With the NCAA’s ruling that allows college football programs to hire a 10th full-time assistant, the tantalizing talent possibilities of bringing Cory Patterson on staff at Illinois became a prospective reality. Patterson, currently the head coach of Trinity Catholic in St. Louis, is a rising star in the profession and has built his Trinity program into one of the most talent-rich squads in the country. Larry Boyd was the first to buy into Lovie’s rebuild program, but an unbelievable talent pipeline could be secured should Smith buy into Patterson’s ability to coach (and bring his 4- and 5-star prospects with him to Champaign).
Before going through the bevy of top-250 prospects on the Trinity roster, all gathered by Patterson, it’s first necessary to understand the man himself. Patterson is a high-energy young coach that prides himself on bettering the lives of the young men he coaches, making sure they take academics seriously and are motivated to get a degree first. So does he fit the profile of a Lovie Smith and Whitman hire? Yah, I’d say so, emphatically.
I won’t pretend to be an expert in the St. Louis football scene, but from what I understand, Trinity was not a powerhouse program until Patterson got the city's best talent to buy into him, and then buy into each other and believe in the dream. They built Trinity from nothing. Again, does that sound familiar? The man has catapulted himself into the limelight in a city that recently finds itself packed to the gills with talent. The early signing period throws a wrench into landing late 2018 prospects, but it wouldn’t hurt to give Thad Ward some extra help down there to close in December and January.
If Patterson sees the opportunity at Illinois and is willing to build nothing into something again, he won’t be doing it alone. Not only is Boyd already on the roster and starting on the offensive line, but he has another handful of kids not only worthy of D-1 scholarships, but likely to impact this Illini rebuild in ways other recruiting groups simply cannot. The ringleader of that group is quarterback Isaiah Williams (familiar!), a 5-10, 185-pound blur in the mold of Antwan Randel-El. The kid is lightning in a bottle and a Twitter highlight waiting to happen on any play. From the reports, a Williams commitment would mean more towards securing the pipeline than any other prospect (notice I said "prospect", not "coach"). But Williams isn’t alone. Marcus Washington is the play-making receiver to open up Illinois' deep passing game. Shammond Cooper is the speedy linebacker Hardy Nickerson has been searching for high and low. Ira Henry is a Larry Boyd clone that would fit the mauling mode of the Illinois offensive line future. And on and on and on we could go.
These are prospects you typically see Ohio State, Michigan, Alabama and Notre Dame fighting over, and Illinois doesn’t typically belong. The fact that these prospects list Illinois already shows the quality of work put in by Lovie Smith and Thad Ward - adding a familiar and powerful recruiter in Patterson could put them over the top and earn some commitments.
Simply put, there might not be any other realistic coaching option (since Nick Saban seems pretty comfy at Alabama) that could impact the Illinois program as drastically as Cory Patterson.