Chris Bryant, a guard prospect from Chicago Simeon High School, has seen Illinois before. But this weekend afforded him the opportunity to spend a couple days on campus and really get to know the Illinois program thoroughly.
"I expected to be around the players and get to know them. I've been to Illinois a few times but never really got to know them. I wanted to be around the coaches more and build relationships with both the coaches and the players."
Bryant applauded the seamlessness of the visit and was really impressed with the constant activity of the weekend.
"Everything was organized and well set up. They definitely put time and effort into the weekend, and it was a big weekend. They have 26 committed guys and supposedly 18 were there. There really wasn't any dead point in the visit, and it was a lot of fun."
Bryant, as previously mentioned, has been to Illinois for a couple games as well a as couple of events back in the spring. But he gained a much broader spectrum of what Illinois has to offer.
"When I was down this weekend I got to see places I'd never really seen. That was really cool. There's a lot more to do down there than I thought. It's a nice campus and a great college town."
Illini players and fans have found a renewed spirit after a decisive victory in the Texas Bowl. Bryant could tell the difference when he got to spend time with the players and coaches.
"I was talking to the players and the coaches and the expectations they have of this upcoming season and how they want to do great things. Everyone is working toward a national championship working hard with workouts, and the whole atmosphere down in Champaign is exciting. The players are ready to get back into the groove of football."
Bryant spent most of his time on the visit with former Chicago area lineman Jeff Allen. Bryant had great things to say about Allen and has quite a bit of respect for him.
"Jeff is really cool. He's hilarious and down to earth. We spent a lot of time relaxing at his place. He's a great person to be around and gives you a lot of positive advice. He won't pressure you and is a great person to look up to."
Bryant also spent some time with the Illinois coaches and got to see some of the typical practices of the Illinois offensive linemen.
"With the coaches it was cool. Being with Coach (Joe) Gilbert in the film room showed me some of the stuff they work on. He can be laid back one minute and intense the next. He's put like 9 or 10 players in the NFL over the last 8 years and really loves his job."
Bryant, usually a jovial person, says that his favorite part of the weekend was the time he got to spend with everyone.
"My favorite part was just being around the players and getting to take in the social part of it."
This weekend marked Bryant's final visit before his decision. He's been very disciplined about the entire process and will leave no stone unturned when it comes to examining his final four of Arizona, Michigan, Pittsburgh, and Illinois.
"I'm going to sit down with my parents and discuss all of the high points and the low points and take a lot of time to decide where I'm going to be for 4 or 5 years. I want to do research on the schools and do a lot of thinking over this week and put a lot of thought into the decision."
Bryant will announce this Friday at 7:30 P.M. at Simeon High School, and Scout will be on hand to report his decision. He originally tried to devise a unique way to make the announcement, but things didn't quite work out.
"I'm going to do the hats. At first I was thinking about getting a hat box to put one hat in but I couldn't really find a decent one. So I'm just going to do it original hat style."