Yes, it's true! Fighting Illini football beat out the likes of Nebraska, Louisville, and California for three-star defensive back Antwan Collier (FL) on Sunday. The news was huge for a several reasons, but primarily because it was the first out-of-state prospect to commit to Lovie Smith and the new coaching staff. Additionally, it put an end to what quickly became a very uneventful few months of recruiting for the program.
But before we get ahead of ourselves, it's worth noting that there's still plenty of time before Signing Day. In fact, Collier told 247Sports that he's still planning to take official visits to Nebraska, Louisville, and California; he also mentioned that his first trip to Champaign will take place in September. I don't think the Illini need to worry about a change of heart in this instance, but that's always a possibility in football recruiting -- it's just how the process goes sometimes.
Let's assume for the time being that Collier will definitely suit up for the Orange and Blue next Fall. What skills will he bring to the table? According to Scout's Corey Bender, the 6-foot-3 prospect plays a particularly physical brand of football.
Collier is a young man that certainly passes the eye test with his prototypical size and frame in the secondary. Collier plays a physical brand of football, and shows no problem coming downhill to deliver a blow on the ball carrier.
He's fairly raw from a technical standpoint, and in my opinion, projects best in the back end of the defense at safety, but Collier provides undeniable size, length and instincts.
It'll be interesting to see if Collier's commitment can help entice a trio of talented Miami Central high school prospects to Champaign. Three-star defensive end Owen Carney and three-star wide receiver Carmoni Green have quickly emerged as two of Illinois' top targets, and running back Kywan Smith also appears to be trending towards the Orange and Blue.
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On Sunday, Indiana native Kris Wilkes included the Fighting Illini on his narrowed list of 11 schools. The 6-foot-7, 190-pound prospect is currently the No. 15 overall player in 247Sports' class-of-2017 composite rankings.
Smith also named Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin, Villanova, Xavier, and Stanford as finalists. Smith is the No. 67 overall player in 247Sports' class-of-2017 rankings.
"I was excited because I got to be back with these special group of guys and the coaching staff for another year," Thorne said. "I always wanted to come here and do something special — win big, win a championship.
"I like what they've done. I like that Josh Whitman came in with decisive action, got Lovie Smith. I think the big question was 'Is he a college coach?' Well we're going to find out, but he put one staff together that I think, I'm excited about Hardy Nickerson, both the coach and player and I'm excited about Garrick McGee and the other assistant coaches.