Monday, February 18, 2008

Team Recruiting Countdown: No. 20 Illinois Fighting Illini

No. 20 Illinois Fighting Illini (Big Ten No. 4)

2008 Haul: 28 signees, 0 AC100

Scouting Report:

After a two-win season in 2006, a few eyebrows were raised when Ron Zook and the Illini landed a top-15 class last season. After a nine-win season and a Rose Bowl bid, it should not be a surprise that the 2008 recruiting class is once again in the top-20. Although not nearly as star-studded as last season, this class still has a lot of nice pieces.

Illinois still has the ability to offer very early playing time to true freshmen at a variety of positions. This is, and will always be, a big draw for young talent from around the nation. Nearly every position on this team could use depth or an upgrade. It doesn’t help that the Illini lose a large group of upper class defenders this season.

Losing three of four starting defensive backs has created spots for young secondary prospects to come in and compete for playing time right away. Patrick Nixon (Jacksonville, Fla.) and Tavon Wilson (Washington, D.C.) add depth to the corner spot. Nixon will compete for the starting job right away. A pair of in-state talents will try to replace J Leman at middle linebacker: Nate Palmer (Chicago, Ill.) and Supo Sanni (Homewood, Ill.). Defensive tackle Reggie Ellis (Washington, D.C.), the top player from the D.C. area, should step in and help bolster the defensive line.

After two great season from Rashard Mendenhall, the running back position needed to be addressed in this class. Jason Ford (Belleville, Ill.) and Mikel LaShoure (Champaign, Ill.) could also see the field early in ’08. Other than Arrelious Benn, Juice Williams does not have many pass catching options on the outside. That will no longer be an issue. Cordale Scott (Cleveland, Ohio) and Alfred Jenkins (Jacksonville, Fla.) could both play early and often. Illini fans, do not forget about Florida Gator transfer Jarred Fayson too.

Once again, Ron Zook and staff have done a great job scouring the nation for talent. Illinois landed four kids from Florida, four from Ohio, three from Pennsylvania and one each from Georgia and North Carolina. The Washington, D.C. area has been the bailey wick of assistant coach Mike Lockley’s recruiting efforts. Lockley has seen much success in the area with names like Vontae Davis and Benn. In 2008, the Illini landed four nice prospects from the District of Columbia.

Top Prospect: Corey Luiget – DE – Hialeah, Fla. (6-4, 260)

Versatility comes to mind when dealing with Mr. Luiget. He lined up at quarterback, tight end, wide receiver and defensive end in high school. The athleticism is apparent for a player of his size. He has solid feet and drive, using good power and strength in both run and pass situations. He will be able to pursue backside with his speed and agility.

He is still raw, however. His pad level, hand technique, stance, tackling form and get off will all need refinement. These are all things that can be corrected with solid coaching. His natural athletic ability, strength, agility for a prospect with his size and frame are un-teachable. Luiget, Reggie Eillis and last season’s prize recruit Martez Wilson should create a formidable group within the defensive front.

Best of the Rest:

Hubie Graham – TE – Scranton, Pa. (6-4, 230)
Graham Poisac – OL – Lemont, Ill. (6-6, 310)
Cordale Scott – WR – Cleveland, Ohio (6-3, 205)
Patrick Nixon – CB – Jacksonville, Fla. (6-0, 180)
Reggie Ellis – DT – Washington, D.C. (6-2, 290)

Sleeper: Alfred Jenkins – WR – Jacksonville, Fla. (6-0, 180)

Playing time has always been a major selling point for Ron Zook and his staff. The state of Florida has also been a great asset to the Illini staff. Jenkins brings these aspects together as the Jacksonville native will press for playing time as soon as he gets to campus. He is a big play threat, particularly in the vertical passing attack. Solid hands, great acceleration/speed combined with good body control and open field wiggle put this kid on the field immediately in Champaign.

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