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Illinois Football 2019 Signing Day Recap: Defensive Backs

Illinois only added two to its defensive backfield, but one of them is one of the best recruits in years.

Twitter: @Ezmoneyquez

After two seasons where Illinois brought in several new defensive backs, the Illini are only bringing in two new players to the defensive backfield.

One of them, however, is ranked in the top 100 according to the 247 composite, and he is the highest ranked recruit for Illinois in years.

Marquez Beason

There is nothing to not love about Beason. He has all the talent you would want out of a defensive back. He had offers from everywhere, but choose to come to Illinois over them all. He oozes swagger, wearing bold, fancy watches on the field.

But most important of all, this dude can play. He has shown great instincts in pass coverage and was a good playmaker in high school, both on defense in grabbing interceptions and as a WR on offense.

I fully expect him to start from day one at corner and never leave that spot for the next 3-4 seasons. I haven’t been as confident in any Illinois’ recruit being good as I have for Beason since the 2007 class with Martez Wilson and Arrelious Benn.

Ceiling: Vontae Davis

Davis didn’t have the recruiting profile of Beason, but he had the career of someone who did. He was a Freshman All-American and two-time All-Big Ten corner for Illinois and was the last corner that Illini had that could be called a “shutdown corner”.

Beason could have a very similar career to Davis if everything goes well. He has NFL skills and is well beyond his years in coverage from watching his highlight tapes.

Floor: Terry Hawthorne

Just think of that, the floor for Beason is the best cornerback for Illinois in the 2010s and a player who was eventually a 5th round draft pick. This is the floor!

Hawthorne was one of the best players on the excellent Illinois’ 2011 defense that gave up under 300 yards per game (286.2 ypg, 7th nationally), and drug a horrible offense to its second bowl game in a row — my how times have changed at Illinois. Hawthorne was always around the play, and was such a steady presence during his four years at corner.

I think Beason should have a much greater impact that Hawthorne had. He has a bit more of a nose for the ball and is a better athlete with a lot more speed. I wouldn’t be shocked if he gets to the level of Davis, but it’s likely he falls a tad short of that. But a tad short of that is still a fantastic cornerback and future NFL player.

Joseph Thompson

Thompson is a three-star DB who had one other power five offer from Iowa State, who Illinois flipped his commitment from last spring.

Thompson is a tough player to predict. Well, in truth, all three-star players with limited power five offers are, but what I mean is I’m not sure what posistion he is, and I don’t think the Illinois coaches do right now either.

His junior year tape showed him mostly being used close to the LOS as a inside corner or field safety.

Not having a certain posistion locked in is not a problem. He will likely redshirt this season, because holy crap Illinois has depth at defensive back for once. He’ll be a player who probably won’t make an impact until year three, but there are always plenty of young players who can come out and surprise.

Ceiling: Solid Starter

When I see Thompson, I don’t see a player that will be getting Big Ten honorable mentions or getting much attention, but I think he could become a reliable player for Illinois in time. He reminds me a lot of Cameron Watkins — who is transferring away from Illinois for his final season of college football. Watkins never really settled on one spot in the defensive backfield, playing both outside and inside corner. He wasn’t a great player, but he was dependable. I wasn’t concerned when he was on the field.

Thompson could be a similar kind of player. He can help fill in at several spots and never be a player you worry about.

Floor: Never finds his place

If Thompson never can settle into a role, it’s possible he can get lost in the shuffle and eventually overtaken by younger, future recruits. This is the story of many players with profiles like Thompson.

As with most three-star defensive backs, it’s really a 50/50 shot if they become contributors to the defense. Here’s hoping Thompson ends up on the better 50% side of things.

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