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Sunday Scaries: IU lands top recruit in program history

Illinois Football should always be producing a better product than IU Football. This past week was a setback.

NCAA Football: Southern Illinois at Indiana Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports

In this new bi-monthly Sunday series, The Champaign Room has the “Sunday Scaries.” Usually reserved for those college students who are hungover with tons to do on Sundays, TCR will fight off the “scaries” and look at the rest of the Big Ten and how the Illini might be scared — and how to fend it off.

The hits just keep on coming. We won’t beat the dead horse, but this past week was not a good look for Illini Football, particularly when you look at what happened to the receiving corps.

Jeff Thomas. Wide receiver at Miami. Commits to transfer to Illinois, only to back off that pledge and return to The U. A.D. Miller. Wide receiver at Oklahoma. Commits to transfer to Illinois, only to back off that pledge and return to OU. Dejon Brissett. Wide receiver at FCS Richmond. Commits to transfer to Illinois, only to back off that pledge in order to commit to Virginia.

There is some hope despite those losses. Four-star, in-state wide receiver recruit Jadon Thompson appeared to re-affirm his commitment to the Illini last Monday night:

Sunday Scaries and Indiana Football

An important concept to remember, and something often forgotten is this sad, but true fact: Things that happen to the Illini, good or bad, don’t happen in a vacuum. There are other Big Ten teams competing for the same goals and accomplishments.

Illinois is dominating the St. Louis-area recruiting scene thanks in large part to assistant coach Cory Patterson. That connection will continue to be of upmost importance in the coming months and years. While that’s looking good and is all fine and dandy, we must also acknowledge and keep in mind that other programs in neighboring states are doing the exact same thing in different regions.

Illinois is a football program that should — even to the neutral college football fan without a dog in the fight — be better than Indiana’s football program. This past week, IU got its top-ranked recruit in the era: receiver Rashawn Williams out of Detroit.

Indiana’s running backs coach is former Michigan Wolverines star Mike Hart; Hart’s been at IU three years now and does the heavy lifting in recruiting for head coach Tom Allen. The Hoosiers went into Michigan and Michigan State’s backyard and snatched the top playmaker in the state. Rashawn Williams had offers from those two programs as well as other top landing spots such as LSU, Nebraska and others.

Illinois does not play Indiana this coming 2019 season when Williams will be a senior in high school. It’s also impossible to know at this stage just how much of a factor (or non-factor) he’ll be in his freshman year at Indiana in 2020 when the Illini have the Hoosiers back on the schedule, a road game in November wedged between home games versus Iowa and Ohio State.

It’s also important to keep in mind that Rashawn Williams’ commitment is still a verbal one; the earliest a 2020 prospect can sign a Letter of Intent would be on Dec. 18, 2019 during Division I Football’s early signing period.

Overall point: In the past, particularly in the midwest states + Missouri, the blue-chip recruits would typically all sign with Ohio State, Michigan, Notre Dame and to a slightly lesser extent Michigan State. There are exceptions, but it was highly unusual to see a top recruit from anywhere in the country choose to attend a mid-to-low-tier Big Ten football program.

More recently, “lesser” programs like Illinois, Purdue and now Indiana are dipping into neighboring states and successfully recruiting top players to join their respective football programs. Is this a trend or more of an anomaly in 2019 and heading into 2020 and beyond? It’s something to keep an eye on as the 2019 school year starts and summer practice begins.

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