Jeremey Whitlow, a big, physical wide receiver from Cleveland Central Catholic high school in Ohio, has flown under the radar for quite some time. His physical skills fit the Paul Petrino mold, and over time, the interest between Whitlow and the Illinois coaches became mutual. Why did he choose the Illini?
"I think the trip to Illinois on my official visit. They just amazed me. I came back and talked with my parents and came to the conclusion that it was the right spot for me."
Whitlow visited this past weekend along with numerous other recruits, and came away with a great impression of the Illini. He was able to spend time with a current Illini receiver and built a relationship with his future teammate.
"Ryan Lankford was my host. He's a pretty cool dude."
On his official visit, Whitlow was able to get an in-depth look at the Illinois campus where he will be spending his next four years.
"They showed me around the campus, the dorms, facilities, academic buildings, all of that."
Running point on his recruitment is Illini assistant and former Ohioan Joe Gilbert, who Whitlow has built a strong relationship with as of late.
"Coach Gilbert. We talk a lot on the phone, and about a month ago we set up the visit. Ever since then we've hit it off. Everything was good."
Aside from the coaches, Whitlow was able to interact with the players, and the vibe he got from them was one of hard work and success.
"I met a couple of the other guys. The impression I got is that they're all committed to winning. I saw a practice, and they were all going hard so I feel like it's a good situation and I'll fit in perfectly."
The person who stood out to Whitlow the most, though, wasn't a player but rather a coach.
"I talked to coach Petrino. I love that guy. He's a great coach. You can tell he loves his job and loves coaching receivers. He'll do anything to make receivers better, and he's a very fiery guy. I can't wait to get down there and be coached by him."
Akron and Miami of Ohio were showing Whitlow interest, but Illinois prevailed for him.
"I took the trip to Akron the week before. It was a nice place, the coaching staff was good. But after I took the Illinois trip, I came to the conclusion that Illinois was better for me."
After taking in the Illini bowl practice, Whitlow had a better idea of what he would need to do before his arrival at Illinois.
"First of all, I know I need to get faster. Track is just starting, so I'm going to get to my coach and get to working out. I'm in the weight room right now. I want to get stronger and faster."
What can Illini fans expect to see out of Whitlow in the future?
"I feel like I'm a real aggressive, physical guy. I don't think jamming me is going to work. If you want to try to jam me, good luck. After the catch, once I get the ball I'm trying to score."
For a corner, trying to overpower Whitlow proves difficult. His physical stature and athleticism make defending him a real task.
"Last time I measured in I was 6'2" tall and weighed 198 pounds. I haven't run a 40 in awhile, but my fastest time was 4.5 flat."
What does Whitlow look forward to most about getting to Illinois?
"I think getting with Coach Petrino and getting to work. I like his fire, and getting with him will make me the best receiver I can be. That can help me get to the next level."