Illinois needs to recruit at least two top offensive tackles for the upcoming recruiting class. There are a large number of talented prospects throughout the Midwest, and the Illini are touching bases with most of them. Among those who have visited in the last couple months is Chagrin Falls, Ohio, tackle Sam Coverdale.
Coverdale was impressed with his visit to campus. He provided an excellent summation of his visit.
"Before my football tour, I went with one of the professors. He showed me around the engineering school, which was really nice. And I got a chance to see the campus. That part was mostly for my dad.
"Then on the trip, we went and talked to the coaches. The recruiting guy gave a speech, the head coach talked, and then we were separated by our positions. From there I went with the o-linemen, and we had a player panel meeting, where three offensive guys and three defensive guys talked about what it's like.
"After that, we went and watched the o-lineman film for a little bit, and Coach (Luke) Butkus talked to us. Then they took us to their stadium, and we walked around a little bit and saw their equipment room and all the nice gear and stuff they have coming in. Then we went down to the weight room for a little bit."
Several things impressed Coverdale.
"I thought it went pretty well. I liked talking to Coach Butkus, the strength coach (Aaron Hillmann) and Coach (Tim) Beckman. The facilities were really impressive. I'm pretty sure the strength coach said it's the biggest football-specific weight room in the nation. It was very impressive; I liked it a lot. Their equipment was really nice too.
"My favorite part was the player panel part. We had some good conversations, and the people knew what they were talking about. I really like the school; I thought that was great."
Steve Clinkscale is his recruiting coach.
"I like him. I didn't really get a chance to talk to him on my visit because I talked to Coach Butkus. But between the few messages we exchange and a couple phone calls, I can tell he is a nice guy."
Coverdale knew about Beckman before he was hired at Illinois. He has a good feeling about the future of the Illini program.
"I think they are going to be good because Coach Beckman came from Toledo, which was a really good program. I remember watching the Ohio State game when they played Toledo, and I think they only lost by 5, so that was impressive.
"I can't imagine what he can do with a Big Ten program like Illinois with a little more recruiting power and more to work with overall. I think they'll be pretty good this year."
The Illini haven't offered him a scholarship yet, but that may still be possible in the future.
"I have four offers right now: Akron, Ohio, Toledo, and Yale. I'm getting talked to by West Virginia, Cincinnati, Indiana, Michigan, NC State, a couple Ivy League schools, Northwestern, and Vandy. They are all good; I like all of them at this point."
What does he want in a school?
"I think academics are right there with football when looking at colleges. Obviously my goal is to go to the NFL. But if that doesn't work, hopefully I got some good education, and I can go out and get a really good job. Going somewhere just to play football isn't what I'll do.
"Besides that, it'll just come down to the feel I get—if I like the coaches, if I like the players, if I like the campus. It will be several things because I will be spending four years there and will be doing more than just playing football."
The 6'-7", 280 pounder feels he has several assets as an offensive lineman.
"I think I am good at thinking on the field. I like to take my intelligence on the field and think on my feet and figure out what the defense is doing mid-play or before the snap—basically reading the defense because that helps lineman out a lot.
"My size helps a lot; I am usually the biggest guy out there by quite a bit. But that will go away soon. Also, I think I have quick feet for my size, which gets me in position to block. And I think I'm pretty strong."
Of course, there is always room for improvement.
"I think what I am lacking most right now is my explosiveness; I don't think I'm as explosive as I should be. I can just be a little faster off the line. And I need to improve my strength my getting in the weight room more."
Kenston High School had success on the field last fall.
"We finished pretty well. We went 6-4 but failed to make playoffs because we had a tough loss early in the season. We had a good team, which was about half seniors and half juniors, so we'll have some experience coming back. But overall, I thought it was a great season."
Coverdale is optimistic his senior season will be even better.
"I think we will be pretty good. Our goal is to go 10-0 and go far in the playoffs. I definitely think we will finish above .500 because we have a couple good guys coming back and a couple new kids on the team that should help. We also got a new coach and offensive coordinator, so with the new staff it should be fun. We should be good."