Illinois coach Tim Beckman received a rude awakening with last season’s 2-10 finish, which included a winless Big Ten campaign.
Beckman is now looking for his second Illini recruiting class to help fix some of those problems.
Early start: Beckman signed 10 recruits early, and they have enrolled into Illinois for the spring semester. The 10 players included five from high school and five from junior college.
Of the early enrollees, defensive back Darius Mosley was the highest ranked by ESPN. Mosley, who is 5-foot-11 and 185 pounds, is ranked No. 42 among athletes. As a senior at O’Fallon (Ill.), he caught 10 touchdown passes, returned two punts and one kickoff for touchdowns, had 33 tackles and intercepted one pass. He’s expected to play in the secondary for Illinois.
“Some schools go the juco route because that’s what they do,” ESPN Midwest recruiting coordinator Jared Shanker said. “Illinois is probably more indicative that they feel like they need help right away. You can’t go 2-10 too many times and remain there. They feel like they need immediate help and juco is the best route to go there.”
Top recruit: Miami Norland (Fla.) defensive end Paul James III is the Illini’s most highly-ranked recruit. He is ranked No. 200 overall and No. 15 at his position. He also happens to be the last commitment Illinois received. He committed on Jan. 30.
“It looked like he was going to end up at West Virginia,” Shanker said. “Out of nowhere, he decided to commit to Illinois. I think it’s definitely a huge pickup and gives them some momentum to close out the class.”
In-state recruiting: Of the state’s top 50 recruits, Illinois landed eight of them. The Illini missed out on the top eight players from Illinois. Mosley, who was No. 9 in the state, was their top in-state recruit.
Illinois’ other Top-50 in-state recruits were Bolingbrook athlete Aaron Bailey (No. 12), Charleston safety Dillan Cazley (No. 16), Belleville Althoff Catholic defensive tackle Merrick Jackson (No. 17), Peoria Richwoods running back Kendrick Foster (No. 35), Ottawa wide receiver Miguel Hermosillo (No. 41), Plainfield Central defensive tackle Bryce Douglas (No. 45) and Crete-Monee cornerback Jaylen Dunlap (No. 49).
“They still need to do a better job in state,” Shanker said. “I think the biggest issue is they weren’t really in the running for a lot of the top players.”
Future quarterback: Bailey could be a future starting quarterback for the Illini. He wasn’t recruited everywhere as a quarterback because some questioned his throwing ability, but Beckman has promised him a shot at the position. Bailey led Bolingbrook to a Class 8A state title as a junior while at quarterback.
“He might have been the No. 1 guy they thought they had to get in the 2013 class, Shanker said. “They beat out some big schools for him. He’s the headline recruit for Beckman since coming to Illinois.”
Secondary depth: Beckman talked after last season about needing more depth in his secondary. He addressed in that recruiting class and has up to seven players who could play cornerback or safety.