Turner says yes to Illinois

Turner says yes to Illinois

SPRINGFIELD — Malik Turner hasn’t played much high school football.

Doesn’t matter.

At least according to Ken Leonard, his high school coach at Springfield Sacred Heart-Griffin.

“He’s a special athlete and a big-time player,” the 29-year coaching veteran said of Turner, Illinois’ newest commit. “He’s a Big Ten caliber wide receiver, even if nobody really knows much about him.”

Turner informed Tim Beckman and the Illinois coaching staff of his decision to head east along Interstate 72 and become the seventh commit in the Class of 2014 on Monday night.

He picked Illinois ahead of offers from Ball State and Northern Illinois.

Two broken ankles, one sustained during Week 4 of his sophomore season that forced him to miss the rest of the year and another last summer before his junior that caused him to miss the regular season, have limited Turner to only a handful of high school games.

His statistics — Turner concedes he’s not sure of them because he’s only had a small sample size — won’t overwhelm.

But Leonard said when Turner took part in a one-day showcase camp at Illinois last summer, fully healthy, he completed the 40-yard dash in 4.4 seconds.

And he has grown since the start of last football season, checking in at 6-foot-3 and 215 pounds.

“He’s going to be a big, strong wide receiver,” Leonard said. “Illinois knew what he could do last summer and what he was about.”

Illinois offered Turner last winter.

The two-sport standout — he also excels on the basketball court — was grateful.

“They were my first offer, and they had a special place in my heart from the start,” Turner said. “They saw something that no one else saw. As the time went on, just being close to home was important, too. My family has watched me grow up.”

Turner said he had plans to visit Indiana, Purdue and Wisconsin this summer but doesn’t plan to follow through on those trips now.

Former Illinois co-offensive coordinator Billy Gonzales, now the wide receivers coach at Mississippi State, started recruiting Turner before defensive line coach Greg Colby and recruiting coordinator Alex Golesh closed the deal.

Having Wes Lunt transfer to Illinois helped sway Turner, too.

The former Rochester quarterback played in the same conference, the Central State Eight, that the Cyclones are in.

And Leonard’s son, Derek, is Rochester’s head coach.

“It played a role in it,” Turner said. “A big role. He’s just a good quarterback. He knows what to do to make the big plays. I watched him when he was in high school. He’s great with getting the ball out to his wide receivers.”

This is the second straight year Illinois has picked up a player from the vaunted Springfield SHG program, which has won three state titles in the last decade.

Offensive lineman Ryan Klachko transferred to Illinois last August from Nebraska but never played a game because of past concussions.

Klachko no longer plays football, but Leonard said Beckman has helped Klachko, who is still enrolled at Illinois, stay connected to the current Illini team.

Sending another player on his way to Champaign-Urbana is more than OK with Leonard.

“We’d love to keep it going,” Leonard said. “We’ve got some folks coming up, too, that are going to be pretty good. Coach Beckman and his staff have really put an emphasis on staying involved with downstate schools. With Wes coming over there now, I’m excited.”


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Bob Patterson wrote on June 24, 2013 at 11:06 pm
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Does Illini football ever sign a recruit that other MAJOR schools are going after?  It seems like every recruit we sign the only other schools going after him are MID-MAJORS schools, Ball State, W. Michigan, Toledo, Ohio, etc.  Does that bid well when these recruits have to play BIG 10 football?

IlliniMike05 wrote on June 25, 2013 at 8:06 am

No, Illinois has never signed a recruit that major schools are going after. Ever. It's never happened.

Bob Patterson wrote on June 25, 2013 at 11:06 am
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Maybe that is why we very seldom win a BIG 10 title or even compete as been the case the last few years.  We recruit MID-MAJOR players, the Toledo, Ball State, Ohio type players and then as in the past few years we even have a hard time beating MID-MAJOR schools that are on our schedule.  No chance against the Ohio State, Michigan, Penn States of the BIG-10.

IlliniMike05 wrote on June 25, 2013 at 12:06 pm

Well, that's a picking-up-on-sarcasm fail for you.

Yes, Illinois has gotten many players that other major schools wanted. We just got a quarterback that most of the country, up to and including Alabama, was interested in recruiting if Mike Gundy had let them.

Yes, you're right, if we would get more of those types of players we would win more football games. I personally thought this was such an obvious point that it was unnecessary to say it out loud; I thought anyone who has even a passing knowledge of college football intuitively just knows this.

No, it isn't necessary to gnash your teeth and wail about Illinois recruiting "mid-major players" every single time a kid commits to Illinois. Sometimes those players are really good. Sometimes Top 100 recruits suck. We've seen both of those things happen multiple times just in the last few years at Illinois. For example, J Leman was an All-American and D'Angelo McCray was a total bust.

It's not worth getting yourself worked up either way whenever a kid commits, highly regarded or lightly regarded. It's not like this is basketball where one Cliff Alexander commit can change your fortunes.

Jam wrote on June 25, 2013 at 5:06 am

It's ok Bob.  These are kids who are still growing and maturing.  As past UI experience indicates. Not all star recruits make it through college.  Illinois needs to establish continuity by getting kids who will stay the course and not quit or be forced off of the team due to outside influences.  Building depth I think is just as important as getting a one and done type of player.

IlliniMike05 wrote on June 25, 2013 at 8:06 am

Well, the sport we're talking about is football. So unless it's a Cam Newton or Russell Wilson situation, if a recruit is one-and-done something's gone horribly wrong.

YsoSerious wrote on June 25, 2013 at 9:06 am

Why so Serious?

Bob Patterson wrote on June 25, 2013 at 12:06 pm
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Not talking about one-and-done players.  I would just like to see some 3 star or 4 star players going to Illinois that other major programs are also interested in recruiting.  Juice Williams, Mendenhall, A. Benn type players.  Seems like we have gotten away from recruiting that type player.  Yes Lunt is that type, but we didn't really recruit him.  Hopefully Bailey is that type but only a couple of them a year isn't going to get it done as far as competing for a BIG 10 title.

IlliniMike05 wrote on June 25, 2013 at 12:06 pm

Do you honestly think that they're not even trying to recruit that caliber of player? You think they're choosing to recruit lower-level recruits while there are 4- and 5-star recruits that are wanting to come to Illinois?

By the way, Juice, Mendenhall and Benn weren't  "3  or 4 star players," so you picked some bad examples. Rejus was a consensus 5-star recruit. Mendenhall was also a 5-star recruit by most until an injury-filled senior year. Juice, as a consensus Top 100 player, was a high 4-star recruit.

For some examples of 3 or 4-star recruits picking Illinois, allow me to direct you to, oh, two-thirds of its incoming freshmen: the 2013 class has 14 3-star and 2 4-star recruits. The point: recruiting is an inexact science at best and a total crapshoot at worst. The Ron Zook era brought us more highly-touted recruits and eventual 1st- and 2nd-round NFL draft picks than any other era in school history, and it got us a whopping 31-32 record from 2007-11.

And do yourself a favor: lose the "Big Ten title" thoughts. Seriously. You're going to set yourself up for massive dissappointment. This school has won two in 50 years.


Bob Patterson wrote on June 25, 2013 at 1:06 pm
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Ok, I will lose the "Big Ten title" thoughts and switch to I would like to just see us "compete thoughts", something we haven't done for a few years now.  The attendance at home games and season ticket holder comments on these posts prove that they are not happy with the product we are putting on the field i.e. MID-MAJOR recruits.  Any MID-MAJOR school that is on our schedule now knows they have a chance of beating us when they come TO ILLINOIS to play us and that shouldn't be.

YsoSerious wrote on June 25, 2013 at 9:06 am

Good to see ILLINOIS get another SHG player. Not to insult the young mans ability but he seems to be a bit of a project type player. "Small sample size" is not always a bad thing, other schools might not be in on him yet. Good wideouts are usually developed at the college level so who knows.

Good Luck to Mr. Turner