The morning of Dec. 22, 2017 was tense for Illini football fans.
Rumors had been swirling for hours that Verdis Brown, a former Florida State commit who had been hinting at a pledge to the Illini in recent weeks, was instead leaning toward signing his National Letter of Intent with Missouri. Fortunately, Illini fans were able to give a collective sigh of relief as Brown donned the Illini hat and sent his NLI to Champaign.
It’s tough to overstate Verdis Brown’s effect for the Illini. A few key traits that jump out after watching his defensive film is his burst when getting into the backfield and speed when chasing down opposing ballcarriers.
Brown spent time at IMG Academy playing on the offensive line, and he was presumed to be an OL recruit at FSU, but Coach Smith has indicated that Brown will at least start out on defense for the Illini. It’s one thing for a D1-bound high school defensive lineman to simply bullrush and overpower less talented opponents, but you know you have someone special when he overcomes high school competition by coupling brute strength with quickness from the snap and straight-line speed in pursuit.
The pairing of Calvin Avery with Verdis Brown on the interior of the defensive line will be a nightmare for the conference’s many run-heavy teams in the near future. Together they will anchor Lovie Smith’s defense for years to come and will set the stage for Coach Smith to bring in the linebackers and defensive backs who could provide the Illini with a truly dominant defensive unit.
Having an exciting defense with a real identity will be a very welcome sight for weary Illini fans, and securing Verdis Brown’s commitment was a big step in that direction.