It seems not too long ago that many factions of Illinois fans questioned the decision to hire Cory Patterson, head coach of Trinity Catholic, over some other potential hires due to his inexperience, especially if he was going to be the tight ends coach.
Well, that talk has definitely subsided.
After he pulled in his second Trinity Catholic player in a month with the commitment of wide receiver Bryce Childress on Thursday, Patterson has Illinois competing with the best of the best for talent in the St. Louis area.
This was always the thinking with the hire. Get Patterson, and you could conceivably sway a large contingency of his former players at Trinity Catholic, a school and a program built from the ground up by Patterson and his elite coterie of footballers.
So far, so good.
Within a couple of months on the job — he wasn't even allowed to recruit on the road until this last week due to NCAA regulations — Patterson has brought in two of his brightest stars in five-star quarterback/athlete Isaiah Williams and now Childress.
These are the kind of players Illinois hasn't received commitments from since the early Ron Zook years, when the Illini were in the discussion with some supremely gifted players like Arrelious Benn and Martez Wilson.
We can talk about Williams and his pied piper status as the one player everyone looks up to at Trinity, but Childress is no slouch either. Due to an offense that had a plethora of options to choose from, Childress didn't get as many touches as he could have.
He made them count, however.
He caught 12 passes for 306(!) yards and six touchdowns during his junior campaign. He also recorded four interceptions on defense.
Lovie Smith and staff beat out several big-time Power Five programs for his and Isaiah's recruitment, and they’re conceivably not done yet.
Trinity Catholic has a few more players Illinois is in on for the class of 2019 and some equally talented players in the class of 2020. Here's a breakdown of some of the more interesting recruits and the chances Illinois seems to have with them.
Class of 2019
This one might be the biggest, both in terms of positional need and immediate impact.
The linebacker from Trinity has a bevy of offers from schools all over the country, but Illinois seems to be in deep with Cooper and his parents and the Patterson-Williams connection might be too much to pass up, especially with the linebacker depth chart in its current situation.
We'll see, but I feel we stand as good a chance as anybody in this recruitment.
A prolific receiver, Washington recently released a top-10 that did not include Illinois. Maybe commitments from his compatriots sway him a little, but I don't get a warm and fuzzy feeling about this one.
He's also got Mizzou working him hard and Oklahoma has done well in the area. I'm just not real confident here.
This one, again, is a huge potential get both positionally and potential-wise. Henry is a man amongst boys, standing at 6-foot-5 at around 320 pounds. He's one of the more gargantuan offensive linemen who the Illini are in on, and, to tell you the truth, I wouldn't guarantee this as a lock either.
However, Illinois does have several of his teammates in the fold, including one of his closest friends in Larry Boyd, who played extensively last year as a true freshman. Patterson will obviously be a big factor, as will Isaiah, but the longer this one drags on, the less confident I become in obtaining his commitment. Another wait-and-see type.
Class of 2020
Teriyon "Mookie" Cooper.
This would be a tremendous addition to Illinois in next year’s class. His speed and ability are second-to-none in the 2020 class, and, as a tailback, he has the ability to break away for a huge play at any moment. Check these stats out: nine carries, 210(!) yards and two touchdowns. Also, he had 21 catches for 405 yards four touchdowns. That's game breaking ability.
This could be anybody's guess in terms of recruiting, and Michigan, Ohio State and Oklahoma are making headway, but if the Illini secure some of these 2019 commits, the sell could be much easier and that could turn the tide in Illinois’ favor. He's a priority target.
Another wideout, Love has a similar skillset to Cooper and can flat-out roast defenders on the outside.
This one will be tough as well to secure a commitment, but the more teammates, the better the odds.
There are other players that I haven't even mentioned, such as running back Alphonso Andrews, Jalen St. John, the list goes on. This is one of the most talented teams in the nation, and Illinois has a strong foothold thanks to the hire of Patterson and the recent rash of commitments from his former players.
It's a brave new world, and this Trinity to Champaign pipeline could make Illinois the toast of college football. What a strange concept.