6’0” 180 lbs., ATH
Rivals Rating = 5.5 / 3 star
Xavier Scott is one of five Florida natives in Illinois’ 2022 recruiting class. According to his prospect profile, he was recruited by wide receivers coach George McDonald and defensive coordinator Ryan Walters. Scott is a late addition to the class and is likely to join the team as a “blueshirt,” meaning that he’ll count towards next year’s scholarship limit despite coming in with this year’s class. This practice is becoming more common as coaches are looking to flip their rosters and create an influx of young talent as quickly as possible.
Scott compares best to current cornerback Tahveon Nicholson. Like Nicholson, Scott is an unheralded recruit coming out of high school. Scott, however, possesses more height, weight and upside at this point in his career. This past season, Nicholson showed some flashes as a redshirt freshman, starting two games and playing in eight games total. It’s safe to assume that Scott will have that same type of trajectory — redshirting his first year on campus and then finding playing time soon thereafter.
Despite the defense coming on strong during the 2021 season, a glaring weakness was the overall lack of depth, size and talent in the secondary. Very few of the players in the Illinois secondary would have seen playing time on championship caliber Big Ten teams. Defensive coordinator Ryan Walters did a phenomenal job of hiding the deficiencies, but true talent is needed to push this program over the top.
Bret Bielema and staff quickly identified needs as the season went along and began targeting certain types of players that would fit into the offensive and defensive schemes. Xavier Scott fits the mold at both wide receiver and defensive back. He’s a kid that will enter college with a good sized frame, the ability to add on more mass, a solid skill set and plenty of athleticism to boot.
Scott flashes an explosiveness with the ball in his hands on offense. He’s able to get up to his top end speed quickly and has some shiftiness to make defenders miss. At receiver, he judges the flight of the ball well and displays the ability and athleticism to high point the ball when needed.
Defensively, Scott will be able to fit anywhere in the secondary, but will likely land at cornerback. He shows fluid hips and the speed to keep up with any receiver he’s matched up against. His natural receiver skills parlay into reading the flight of the ball as a defender. Cornerbacks that have Scott’s height, athleticism and coverage ability are difficult to find.
Outside of Illinois’ offer, Scott secured offers from Air Force, Florida Atlantic, Georgia State, UMass, and Pittsburgh. Scott finished the year with a Rivals rating of 5.5. That rating may turn out to be a gross miscalculation due to Scott’s size and the ability he flashes on film.
Scott likely won’t see the field during his first year on campus, but he is an excellent recruit. Anytime there is an opportunity to upgrade the talent, especially young talent at a position of need, measures should be taken to make that happen. Coach Bielema’s use of the blueshirt status is a creative way to flip the roster and add young players with upside potential. If Scott lives up to his potential, Illinois fans will be looking back with delight on Scott’s recruitment, while opposing teams will be left wondering how they missed the boat.