I was really hoping the first entry in this series would feature the highest rating on the anxiety meter, but unfortunately, recent events (or lack thereof) have given me...
A Deep Sinking Feeling!
The season starts in a month and a half and we have three commits on board for 2020. One of our top priority targets, Trinity Catholic offensive lineman Jalen St. John, just committed to Mizzou after being seen as a strong Illini lean all summer...until visiting Columbia, which suddenly changed his mind completely. How completely? Well, he felt it appropriate to have the Illinois logo pop up next to a port-o-john in his commitment video, making him the second Trinity Catholic player to dunk on us in a commitment video in July after Mookie Cooper.
Offers haven’t been going out as fast as our top targets have been flying off the board. Now, holding off on the commitments would be one thing. That would suggest that these recruits have a small amount of faith in the Illinois coaching staff and really are waiting to see if a winning team finally materializes on the field. If they had any faith at all, they wouldn’t ALL be committed to other schools already. Sure, we could pull some of them away...if we win 9 games and go to the Big Ten title game or something like that.
Am I overly concerned about recruiting? Of course I am. For one thing, nothing else is happening in the football world just yet. I’d love for camp to just get here so I can stop thinking about recruiting. It’s just going so poorly though.
But more importantly, it feels like we’re at an inflection point with the program right now. The Fighting Illini are going to have to change a lot of minds fast this season to even salvage a full recruiting class. Recruits will be the judge of whether or not this season is good enough to keep Lovie Smith around. If we reach December with three commits, the ship is sinking.
Ron Zook went to two bowl games after the recruiting dried up because everyone lost faith, but ultimately this put the program in a precarious position with some big holes in the roster. If we make that mistake again, we could be looking at a decade without a bowl game.
This is immensely disheartening.