The Memorial Stadium recruiting lounge in the north end zone will have a large gathering of recruits on Saturday night.
Alex Golesh will have much on his mind this weekend.
The 29-year-old Illinois recruiting coordinator, who also doubles as Tim Beckman’s tight ends and specialists coach, knows the 40-plus recruits Illinois is bringing in want to enjoy their weekend.
And a wide cast of players from the Classes of 2014, 2015, 2016 and even some 2017 are expected to attend Saturday night’s Illinois-Wisconsin game.
The 7 p.m. kickoff at Memorial Stadium is an advantage in getting a large number of recruits on campus this weekend.
“We’re trying to get some of our top guys here early to show them campus,” Golesh said. “For a lot of the young kids, this will be their first time here. We don’t want it to interfere with our kids and our preparation. Our on-campus recruiting staff can handle it and let them see a little bit more than they usually would for an 11 o’clock game.”
Six commits in the Class of 2014 are expected to attend (a full list of players is below) and some 2014 prospects are on official visits this weekend.
“They’ll come in Saturday morning, stay Saturday night and get out Sunday night,” Golesh said. “With flights, to get directly into Champaign, you can’t get them in here before 11. Have lunch, do all your meetings before the game as far as academics, tours and all those things. Saturday night with the game, they join in with the rest of the unofficials. Saturday night is the night they get to spend with our team.”
The two bye weeks Illinois has had already this season has kept the coaching staff busy.
Illinois, like all other college football teams, is allowed 42 evaluation days from the start of September until the end of November. Golesh said Illinois has already used 40 of those days.
“I’ve never been anywhere where we’ve used all 42, but with the way the bye weeks were set up early, we were able to get out and see our committed guys, see some guys we had to (evaluate) and also see some younger kids,” Golesh said. “We’ll use the other two. I think it’s a lot easier this way because now on Friday you can be with your kids. I think it’s important to go out Fridays, but when you play a game the next day, especially an 11 o’clock game, that’s hard, You want your coaches fresh, too. We won’t go out on Friday unless we have to (and) we’ve kind of saved those days for some guys that pop up late that we need to go see.”
Illinois has 14 commits lined up so far in the Class of 2014.
With scholarships sparse, the class is expected to only add a few more players, possibly 16 or 17 total.
“When you have a small class, you stretch less on guys,” Golesh said. “You tend to say, if it’s going to take a kid time to develop, that’s not what you want, especially at immediate and necessary spots. We try to do a really, really good job evaluating all the time. What it has allowed us to do is really see some senior film. With those last couple of spots, we’ve been so adamant about senior film and getting out and seeing those kids. Especially with the junior college kids, you like seeing that second-year film and not just going off the spring evaluation.”
One Illinois player who won’t see the field this fall is trying to help the Illini’s recruiting efforts in future classes.
Quarterback Wes Lunt, who transferred from Oklahoma State in June, spends his game days with recruits.
“On any official visits, he can host those guys because he’s not suited up,” Golesh said. “We get him around those kids. He’s been a really, really good recruiter for us. We just ask him to be himself. We really don’t feed him anything. We let him know, ‘Hey, these guys are coming.’ He’s starting to get to know the kids that have been back really well, so he’s done a great job for us.”
A list of some key recruits visiting for Wisconsin game
Class of 2014: Lincoln-Way East center Nick Allegretti, Chicago Mt. Carmel running back Matt Domer, Lighthouse Christian (Mo.) Academy tight end Jordan Frazier, Newark (Ohio) Catholic quarterback Chayce Crouch, Rice Lake (Wis.) linebacker Austin Roberts, Blue Valley (Kan.) linebacker Henry McGrew, St. Thomas Aquinas (Fla.) running back Madre London and Crete-Monee defensive end Chris Slayton
Class of 2015: Lawrence Central (Ind.) linebacker Darrin Kirkland, New Lenox Providence Catholic wide receiver Miles Boykin, DeKalb running back Dre Brown, Benet Academy quarterback Jack Beneventi, Centennial quarterback Jimmy Fitzgerald, Downers Grove North athlete David Edwards, Columbus (Ohio) Walnut Ridge linebacker Anthony McKee, Chicago Marist wide receiver Flynn Nagel, Lexington (Ky.) Catholic quarterback Reese Ryan, Dublin (Ohio) Scioto linebacker Nick Conner, Kettering (Ohio) Archbishop Alter defensive lineman Kraig Howe and Benedictine (Ohio) safety Jerome Baker
Class of 2016: O’Fallon running back Kentrail Moran