilus. He plays as an outside linebacker with the Texans, not from a defensive end spot like he did at Illinois, so the drafting of South Carolina's Jadeveon Clowney on Thursday night, along with the presence of J.J. Watt, shouldn't affect him too much.

In fact, having those two elite pass rushers put more pressure on the offensive line and quarterback could help Mercilus out even more in 2014. To me, it seems like a win-win for Mercilus with the drafting of Clowney.

NJ Illini wrote on May 09, 2014 at 2:05 pm


When a team has multiple offers to a player at a specific position, like Illinois does at point guard, do you think it causes some of the recruits to delay commiting or even to commit elsewhere because they are concerned about a higher rated player, like Brunson, coming on later?  Or are they told that Illinois will only take one PG and if they commit, they get the spot?


Matt Daniels wrote on May 09, 2014 at 2:05 pm
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Hey NJ Illini,

Just to be clear, Illinois is far from the only college basketball program that offers multiple scholarships to multiple players at only one position. Pretty much everyone has to recruit that way. If you don't, you run the risk of putting all your hopes of landing one possible player, and if they don't pick your school, you're up a creek. Without a paddle.

With as much information and with as many top-notch recruits essentially living on their phone or Twitter these days, they are keep pretty much up in the loop about what players are going where. It's smart for John Groce to offer multiple point guards. Obviously, the No. 1 target when it comes to a point guard in the Class of 2015 for Illinois is Jalen Brunson from Stevenson.

A big part of recruiting is building up the player and making them feel like they are the player that can come in and affect the program in a positive way. Some of the pitches coaches use with each recruit are pretty much the same. Come here, be a difference-maker and leave your own legacy. Or something of that variety.

When it comes to the specifics of the point guards Illinois is pursuing in the Class of 2015, unfortunately I'm not sitting in the kids' living room when Groce and his staff make their spiel. There are only so many scholarships to dole out, so every player Illinois is pursuing right now won't end up at Illinois. Landing a premier point guard is a big priority for Illinois in the Class of 2015, so I'm sure if one does want to pop and make a verbal commitment to Illinois, the coaches will gladly welcome them with open arms.

Johnny Football wrote on May 09, 2014 at 2:05 pm


What is going on with our FB recruiting in Ohio?  Kentucky is nabbing everyone and Beckman can't land anyone so far.

With players committing earlier and earlier, this is a huge concern.  For all the work the staff has done on the recruiting trail, there doesn't seem to be much in the way or results so far, while other programs are moving full speed ahead.  There was talk of a big recruiting weekend last weekend, and in the end, nothing.

What gives?

Matt Daniels wrote on May 09, 2014 at 2:05 pm
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Hey Johnny Football,

Glad you got drafted last night. Sorry it took so long.

So, if Illinois had all of its commits so far from Ohio, would you be lamenting the fact that they don't have any in-state recruits? Illinois has three solid in-state commits so far. Would you like more? Sure, I guess.

But I don't think it's time to hit the panic button at all. Last year at this time Illinois had all of three commits for its Class of 2014.

Every recruit is different. Some want to hold off on their decision. Some want to make it now just to end the process. Illinois is in solid position with several prospects, and you could argue that of the players they've gotten commitments from so far in regards to the Class of 2015, Gabe Megginson and Dre Brown are two of the state's top 10 players.

I wouldn't be so concerned about the number of commits each Big Ten team has right now. It's May. These players haven't even started their senior year of high school. Yes, Penn State is making waves right now with the boatloads of commits James Franklin has reeled in. But Ohio State only has two commits right now. Two. Something tells me they'll still be in good shape when the Class of 2015 signs.

This is a huge year for Tim Beckman at Illinois. Win more games, go to a bowl game and increase his stability will help with the recruiting aspect. Most recruits these days choose a school based on the coaches. If the coaches aren't going to be here in seven months, why would they want to commit now?

Matt Daniels wrote on May 09, 2014 at 2:05 pm
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Thanks for the questions this week and thanks for sticking with me even as we got a late start. Need anything else, feel free to email me at or hit me up on Twitter @mdaniels_NG.

Have a great weekend.