Jacksonville isn’t a place where a 6-foot-6-inch, 260-pound high school junior is hard to miss.
The west central Illinois town of just under 20,000 residents that sits a half-hour from the state capital of Springfield has a football player the Illinois coaching staff is hoping it won’t miss on.
Blake Hance said he is likely to give a verbal commitment sometime this summer to one of seven schools that have offered him — Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, North Carolina State, Northern Illinois, Vanderbilt, Western Michigan and Wyoming.
“I definitely want to do it before my season, and right now I’m kind of thinking of making it sometime in June,” Hance said. “I don’t know if I’ll publicly narrow it down. In my head I have things I like more about some places than other places.”
And it’s hard for Hance not to go somewhere in Jacksonville without someone inquiring about what school he’ll play college football at
“It’s definitely hard,” Hance said with a laugh. “Every day people are asking, ‘Where are you going?’ I don’t know yet. It can be a little overwhelming, but it’s definitely all fun. There’s a lot of people who are asking me all the time, from neighbors to people at restaurants.”
It’s not unusual for high school players who play a skill position on offense to possibly play a defensive back position in college.
Colleges are looking at three position possibilities for Hance — offensive tackle, defensive end and tight end — after he started last fall for Jacksonville at tight end and defensive end.
Illinois is recruiting Hance for a defensive end spot, Jacksonville coach Mark Grounds said.
“He’s a big athlete,” Grounds said. “He’s got good feet and has ball skills. He moves well in space and has great flexibiliity. He does so much well, he’s a tough kid to miss. Plus, he’s a long snapper.”
Hance said he doesn’t have a preference about what position he plays in college and didn’t indicate an overriding factor (early playing time, location, coaching staff, etc.) in influencing his college choice.
He said Illinois being the home-state school does interest him.
“It’s who I’ve grown up rooting for,” Hance said. “That alone is pretty intriguing. They’re in the Big Ten, so you can’t really go wrong.”
Grounds said Hance and his family — who might also stop by either the Indiana spring game or Vanderbilt spring game on Saturday and have a planned trip to Missouri’s spring game on April 20 — are trying to develop relationships with the schools he is considering before arriving at a decision.
“He’s looking at things with a broad spectrum, and just not looking for nice facilites and things like that,” Grounds said. “The one thing that I tell him is when it’s time and it’s right, he’ll know it.”