Because of the unexpected popularity of the Early Signing Period in December, this Wednesday in February doesn’t have the same Night-Before-Christmas feel as usual.
To use the same analogy, most of the presents are unwrapped — 18, to be exact. Only a few remain under the proverbial football tree, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t stay up late reloading Twitter and wake up early trolling the message boards for the latest rumor.
Lovie is predictably quiet about how many scholarships Illinois has left for the 2018 class, and without a degree in predictive calculus, the new “grayshirt” and “blueshirt” rules make things even more confusing.
What we do know for sure is that Illinois just landed commitments from a trio of kids on Super Bowl Sunday, and a few more will pop on the OG Signing Day.
The Champaign Room does an excellent job breaking these kids down one-by-one, so I won’t waste too many pixels recapping what’s already been written. What we can see is that Lovie’s going back to the well, and it’s the in-roads in Texas and California. For late risers, this is the best strategy.
A 3-star in California, Texas, and Florida is on average just better than a 3-star from Illinois. (Sorry, guys, but it’s true.)
Ezekial Holmes, DE; Wichita Falls, TX:
Much like Isaiah Gay from last class, Holmes was a late riser that had a huge senior year but didn’t receive the attention he might have deserved due to his slight frame. Hopefully Illinois has enough depth to let Holmes bulk up and work on his technique for a year or two before getting thrown into the trenches.
Matthew Robinson, QB; San Juan Capistrano, CA:
New Offensive Coordinator Rod Smith’s pick for his first quarterback recruit. I like Robinson’s tape and am surprised he didn’t have more offers on the table this late. Maybe that’s why quarterbacks jump on offers so early, maybe he was overlooked for being just a shade over 6-feet tall; either way, I’m excited to see what Smith was sitting on at Arizona and might have been stifled to offer.
Kenyon Sims, RB; San Diego, CA:
A speedy back from Southern California? I’m in. Sims is a one-cut back that doesn’t have the shimmy-shake of Reggie Corbin, but he does plant and go, reaching top speed very quickly and getting everything that’s blocked as well as beating guys to the edge for some home runs.
The James Kirkland Competitive Advantage:
Besides for The Cherry on Top, this is probably the most exciting of the bunch. The earlier reference to Isaiah Gay was an unknown, and has tremendous potential in this program. Sydney Brown was completely unknown until a month ago, and his film screams ‘Bennett Williams’ running mate’.
Illinois has few advantages over the rest of the conference, and James Kirkland sitting by himself and pouring over obscure high school film is one of those few. And now that Lovie has caught on that his late interest will bring the vultures, he’s stealthy in revealing Kirkland’s latest find.
Quarterback Coran Taylor was the first commit of the 2018 class, but due to some academic work has had to postpone his signing a month. True to his word, the special athlete is close enough to eligibility that he’ll be signing tomorrow. That’s huge for Illinois, who is in desperate need for both quarterback talent and special athletes. Taylor has Cam Thomas-type speed but is a more powerful athlete, and if his arm accepts the passing seasoning of Rod Smith, he could be a terror for Big Ten defenses.
The Cherry on Top:
Have you noticed Illinois tweeting out a lot of linebacker-specific material? Brian Urlacher congratulations, All-Time NFL linebacker rankings, etc.? Yeah, that’s all pointed at The Cherry on Top of the class, a possible starting middle linebacker in Merlin Robertson from Junipero Serra, California. Robertson seems almost too good to be true, an All-American who’s slipped through the blue blood cracks and is down to Illinois and Arizona State. If you’re waking up early tomorrow and checking the crystal balls, it’ll be for Robertson.
So, it’s not a days worth of press conferences and letters coming through the warm fax machine, but the Illini class of 2018 isn’t complete, and its eventual measure is still to be decided.
What are you most excited for tomorrow? Let us know in the comments!