Marquez Beason — the prized recruit of the 2019 class for Lovie Smith and Illinois — is out for the year.
Illinois announced Monday afternoon that Beason will have season-ending knee surgery in the near future. Last week, Beason was injured during training camp in an injury that Lovie called “significant.”
In a statement, Lovie said: “Marquez Beason will be having season-ending knee surgery in the future. It’s unfortunate. He was one of the highlights early on. He’s going to be a great player.”
Beason was the No. 91 recruit in the nation by ESPN, No. 108 by 247Sports and No. 108 by Rivals when he signed with Illinois in December 2018. The 2019 Under Armor All-American led Duncanville to the 2018 6A Division 1 state title runner-up finish at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas and a 14-1 record.
No. 3 will be primetime television for Illinois for years to come.
The first commitment for the class of 2019 was a doozy for the Illini and Lovie Smith. Beason comes with high expectations to see the field early and often. Pump the brakes on that a bit. Cornerback is a talented position for Illinois, with Nate Hobbs and Quan Martin holding the starting spots, and looking good doing it so far.
However, the coaching staff will find a way to get Beason on the field. He’s too exciting a player to have sit on the sidelines in a make-or-break season.
That’s why you could see some 4-2-5 looks with a third corner to cover the slot, like they ran last year a bit.
He’ll also be involved on special teams in a return role. Or gunner on punt team.
The important thing is to involve him as much as possible, because he is a rare talent Illinois fans haven’t seen very much of recently. A 4.43 40-yard dash. One of the top sprinters in Texas high school last year. A breathtaking athlete that can take the top off a defense, or lock up a future star, just like he did against powerhouse Allen and five-star wide receiver Theo Wease. He can attest to Marquez Beason’s ability at cornerback.
He’ll seamlessly transition to a starter spot sooner than later, a franchise player who will help rebuild a moribund defense.
As a player comp, the obvious is Terry Hawthorne. A similar two-way player at East St. Louis, Black Cat turned into a terrific corner for the Illini on two bowl teams.
No offense to Hawthorne, a player I enjoyed, but I personally see more of a Vontae Davis, pure playmaker with speed to burn. Fluid movement. Nothing lost. Instinctual. A future pro.
He’ll still have four years of eligibility starting in 2020.
We’re with you, man. Frustrating, but you’ll come out stronger.