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National Signing Day 2016: De'le Harding can be a difference maker for Illinois Football

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The incoming freshman could be a starting linebacker next season.

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National Signing Day is officially here! Bill Cubit and the Fighting Illini are expected to announce somewhere between 20-25 new additions to the program throughout the day. While most of those players likely won't become major contributors until they're upperclassmen, there are a few early standouts that can become household names sooner rather than later. Today, we'll be highlighting future Illinois linebacker De'le Harding as someone who can be a potential difference maker in the very near future.

De'le Harding

Three-star linebacker De'le Harding committed to Illinois over Michigan and Rutgers on Monday, and he's expected to be a huge part of the Fighting Illini defense moving forward. The former Wolverine verbal held other scholarship offers from schools like Tennessee and Southern Cal, so he clearly has some well-agreed upon talent.

Here's a quick scouting report from Scout.com's Brian Dohn:

"Harding is best when playing downhill and moving between the tackles. He accelerates well toward the line of scrimmage and he has good body control. He needs to be better with his instincts toward the sideline and work on his coverage skills. Harding has the ability to play physical, and he runs well. He needs to work on his disengaging skills."

The Fighting Illini will be replacing two major contributors at linebacker this offseason. Four-year starter Mason Monheim is graduating this Spring, and he was one of the top players in the Big Ten at the position. T.J. Neal, who will be transferring this offseason, was also a two-year starter and was second on the team in tackles (109) last season.

As Jeremy Werner pointed out on Twitter, Harding is essentially the Ke'Shawn Vaughn of this Illinois recruiting class; he's a talented prospect that had an impressive offer list and he provides depth at a huge area of need. Barring any major setbacks, the six-foot-one, 232 lb. recruit will be competing for immediate playing the moment he sets foot on campus.

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Do you spot any other potential difference makers in Illinois' 2016 recruiting class? Drop down to the comments to discuss which players you're excited to see suit up for the Orange and Blue.

National Signing Day 2016 Hub

Make sure to check out TCR's National Signing Day Hub, where we'll be updating you on new commitments, signed NLOI's, and much more throughout the day.