With 15 commitments already in the 2013 class, Illinois first year head coach Tim Beckman is making a splash on the recruiting scene. Much like Ron Zook before him, Beckman has really gone after prospects in the state of Ohio to build his program. I chatted with Robert of ALionEye about his perspective on the 2013 class and the focus on the Buckeye state.
1) What should Buckeye fans know about Illinois' 2013 class? What are your feelings about the class thus far?
Aaron Bailey Aaron Bailey Aaron Bailey Aaron Bailey. Aaron Bailey. Aaron. Bailey. He verballed two months ago and I'm still giddy. Tim Beckman arrived, said he's going to implement a true spread, went out and identified the best quarterback to come in and run that spread, focused on Bailey, and somehow convinced him that instead of going to Arizona to implement RichRod's offense, instead of going to Nebraska to be Martinez' replacement, he should come to Illinois and be our next long-term QB. Rivals ranks him as the #5 dual-threat QB; Scout ranks him #7. I think he's Braxton Miller-Lite (TM!). Strong QB that's an aggressive runner. He's probably well behind Miller in terms of polish, which is why I think he redshirts for Scheelhaase's senior season in 2013, but he's definitely our QB of the future.
As for the rest of the class, it will easily be our best class since 2009. And with a strong finish, it can surpass 2009 and be our best class since 2008. That's a class that will never be matched in Champaign, by the way: Whitney Mercilus (1st round pick), AJ Jenkins (1st round pick), Jeff Allen (2nd round pick), Tavon Wilson (2nd round pick), Corey Liuget (1st round pick), and Mikel Leshoure (2nd round pick). Six top-60 NFL draft picks in one class. In Champaign.
Zook's recruiting fell apart after the 3-9 season in 2009, and the 2010, 2011, and 2012 classes were well below the talent he brought in for 2007, 2008, and 2009. So this class seems to be well on its way to getting us back to that level.
When Tim Beckman arrived on campus in December and looked at the roster he inherited, he was in for a big surprise. Cornerbacks on the roster:
Terry Hawthorne (Senior in 2012)
Justin Green (Senior in 2012)
Jack Ramsey (Senior in 2012)
Eaton Spence (redshirt-freshman)
And that's it. One cornerback for the 2013 roster. So he had to chase corners. He added two late in the 2012 class (including V'Angelo Bentley from Cleveland Glenville), and has now added four in the 2013 class. We'll be young, but he's addressed the biggest position need.
The other need is offensive tackle, and while we've added three players there, none are highly ranked.
3) Are there any recruiting misses that have hurt?
Only the best offensive tackle class in the history of the state of Illinois, in a year where we desperately need offensive tackles (only 4 on the roster - two sophomores and two freshmen), and we went 0-for-5. Ethan Pocic picked LSU. Logan Tuley-Tillman picked Michigan. Kyle Bosch (an Illini legacy) picked Michigan. Colin McGovern picked Notre Dame. And Jack Keeler picked Wisconsin. Best class in the history of the state, us offering early playing time, and 0-for-5.
4) Which 2013 committed prospect are you the most excited about?
There's this kid name Aaron Bailey who's supposed to be a pretty good spread quarterback...
Besides Bailey, I'd say Darius Mosely, cornerback from O'Fallon, IL. He's the type of kid we've lost to Iowa or Wisconsin over the years - high 3-star on Rivals, 4-star on ESPN, offers from Iowa and Michigan State and the like - and we kept him home. I love this kid on film, and think he can immediately contribute.
5) How many more spots are left in this class for Illinois? Who are the top targets left on the board to fill them?
We've lost three scholarship players in the last two weeks (two dismissed from the team, one transferred to an FCS school), so this class went from likely 20 or 21 players to 23 or 24 players. With a little more attrition this fall (common after coaching changes), I could see this class approaching 25 or 26. So with 15 already on the books, I could see us adding somewhere between 8-11 more.
I'd say the #1 target is WR Laquon Treadwell, but it would be ridiculous of me to say so. Kids like that don't pick Illinois. I've followed Illini football recruiting enough to know that when the offers spread from coast to coast, we should just bow out gracefully. We've landed exactly 4 players like that in my 25 years following Illini football (Arrelious Benn, Martez Wilson, Rashard Mendenhall, and a defensive lineman in the mid-90's named Eric Jefferson who picked Illinois over offers from the whole country, arrived on campus with me declaring he was the next great Illini football player in the mold of Butkus and Grange, and then was gone within the first month of his first season).
So the #1 (legitimate) target is DE Josh Augusta from Peoria, Illinois. 3-star on both Rivals and Scout, but offers from Oklahoma, Notre Dame, Michigan, Nebraska, etc. We need defensive ends, and he'd be perfect.
6) Beckman appears to be majorly targeting Ohio prospects. He now has six committed in this class including Caleb Day, Jarrod Clements and Reon Dawson, after bringing in a big haul in the 2012 class. What do you think of the strategy?
I like it. We'll never build a program just based on Illinois. For two reasons. 1) Illinois Football just isn't cool in Chicagoland. I often think Chicago area recruits are fearful of getting laughed at by their classmates if they pick Illinois. We've always called it ABI disease - Anywhere But Illinois. When it's more attractive to go to Iowa - Iowa - than Illinois to play football, you have an image problem. And 2) The State of Illinois doesn't produce enough talent to sustain a program, so we'll always have to look elsewhere.
For Zook, that meant Florida and Washington, DC. For Beckman, it's clearly Ohio. He was born and raised there, coached at Bowling Green with Meyer and Ohio State with Tressel, was the head coach at Toledo, and has most of his connections there. As you mentioned, in the 2012 class, he added 10 players after he got the job in December, and five were from Ohio. This year, six more (so far).
7) Do you think the Illini can build a B1G Champion off of Ohio talent (and Midwestern talent for that matter) that Michigan and Ohio State pass over?
B1G Champion in the mold of our 2001 or 1983 B1G Championship teams? Yes. Get the right mix of talent and experience, wait for a few powerhouse programs to have a down year, find just the right schedule, and pounce.
But consistent challenger to Ohio State, Penn State, and Wisconsin in the Leaders Division? No. We'd have to start beating Ohio State and Michigan for a few of those players if we want to get there. The offensive tackles in-state are a great example of this. Did we lose a chance at a B1G championship game when all five in-state blue-chip tackles went Anywhere But Illinois? It's possible. The more of those battles we lose, the further we are from that goal.
8) Are there in any other Ohio prospects you expect Beckman and company to land?
A few we're chasing - not sure about landing. I know we're chasing Aregeros Turner (small tailback from Copley, OH), but I haven't seen an update there in a while. Plus Lakota West offensive tackle Kyle Meadows, since we missed on the Illinois kids. And I dream of Cleveland Heights WR Shelton Gibson, but I know there's zero chance he picks Illinois. There are others, but I can't think of them right now and I'm getting depressed. The best in-state offensive tackle recruiting class was right there...
Thanks again to Robert for his analysis. For more information on Illinois football and recruiting, check out www.alioneye.com or follow them on Twitter at @alioneye
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