He hasn't set up his official visits as of yet, but he knows he'll visit Stanford, Indiana and Nebraska, the three teams on his list which he hasn't seen personally as of yet.
There is also the hope that he could take those as soon as possible after the season begins, but Gilliam said that his own season will dictate that more than anything. "We had a good year last season, and it's the most important part of my senior year. I want us to go farther as a team than we did before," Gilliam said of his Cardinals which went 9-2 last season, bowing out in the second round of the playoffs. "I know we think we can do better than that this year."
Gilliam will be a huge part of that, the 6-2, 205 lbs. linebacker looking to improve upon a season ago where he notched approximately 90 tackles, including five sacks as well as forcing four fumbles, playing both outside linebacker positions in his school's 4-3 defense as well as making plays in the second level as well as coming off the edge.
Those jobs fit him, because with his size, his reported 4.48/40 speed and his 34-inch vertical, you can figure he's got the athleticism to do just that. "My speed and athleticism help me a lot, obviously. But I think am smart out there – pretty aware," he said. He's also got the attitude ideal for that side of the ball. "When you go out there, wherever the ball is at you have to be right there with it. And you have to do what you can to get it loose," Gilliam said. "And when you get there, get with there an attitude."
Not hard to see why Gilliam has offers from all of his favorites, but another six beyond that.
Nebraska may be in his top five, but they are one of the more recent offers he's gotten, and Joe has found himself asking questions of Wide Receivers Coach Ted Gilmore, the Husker coach recruiting him right now. And he's done the usual in regard to reading what the school sends him as well as checking up on line. One thing about the Huskers which you can tell is very important to him based on the other schools he's looking at, is something he was actually surprised about in regard to the Huskers. "I didn't know they were as good of an academic institution as they are. I didn't know they had all those Academic All-Americans," Gilliam said of Nebraska's 269 which ranks first in all of the NCAA when it comes to CoSIDA Academic All-Americans, ahead of second-place Notre Dame which currently boasts 206.
Another thing Gilliam said he likes about the Huskers isn't just the tradition they have had as a team, but the tradition the Husker Head Coach himself has had as a defensive guy at the collegiate level. "He was a great Defensive Coordinator for LSU when they won the national title," Gilliam said of Bo Pelini, who will be going into his second year as the Head Coach of the Huskers following his time down at LSU. And Gilliam said that his time at LSU is a better barometer for what Pelini likes to do versus what he had to do last year in his first year as the Head Coach of the program. "Down at LSU he had the players he wanted, and at Nebraska he's just getting started. It's kind of hard to know exactly what a coach wants to do if you are pretty sure he doesn't have all the players he needs to do it. But at LSU you get a much better idea," he said. "I liked how they played defense, how they used their linebackers and just how they ran to the ball. It's a great defense. It's exciting and a lot of fun to watch."
Being at the beginning of that might be a bit of a turnoff for some players as they want to come into programs more established, already with guys who have proven it time in and time out. But with a program like Nebraska under second-year Head Coach trying to get back to some of that old tradition, and then at Stanford under Jim Harbaugh, who is trying to build one with the Cardinal, Gilliam finds situations more to his liking. "If you are doing it a place it's been done before, maybe the year before, you really aren't doing anything special. You are just continuing what others have done," he said. "But if you are there at the beginning of something or around there, and then it becomes something, that would be pretty special to be part of helping to make it happen versus just being another person who was doing a lot of the same stuff."
The timeline for his decision will be based on the season for him, as well as just when he can get those official visits out of the way. Unlike a trend we have seen over the last few years you won't catch Gilliam even thinking about making a decision on a school he hasn't even seen. But he's got his five, which puts him ahead of the curve even when you look at all the commits to programs right now.
Now he's just wanting to get a better feel for the programs he doesn't know as much about. "It's just part of the process, but it's fun. It's nice having these kinds of opportunities," he said. "Now I just need to do all the work that goes into making sure I pick out that best place for me."