Signing day finally arrived yesterday and despite going 2-9 last year, the Illini appear to be in good shape. Here’s a quick look at some of the big names that Zook and company inked, the recruits they got beat out for, and some questions that still remain about this class.
Each year, most Big Ten teams have a couple of holes that a recruiting class intends to fill. With this year’s Illini, there are more than just a couple holes. That’s why you’ll notice a mixture of all types of players, from all different places. They have commitments from prep school, junior college, transfers, and high school seniors. Within this recruiting class, there should be at least 4-5 guys who will be able to contribute right away.
THE THREE BIGGEST “GETS” OF THIS CLASS
Sleeper Pick – Antonio James, DE, Washington (OH) – This under recruited defensive end has all the tools to step in and play a big role on the line next year. After giving his oral commitment months ago, he has kept his word even after a serious look from Ohio State. He has the size and strength the excel at the next level and do not be surprised if he is a starter at the end of the year.
- Isiah “Juice” Williams, QB, Chicago Vocational – If you don’t already know this name, you’ve probably been spending too much time TiVo-ing Skating with the Stars or something. It’s been said that Juice is the savior of this program, and we could not agree more. Yes, he will have pressure... but he will succeed on the field, not to mention helping bring in recruits for years to come. Juice = Dee Brown.
- Akim Millington, OT, originally Wheaton North – Akim is a transfer from Oklahoma, where he was etched into the starting line up last year before decided to transfer. Oklahoma’s loss is our gain. Akim will most likely be the starting right tackle, which will help an offensive line that will need to be good with a freshman QB behind them. He has the size and the foot speed to be an All Big-Ten player.
- Vontae Davis, DB, Dunbar (D.C.) – 3 things that make him such an important recruit. 1) He has great bloodlines – his brother Vernon, TE from Maryland, will be a first round pick in the upcoming draft. 2) He is the #1 corner in his region, and CB is a position in need for the Illini. 3) He is teammates with 2 of the nation’s best junior recruits, Arrelious Benn and Nathan Bussey. Of course this does not mean that they will join Vontae at Illinois, but it sure does not hurt our chances.
THE BIGGEST LOSSES
QUESTIONS ABOUT THIS CLASS
- Olu Ajiboye, DT, Banneker (GA.) – This beast of a tackle was looking like he would commit to the Illini after his visit, but has since been wooed by Frank Beamer and the Virginia Tech Hokies. He would have looked real good next to Chris Norwell. To be in his final 3 is still impressive, but impressive gets us nowhere... especially at a position in need.
- Sergio Brown, DB/S, Proviso East – Plain and simple, Sergio is a playmaker. These are the types of players that a defense which struggles to get turnovers needs. He has the speed and strength to play either DB or safety. We need to keep guys like this in state and away from South Bend, where he will be next year. In the end, fellow tight end teammate and Illini basketball recruit Brian Carwell could not persuade Brown away from the Irish.
- Demetrius Jones, QB, Morgan Park – He is headed to Notre Dame, but we are still not convinced that he will ever get a snap at QB ( other then in practice). He is still a recruit that could have helped us with Ramone Johnson and possibly other Chicago recruits. And, unfortunately, Notre Dame getting Chicago kids to go to South Bend gives them more of a presence in the city with future recruits.
See you Pasadena,
- Will guys like Jeff Cumberland and Chris Duvalt make grades?
- Are there any defensive tackles in this class that will be productive?
- Can the J.C. recruits and transfers come in and help right away?
- Can Kyle Yelton be ready to punt next year?
- Can Millington make an instant impact
- Should we have taken a running back in this class?
Ryan and Adam