Prior to this past weekend, it had been a long and disappointing few months of recruiting for Lovie Smith and the Fighting Illini. The program only had seven verbal commitments, and the class as a whole ranked dead last in the Big Ten. Since Friday night, though, Illinois has managed to land two of their top targets in three-star defensive back Tony Adams and three-star offensive guard Larry Boyd. Both are St. Louis natives that picked the Orange and Blue over Missouri.
Larry Boyd commits to Illinois, second in-state recruiting loss in as many days https://t.co/EfF2no3Wrt— Rock M Nation (@RockMNation) August 14, 2016
Yep, you read that correctly. Illinois out-recruited Missouri twice in as many days. What gives? Lovie Smith has stated in the past that St. Louis will be one of his coaching staff’s primary out-of-state recruiting markets and, if Boyd’s comments to Illini Inquirer are any indication, that strategy seems to be paying off.
"The key? Two words: Lovie Smith," Boyd said. "I mean, there ain't no other coach like him in any program. You got Nick Saban and all those other coaches, but Lovie Smith is the man. He's going to be the man around here a long time. I just wanted to get on the train before it took off. I wanted to be the one to say that I was here when we were winning championships with Lovie Smith."
Woah — that’s some high praise by Boyd for someone who he hadn’t previously met until three weeks ago. But is this wave of momentum something that can be maintained in the long run? While my gut is leaning towards ‘no’ due in part to Mizzou’s reign of terror for the past two decades, I think there’s a big opportunity for Illinois. They’ve managed to get their foot in the door thanks to these two players, and a six-win season could propel the program even further into the market.
But since we are obviously looking at the beginning of a trend, here are four other St. Louis natives that will definitely commit to Illinois.
2018 Four-star DT Michael Thompson (Parkway North)
Offer List: Florida, Illinois, Iowa, Iowa State, Kansas State, Louisville, Michigan Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, Ohio State
2018 Four-star DT Trevor Trout (Chaminade)
Offer List: Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Missouri, Nebraska, Texas A&M, UCLA
2018 Three-star WR Cameron Brown (Christian Brothers College)
Offer List: Cincinnati, Illinois, Iowa, Iowa State, Missouri
2019 ATH Isaiah Williams (Trinity Catholic)
Offer List: Illinois, Iowa State, Missouri, Nebraska, Wisconsin
Illinois Fighting Illini Links
The Indiana native is the No. 15 overall player in the country. He’s also considering Indiana, Xavier, UCLA, and UConn. Could he become the replacement for Malcolm Hill?
"Just wins," Barton said. "I don't care about what I do. This year we need to go to a bowl game or better. A quality bowl game or all the way to a Big Ten championship. Being better than before is the main goal."
"In the past, [St. Louis has] been an area where we’ve had a lot of players. We don’t have a lot of players on the roster right now from the St. Louis area. We need to change that, and we’re making progress. We want to get more and more into the St. Louis recruiting area."
Former Illini Men's Tennis All-American, Rajeev Ram, won the silver medal with Venus Williams on Sunday afternoon. The American duo faced fellow-Team USA members, Jack Sock and Bethanie Mattek-Sands in the gold medal match.