Chicago DL Back at Illinois

Enoch Smith Jr. of Mt. Carmel is a frequent visitor in Champaign. But he still finds something new to like each time he's there.

Despite being a frequent visitor at Illinois, Enoch Smith Jr. finds something new every time he's on campus in Champaign.

The Chicago Mt. Carmel defensive tackle not only got to meet some of the new personnel at Illinois, he also got to see some of his close friends and even a teammate receive a scholarship offer.

"I met some of the new coaches like the new OL coach and my new recruiting coach Coach Cubit," he said. "Dylan Thompson and Matt Domer got a scholarship too so that was cool."

Though the offer was a bit of a surprise for Domer, Smith Jr. knew for a while that an offer was likely coming for his running back.

"I knew he was going to get an offer a while ago based on his performance and based on what I was hearing from the coaches," Smith said. "He earned it. The coaches pulled him aside and gave him his first Big Ten offer. He was excited."

Mount Carmel has sent several players on to the next level including NIU signee Draco Smith, EIU signee Vince Speller, and Illinois DT Vontrell Williams. With Smith, Domer, and OL Nate Oquendo next in line, Smith says it's a testament to Mt. Carmel as a program and what Coach Lenti has been able to do there.

"I think it says that we're doing a lot of work and that we're putting a lot in both on the field and in the offseason," he said. "We don't focus on getting scholarships though, we focus on getting back to the state title."

Of course, like many players and recruits alike, Smith Jr. was caught off guard by the departure of Coach Keith Gilmore for North Carolina.

"I was shocked when I heard about Coach Gilmore," Smith said. "I found out when I was actually on my way home from junior day. Vontrell called me and sounded a little down. He told me about it. I looked it up on my phone on the way home and there it was."

But despite the departure, Smith's long-standing relationship with Illinois hasn't been easily shaken by the move. He's in no hurry in the recruiting process and wants to see who comes in at Illinois at the DL coach position.

"It doesn't really hurt how I feel about Illinois, even though he was my main recruiter besides Vontrell," he said, "but we'll see where it goes from here. My interest hasn't changed."

In addition to Illinois, a number of schools have turned up the heat on Smith Jr. in recent weeks. And former Illinois Coach Keith Gilmore has already reached out to Smith, who he was recruiting at Illinois.

"Notre Dame has stepped up a bit. NC State, Cincy, Purdue, and Indiana have all offered," he said. "Oregon, Arizona State, Wyoming, Michigan State, Michigan, Duke, Vanderbilt, and North Carolina. I talked to Coach Gilmore tonight. He said he'd hate to steal one of Illinois' recruits but he'd love to have me play for him."

Interestingly enough, Smith feels his next offer could come from a school that recently cut ties with another long-time defensive line coach. Michigan State recently parted ways with 8-year coach Ted Gill, and strangely enough, Smith feels Gill might just stay in the Big Ten.

"The only school I think right now could be close to offering is Michigan State," Smith said. "I think there's a chance he could come to Illinois but I'm not sure."

Smith doesn't have any other visits set in stone yet, but may take some that are close by in the coming weeks.

"As of right now I don't know of any other visits," he said, "but we're going to try to hit Michigan State, Notre Dame, and Indiana sometime in the near future."

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