National signing day was a week ago and while it meant that the 2013 class was signed, sealed and delivered, it also meant that recruiting for the 2014 class is beginning in earnest. Recruiting never stops, and it's never too early to take a look at possible Illini targets for next season.
Earlier this week Mark went over Rivals' Top 100 for the 2014 class and listed every single player in that top 100 with an offer from the Illini. However, while getting the best talent is always a good thing, what every school has to do if it wants to win regularly is own its own state. And in the 2014 class, while there isn't a bonafide 5-star stud from Illinois, this is a deep class. What it lacks in 5-stars it makes up for in an abundance of 4-stars.
Take a look for yourself, as EdgyTim.com put together a list of the top 30 prospects from the state in the 2014 class.
The top two players are linebackers Clifton Garrett (Plainfield South) and Nyles Morgan (Crete Monee), and what a coincidence, linebacker is an area the Illini will have to fill in the 2014 class. We didn't land a single one in 2013. Now, I don't think we land both -- though I wouldn't mind it! -- but it would be very nice to see one of them head to Champaign rather than Michigan or Notre Dame.
And the good news is that Tim Beckman is trying to get both of them. In fact, of the 30 names on the list, 23 of them already have an offer from the Illini. Of the seven that don't, five are listed as being interested in Illinois. Of course, just because seven of them don't have offers right now that doesn't mean they won't be getting one eventually.
The 2014 class will likely be considerably smaller than the 25 members we saw in 2013. So while Illinois may be interested, it is likely prioritizing some players over others. For instance, there's tight end Blake Hance out of Jacksonville. He's interested in Illinois but doesn't have an offer because there are three other state tight ends who have been offered already.
They are Nic Weishar (#4 prospect in Illinois according to Rivals), Daniel Helm (#8) and Ian Bunting (#11). If one of those three start to turn their attention elsewhere, then guys like Hance will probably get an offer (UPDATE: Guess who picked up an Illinois offer after this post was published? Yep, Blake Hance.).
Now, it's important to point out that no matter how badly we want it to happen, Illinois is not going to get every top player from the state. What's important is that the Illini start making a bigger impact in the area than they have in years past. Getting top players like Aaron Bailey in the 2013 class is a nice start, but it's just that: a start.
Beckman and company need to keep going, and if they succeed the wins and all that Illinois talent will follow.
--- One of those top Illinois recruits is Enoch Smith who is ranked at #14 and is a defensive tackle out of Mt. Carmel in Chicago. Smith visited Illinois last month and he told Rivals he enjoyed the experience.
"I was happy I was able to sit down and speak with Coach [Tim] Beckman on a one-on-one basis," said Smith. "He was telling me how much he wanted to keep the in-state players in-state to play for the state school, and how he wanted to bring back the Illinois tradition."
Smith is also being recruited by North Carolina, which is not a surprise considering Keith Gilmore originally recruited him to Illinois. He also has offers from Cincinnati, Indiana, Purdue and Notre Dame along with some MAC offers.
-- Another Mt. Carmel prospect, running back Matt Domer, got an offer from Syracuse last week. That means he now has offers from Illinois, Northern Illinois and the Orange.
-- One of those seven players with interest in Illinois but not an offer is offensive tackle Shane Evans out of Crystal Lake. Evans was also in town for the junior day last month, and he told Rivals he's hoping for an offer from the Illini soon. He also said he'd like to commit somewhere early, so if interested the Illini should act quickly.
-- Illinois was one of three major colleges to offer New Mexico junior college guard Desmond Lee a scholarship last week. Lee is averaging 21.9 points per game this season, and could be a useful play for John Groce in helping bridge the gap from Bruce Weber's roster to his own.
-- Alex Golesh was named as one of the best recruiters in the Big Ten by Rivals. You can thank our recruiting coordinator for personally helping deliver guys like Caleb Day, Jarrod Clements and Dawuane Smoot from Ohio to Champaign.
-- 5-star point guard and player every single Illini fan with a pulse wants to come to Champaign, Jaquan Lyle, was suspended for a huge game last night for violating team rules. His team lost without him. I still want him.