Three-star linebacker Tarique Barnes signed with Illinois on Wednesday.
He is the 13th member of the Class of 2019 for the Fighting Illini and, barring any huge surprises today, will be the final member.
Barnes is from Memphis and is ranked as the 109th-best OLB according the 247Sports’ composite rankings. According to 247, he held offers from Mississippi State, Arkansas and Missouri, but it should be noted those offers were from last spring and summer and all three schools signed huge classes. There is a chance those offers were pulled or were offers contingent on a spot opening up.
Barnes visited Illinois in late January and committed days later.
The 6-foot, 216-pound linebacker likely won’t see the field right away as Illinois looks to pick up depth on defense, but Lovie Smith and staff have not been strangers to throwing freshmen into the system through his first three years in Champaign. The Illini return Jake Hansen and Jimmy Marchese next year at the position, as well as adding Milo Eifler, who sat out the 2018 season after transferring from Washington.
Lovie Smith used three linebackers sets more often than Hardy Nickerson did after Lovie took over the play calling duties for defense. Depth at linebacker moving forward will be key and with Shammond Cooper, Tarique Barnes and sophomores Khalan Tolson and Jacob Hollins, the Illini have several young options to develop for the future.
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