Future Center Spencer Explains UI Decision

Joe Spencer (Jack Lyman)

Quality football centers are hard to find. They must combine athleticism and aggressiveness with intelligence and leadership skills. The Fighting Illini now have a commitment from center Joe Spencer from Mason, Ohio, who has those traits. He talks about his decision to attend Illinois.

Joseph Spencer is now committed to Illinois. He explains the timing of his decision.

"Last night, I sat down with my parents and weighed all my options and decided whether to take more visits. Everything we talked about, Illinois was at the top and where I liked the most. It's where I want to be, so I called Coach (Jeff) Brohm last night."

Head coach Ron Zook was busy with a daughter's wedding, postponing Spencer's call to him.

"I tried to call Coach Zook last night, but he was at a wedding. I'll call him today. I'm sure it's a stressful time for him. I hope to put a little smile on his face."

Reasons for the decision were plentiful.

"It's the Big 10 Conference. I really liked the campus. It's the kind of college town I'm looking for. And I really liked the coaching staff and the guys on the team. I've talked to the guys constantly since I was offered after the camp."

In addition, offensive line coach Joe Gilbert made a strong impression at an Illini one-day camp in June.

"Reflecting on my experience at camp, and especially working with Coach Gilbert, I know he has the best interests for me. He's a great coach, and I really liked working with him. He made me realize he was the kind of guy I could work with through 4 to 5 years."

One current Illini player had a big impact on the Mason, Ohio, star's decision as well.

"The one I talked to the most was Bud Golden. I played against him my freshman year. Sycamore is just right down the road. He answered all my questions, told me all about what is going on there. He told me their goal is a Big 10 championship, and that's what I want to do when I get up there.

"He explained about all the little things that coaches can't answer for you, like the academics and coming in during the summer. He was definitely great answering all my questions. He helped me define why I wanted to go there."

Spencer played tackle last year for his high school team, but he moves to center this season. That will be his college position.

"They recruited me for center. That is a great situation, coming in and working with Coach Gilbert. I want to play as soon as possible, but with a three year starter ahead of me (Graham Pocic), it will be hard to play next year.

"But if I get in there and redshirt, I can learn from him, which will be great for me. It's a perfect setup for an offensive lineman, having a year to get big and get ready to play college football."

Spencer has attributes ideal for the position.

"One of the best things I bring to the center position is my athleticism. I'll be able to handle the guy right in front of me or getting up to the linebackers. And I'm looking forward to the challenge and opportunity to call all the sets and make the changes.

"The biggest thing for me is the opportunity to lead the offensive line. I can help encourage and help pick up the guys to my left and right. It's a great opportunity for me; it's the captain of the offensive line. It's something I'm really looking forward to participating in.

"Actually, my dad played center in college. He's been working with me and helping me a little bit with the snapping and stuff like that."

He's well on his way to getting big.

"I weigh 280. After last season, I bulked up a little bit. My forty time went down a little bit, so it's good weight. So I'm feeling good for the season.

"When I get on campus, I'll put on a little more weight. I can put more on my legs once I start working with a strength coach."

Academics also helped sway Spencer toward the Illini.

"I'm looking at Engineering or Business, which are two top schools at Illinois. So it's a perfect fit."

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