Over the past week, we've caught up on what happened to the recruits who signed letters of intent in the 2010 and 2011 classes. The 2012 class is an odd beast. It's made partially of players Ron Zook and his staff spent time recruiting and guys that Tim Beckman & Co had to scramble after the end of the 2011 regular season. Beckman had little time to convince players to stay and make new connections and this unsurprisingly led to a 19 player class.
Even less shockingly, this resulted in a pretty poorly rated recruiting class. The class came in 13th in conference and 64th in the nation. For comparison's sake, that is one spot behind Arkansas State, two behind Duke, and seven behind Houston. Yeah, this is the nadir. No player in this group was a four star recruit, neither by 24/7's own ratings nor their composite.
1- C Joe Spencer. When your highest rated recruit is an offensive lineman whose other offers are MAC schools and a service academy, things aren't going to go well. Spencer is a redshirt sophomore this season and a backup on the offensive line, likely to be a starter in 2015.
2- RB Dami Ayoola. Oh, Dami. Dami, Dami, Dami. Ayoola was going to be the understudy to Josh Ferguson and Donovonn Young before ultimately taking over when the older running backs graduated. And he was certainly talented enough for that to come true. But off-field issues kept getting in the way and he was eventually booted from the team. He committed to Arizona this past week.
3- DT Vontrell Williams. Another recruit roundup, another tragic listing of top three recruits who won't finish their careers as Illini. Williams was booted in March alongside Ayoola.
4- S TaJarvis Fuller. Seriously, this is all sorts of depressing. Fuller made it as far as September of 2012 before "voluntarily leaving the program". Fuller wound up at Butler CC before transferring to Troy.
5- OLB T.J. Neal. Neal is a redshirt sophomore and will at worst be a backup who sees a good deal of play time this year. At best, he beats out Ralph Cooper and starts at weak side linebacker this fall.
6- RB Devin Church. Church may be the main beneficiary from Ayoola's dismissal. Church currently sits third on the running back depth chart.
7- DT Teko Powell. Teko Powell is one of those three stars you kind of fall in love with. Powell chose the Illini over Alabama, Auburn, Florida, and Florida State. Seriously. He'll be starting at DT this fall.
8- RB V'Angelo Bentley. Bentley was converted into a defensive back and that's turned out pretty well for everyone involved. Bentley is a complete burner who more or less is our special teams unit. He'll be one of the starting corners.
9- ATH Lakeith Walls. Redshirt sophomore buried behind Mason Monheim and Mike Svetina at MLB.
10- WR Jason Robertson. Transferred to North Dakota.
11- OLB Mason Monheim. Monheim will be the starting MLB and should be in the top three on the team in tackles. I'm excited for a breakout junior season.
12- OG Robert Bain. Bain has been switched over to defensive tackle. The transition has him at the bottom of the depth chart.
13- WR Justin Hardee. While he's not likely to be one of the top three receivers on the team, Hardee should see a good amount of playing time in four and five wideout sets.
14- ATH Taylor Barton. Barton was converted into a safety and the starting strong safety job is his to lose.
15- K Ryan Frain. Frain will be backing up starting kicker Taylor Zalewski.
16- S B.J. Bello. Bello was converted to linebacker and should see a good amount of time on special teams.
17- OLB Mike Svetina. Svetina needs more seasoning before he can win the starter's job away from Monheim. He'll still see a good amount of playing time though.
18- CB Jevaris Little. Should be on special teams. Will be backing up JUCO transfer Zane Petty at saftey.
19- TE Daniel Rhodes. Was converted to defensive line before being dismissed from the team in October of 2012. Now with the somehow not imaginary North Carolina Central Eagles.
Despite this list getting off to an incredibly depressing start with three of the top four recruits no longer being Illini, things didn't turn out as poorly as I thought they would. It's not a great class, but it's somehow no worse than the previous two despite having less initial top end talent or as many recruits. Enough of these three stars turned into starters to salvage what could have been a disaster.