Recruiting blogger Matt Daniels is at your service at 1 p.m. Friday (he covers Illinois football, too). Ask him anything.
Greetings everyone. Matt Daniels here for the next hour or so to answer any recruiting and football-related questions you all might have.
Illinois football headed back to the practice fields on Wednesday after three days off following the 34-24 loss to the Huskies at Soldier Field. Normal game-week routine (Monday press conference followed by practices on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday before Friday afternoon walkthrough) will resume again on Monday in preparation for Miami (Ohio). The Redhawks will host Cincinnati on Saturday.
No big recruits have committed to Illinois this week. Don't anticipate any either. Enough ramblings from me. For now. Let's get started with the questions.
Hey Matt...So the illini had a good showing in Chicago and Thomas wants to do more there. What do you think about moving the annual Illinois/Wisconsin game to Soldier field when the two are in the same division? Similiar to Ark/TA&M in Dallas. Obviously this would have to happen a couple years out with buy-in from the league due to the scheduling difficulties that would need to be worked out to leave each team with 4 home and road games to get to 9 league games. Thanks.
Interesting idea. One I had never considered. Wisconsin has played at Soldier Field recently, taking on Northern Illinois there. Tim Beckman ended his press conference last Saturday night in the bowels of Soldier Field emphasizing how much he and his team enjoyed playing at the Bears' home venue. I'd imagine it won't be 19 years again until Illinois plays at Soldier Field.
I could see maybe an Illinois-Northwestern game taking place at Soldier Field, but Wisconsin is a good alternative if the Badgers want to give up a home game, and vice versa for Illinois. That would be a true neutral site game, unlike the Illinois-Washington game. That wasn't a neutral site game other than in theory. Washington coach Steve Sarkisian mentioned after Saturday's game it was a road game for his team several times.
With Mike Thomas at the helm, he wants at least seven home games at Memorial Stadium every year, which could pose an interesting scenario, too, if Illinois and Wisconsin ever do play each other at Soldier Field, Wrigley Field or U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago. The feedback I've heard from people who attended the Washington game last Saturday is mostly positive, so I'd say Illinios will play up in Chicago at some point within the next five years.
one more question about scholarships: when a player is offered a scholarship, or a player is contemplating a transfer, does a coach ever condition a scholarship offer on someone else committing? For example, do coaches tell a player, you have a scholarship unless Player A or Player B signs a letter of intent? I think it is dangerous to rely on a player transferring or leaving early, as that may not happen, and suggests the player was run off the team. Such practices will likely come back to haunt you.
Every scholarship situation is different. For instance, Cliff Alexander has a scholarship offer. If he winds up at Illinois (although I think he'll end up at Kansas), there is no current scholarship for him based on the three commits Illinois has right now in the Class of 2014. That said, if Alexander wants to come to Illinois, John Groce and his staff will find a place for him.
All schools, Illinois included, offer out more scholarships than they actually have. Another example is in the Class of 2015. Right now, Illinois has three scholarships to hand out, but has offers out to more than a dozen players. All of those players, obviously, will not wind up at Illinois.
Once the offer is made, it comes down to the recruit. Does he want to pull the trigger right away and commit? It happened last May for Illinois football in quarterback Chayce Crouch from Newark (Ohio) Catholic High School. The Class of 2014 recruit didn't have a scholarship offer from Illinois, but after Illinois assistants watched him throw during a workout session, they offered him a scholarship and he accepted it later that day.
A recruit can also tell when programs start to become less interested in them. The letters might not arrive with as great a frequency, the Facebook messages slow down and other forms of communication dwindle. A basic rule of thumb when it comes to recruiting, which can apply to both coaches and players, is don't waste anyone's time. If a player fits a program's needs, then the coach goes after them. If they don't, don't pursue them. Same thing for players. Keep the schools you're interested in a priority, and if you know you're not going to go to a particular school, don't waste that school's time, either.
It seems that good recruiting often coincides with good timing. And in my opinion this is where the Illini staff excels. Groce and company are second to none at quickly establishing great relationships with recruits. Their unique ability seems to show best with transfers and de-commits (Rice, Ekey, Paul, Starks, and Snider). The Illini staff seems to win almost every time.
Just wondering what your thoughts are about "negative recruiting" these days? It used to be that successful coaches (like Groce and others) were susceptible to negative recruiting by other coaches, but with the growing reality of social media and almost instant communication have you seen that negative culture change somehwat?
Hey Big Dave,
You make a good point. Good recruiting does coincide with good timing. Illinois definitely hit a recruiting momentum surge under John Groce since September started with the commitments of Leron Black and Quentin Snider coming within 12 days of one another. This after nearly nine months of no high school commits, but plenty of transfers coming and going.
With transfers like Jon Ekey and Aaron Cosby, Groce and his staff already had a built-in relationship with those two players. They recruited both of them when they were at Ohio, which always helps when it comes to transfers, which is such a sped-up process compared to the typical recruitment of a high school standout.
The negative recruiting is still out there. Let's not kid ourselves. Coaches use weaknesses of other programs against one another. In football, opposing Big Ten coaches could point to Illinois' struggles in the first season under Tim Beckman to their advantage. With basketball, Groce and his staff didn't necessarily have to deal with that after a 20-plus win season that ended a few plays short of the Sweet 16. That said, having so many players transfer since last season and bringing in so many transfers within the past six months could be something coaches use against Illinois.
The best way to avoid negative recruiting? It's simple, but hard to come by. Just win. It's a mantra all coaches at Illinois will make up for any other shortcomings.
Will the ACC - Big 10 Challenge continue with the additions of Maryland & Rutgers to the Big 10 and Louisville to the ACC? Do you see Illinois focusing more in the Southeast for talent? Groce is on a role with two Louisville, KY area players in Cosby and Snider.
Hey WI Illini Fan,
As far as I've heard, the Big Ten-ACC challenge will still take place even when all the conference realignments take place. That'd be a good question for Marcus Jackson, our Illinois men's basketball beat writer who chats every Wednesday afternoon, but I'll check into it. It sure is a good event that has grown in popularity each year.
John Groce and his staff, much like Tim Beckman does with football, wants to control the recruiting area within a six-hour radius of Illinois. So far, he has done an impressive job in garnerning talent within that radius, which includes Aaron Cosby and Quentin Snider from Louisville.
Groce has done a good job of expanding Illinois' recruiting base and seems to have the Illini in good position in several key parts in the Midwest and also the South, along with the East Coast since he landed Austin Colbert last November.
To win in the Big Ten, teams must have a solid recruiting base nationally, and the players Groce has delivered so far in his tenure is a positive trend.
Illinois FB recruiting seems slow at the moment. With a better start to the season are the Illini being more selective with the few scholarships left? Can they afford to do this? Is this a wise theory? Seems like they can still offer early playing time, especially on defense? What are the priority positions they are after? Seems to me some good and big lineman on both sides of the ball would be a real good get. With twelve committed, how many will we take?
Illinois football has not had a new commit for almost two months, but the coaching staff did get an impressive haul this summer. Going off the top of my head, in June and July, they received verbals from 8 of the 12 commits they have. The scholarship situation isn't the greatest, so don't expect a class of more than 16 or 17 players right now.
Illinois is really honing in on trying to use its remaining scholarships on positions where it needs help at. Right now, that's running back. With the dismissal of Dami Ayoola a few weeks ago, the running back situation is not the greatest in terms of depth for future teams. Josh Ferguson and Donovonn Young are still around for the 2014 season, but Ferguson, Devin Church, LaKeith Walls and Class of 2014 commit Matt Domer are the only running backs Illinois will have for the 2015 season.
Illinois would also like to add depth to both its offensive line and defensive lines, two position groups where there never is enough depth. Just ask the coaches. Currently Illinois only has one of each in the Class of 2014, so another tackle on offense and another tackle on defense would be the priorities right now.
The good start Illinois is under so far should help recruiting and the players it goes after, but just remember. It's only three games and the Big Ten season hasn't started yet for the Illini.
Did I read correctly that the Illinois recruit who is a high school running back from Lincoln Way has 53 carries in one game? If so, his high school coach is not doing him any favors in terms of developing him long term. That king of workload will wear a player down, increase the likelihood of injury and concussion. It seems irresponsible and unsafe as well as short-sighted and selfish on th epart of the high school coaches. Your thoughts?
Hey good idea,
Julian Hylton, a Class of 2014 commit for Illinois, is the player you're referring to. He had 52 carries for 323 yards in Lincoln-Way North's 43-36 win against Tinley Park Andrew last Friday night. I doubt Hylton will get 52 carries each game, but, as a coach, you go with what's working. Hylton was obviously doing the job last Friday and has put up some impressive numbers through three games of his senior season.
Football is a dangerous sport. Injuries can happen on the first carry or 50th carry of a game. If you're a fan of Lincoln-Way North and you need to pick up some yards, handing Hylton the ball seems like a good bet.
And, side note, Hylton is coming to Illinois likely to play cornerback. He's a very solid athlete who doesn't necessarily have one position to peg him into when he arrives at college, but the Illinois coaches are thinking he could help them out in the defensive secondary. At least right now.
Hi Matt -
Any news on our remaining prospects for the 2014 football recruiting class? It seems that Adoree Jackson  is a long shot; anything new on Dewayne Hendrix , Parrker Westphal , Chris James , Nile Sykes , etc.?
Hey EA Sports,
Illinois is still in the mix for all the players you mentioned above. That being said, Illinois isn't the top choice of players like Jackson, Hendrix, Westphal, James and Sykes, but they're in solid position. Illinois coaches were at Sykes' game last Friday when Montini played Wheaton Academy and Sykes took in the Illinois-Washington game at Soldier Field, along with Chris James. It appears Wisconsin and Pittsburgh are the leaders for James, a running back from Niles Notre Dame.
Illinois had coaches in the Metro East area earlier this week and stopped in to see Hendrix, the O'Fallon defensive end who is being courted mainly by SEC and Pac-12 schools. Westphal, the cornerback from Bolingbrook, has his choices narrowed down to nine schools, and Illinois is still in the mix. Jackson, a five-star cornerback who plays at Junipero Serra (Calif.) High School, still has Illinois among his list of schools, but don't be surprised if he winds up at a Pac-12 school.
If Illinois can keep winning games, it could certainly help in possibly landing one of the players you mentioned above. Illinos won't get all of them, but nabbing at least one would be a solid get for the Illini.
The main focus for recruiting efforts is making sure the Class of 2014 commits stay committed while trying to possibly get a junior college player at the running back or along the offensive and defensive lines, and then keeping close tabs on Class of 2015 prospects.
You mentioned the running backs on the roster. Isn't Kendrick Foster from Peoria still on the roster as an RB?
Thanks for the heads up. Honest oversight on my part. Just when I feel like I have the entire Illinois football roster memorized, but I digress. Kendrick Foster is still on the roster. It looks like the Peoria Richwoods product is headed for a redshirt season, which could help him develop. He had quite the prep career with the Knights and, while he is a smaller back, he does bring a wallop that could turn him into a productive back in the Big Ten once he does see the field.
Going to wrap up this chat. Thanks for all the questions. Enjoy the bye week. And if you need to go see an in-state college football game this weekend, head up to DeKalb. Eastern Illinois and its high-octane offense will take on Northern Illinois. Should be a good one.
Anything else you need from me, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org  or hit me up on Twitter @mdaniels_NG.
Enjoy the weekend everyone!