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Lincoln Logs #5: Make It Our State, Our Team.

Talk is cheap; it's time for action.


Lincoln Logs is an 11-part series from The Champaign Room's Brandon Birkhead explaining how the University of Illinois can go about building a winning football program.

The Illini's "Our State Our Team" has been a magnet for controversy since its inception before the 2012 athletic year. Some think it makes the Illini look weak, as it seems to be a direct reply to Northwestern's "Chicago's Big Ten Team". Others say the Illini shouldn't even have to say it. Obviously we are the state school. Still, many find that finally having a stated goal is a positive thing for the athletic program at large, myself included.

But right now, that's all it is; a stated goal. In order for the University of Illinois to finally build a successful football program, they have to win the state of Illinois.

It's a simple concept, but it may be one of the most important steps in building Illini football. As Tim Beckman has stated, the Illini need to "Keep our kids home." The Illini should be bringing in many of the best players in the state. Sadly, they have not been too successful at it.

Here's a list of the top players in Illinois for the 2013 class according to Rivals.

Name & Position
Committed to
Laquon Treadwell, WR
Ty Isaac, RB
Ethan Pocic, OL
Kyle Bosch, OL
Aaron Bailey, QB
Matt Alviti, QB
Logan Tuley-Tillman, OL
Jack Keeler, OL
Josh Augusta, DT
Garret Dooley, LB
Colin McGovern, OL
Notre Dame
Darius Mosely, DB
Jalen Banks, DB
Demetrius Cooper, DE
Michigan St.
Reggie Spearman, LB
Tyler Lancaster, OL
Colin Goebel, OL
Kendall Moore, OL
Ruben Dunbar, DE
Not committed
Dilan Cazley, DB

All in all, considering that Illinois just hired a new coach, and were coming off a 7-6 season that included 6 losses down the stretch, this isn't too awful. But it's nowhere near the standards that Illinois needs.

Not getting Ethan Pocic was really upsetting for me, considering that his big brother Graham was a standout for Illinois. It is tough to pass up an LSU offer, but Graham chose Illinois over Florida, Tennessee, Michigan, Wisconsin and Penn St. With the family connection that was present, it's a major let down to miss on Ethan Pocic.

And here are the top players from Illinois for 2014 (Rivals)

Player Stars Committed to
Clifton Garrett, LB 4 Not Committed
Nyles Morgan, LB 4 Not Committed
Jamarco Jones, OL 4 Ohio St
Dewayne Hendrix, DE 4 Not Committed
Mikale Wilbon, RB 4 Vanderbilt
Daniel Helm, TE 4 Tennessee
Justin Jackson, RB 4 Northwestern
Parrker Westphal, DB 4 Not Committed
Enoch Smith Jr., DT 4 Michigan St
Clayton Thorson, QB 4 Northwestern
Chris James, RB 3 Not Committed
Nic Weishar, TE 3 Notre Dame
Brian Allen, OL 3 Michigan St
Dylan Thompson, DE 3 Ohio State
Ian Bunting, TE 3 Michigan
Kyron Watson, LB 3 Kansas
Trent Sherfield, ATH 3 Vanderbilt
Greg Taylor, DB 3 Missouri
Nile Sykes, LB 3 Not Committed
Nick Allegretti, OL 3 Illinois

Only one. The Illini have only one player committed from the top 20 players in Illinois. This is not a good sign. Granted there are still some who have not committed that Illinois still has a small chance of getting. Dewayne Hendrix is a player I'd love to see in orange and blue.

It's tough to convince good football players to come to Illinois after a season like the Illini had, especially when they have other Big Ten, SEC or Big 12 offers. Most players want to win and to go to a school where they can contribute the most to that winning. Right now, Illinois is at a disadvantage in recruiting the top players from Illinois.

But it must be done to build a team. The Illini have to find a way, whether it's through convincing players with playing time or distance to home, the Illini cannot allow the top players from the state to go to other Big Ten programs.

Now, not all hope is gone. Wes Lunt is from Illinois, and getting him can be a big help in convincing other skill players from the state to come play for the Illini.

It also seems that Illinois will have 5 star CB Adoree Jackson in for a visit eventually. He is from California, but he was originally from Belleville, Illinois, so for all intents and purposes, he is an in-state recruit. I don't think that the Illini will get Jackson, but it's huge to have a guy like him giving Illinois the time of day. If he somehow signs....

The 2007 Rose Bowl team had two star players from the Washington DC area (Regis Benn, Vontae Davis), but the other key players Juice Williams, Rashard Mendenhall, Jon Asamoah, J Leman, and Brit Miller all came from Illinois.

The key to recruiting at any school starts with winning your state. Other Big Ten schools are beating out the Illini in recruiting top Illinois players. To become a solid program, this can't happen. The Illini need to recruit better in the state of Illinois. The Illini need to make "Our State Our Team" more than words.

They need to make it a reality.

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