Brent Wilkerson, a 6'-4", 245 pound weakside defensive end for DeMatha High in Hyattsville, Maryland, is one half of a serious tandem of bookends for the DeMatha defense. Along with Michael Moore, he gives offenses fits and makes his living in the backfield.
DeMatha is about more than football, however. Just as important to DeMatha and to Wilkerson is the academic and moral development that the institution provides.
"Probably the most important factor is the academics and how special of a place Dematha is. It helps you down the road and prepares you to be a better man after high school."
The development starts early at DeMatha, and much of the success of the program can be attributed to the coaching staff.
"All the coaches really help you out. Even coming in as a freshman, they show you to do the right things. There's great education and a great brotherhood."
Wilkerson does his part for his team. His game is well-rounded, and he uses his strengths to complement the rest of his fellow defenders. At the same time, it's gotten him attention from college coaches.
"I have a relentless motor, and I use my quickness and speed to get around linemen. I play tight end too, so I'm a bit of a finesse player. I use my feet and my quickness. Right now, schools are recruiting me at both tight end and defensive end."
He feels his game is not complete yet. Wilkerson demands perfection from himself both on and off the field.
"I'm trying to work on my technique and use my hands more."
Though he's a weakside defensive end, he is even more confident in his ability to play the run than the pass.
"I'd have to say my run-stopping. I think people sell me short on that, but I'm a good run stopper."
After signing day 2011 concluded in early February, recruiting took off for the juniors at DeMatha. Wilkerson started seeing offers come in.
"I just got Michigan recently, and that sticks out to me. It's a great academic school, and the football program is top notch. They're on the top of my list right now. I went to Rutgers, and I went and saw Coach Schiano. I like their education and how they treat their players.
I like Penn State and all of their coaches too. Virginia I have a good connection with. Maryland, I just went there for a visit last week. They're trying to build the program into a top notch program there too.
I don't know too much about NC State. I talked to the coach, and I really want to get down there. I've heard a lot of good things from (former teammate) Darian Cooper about Michigan State. I'm going to definitely get in touch with them."Wilkerson is looking for many of the same qualities in a college that also drew him to DeMatha in the first place. "First, the academics. Then the coaching staff and how I can build a relationship with them. I just want a school where I will come out a better man and grow as a person while I'm there. Also location. I want to go where the location is good for me.
I don't want to go too far from my family. But if the school fits me, I'll take it and my parents will support me. I'm going to give the schools within 4 or 5 hours the first go at it, then go further out."
Illinois is one of the more distant schools Wilkerson is considering. It would be further away than he would like but says he's open to the idea of seeing what Illinois is about and meeting the coaches and players.
"I talked to Coach (Keith) Gilmore a couple times, but I'm looking to get in touch with him more and see if I can get down there. I'm trying to give everyone a fair chance and get down there."
Teammates Moore and linebacker Sam Lebbie have some of the same offers Wilkerson has, so the three are planning a few trips together. One of those could involve Illinois.
"I'll probably go to Illinois the same time I do Michigan or Michigan State. I'd like to get them all in so I wouldn't have to go back and forth."
Since Wilkerson values the brotherhood and camaraderie he has with his teammates, will that parlay into playing at the same school with one or more of them?
"It depends. If one of my teammates goes I'll probably go with them, but I'd like to go with my family since they're such an important factor in my decision."
It may be a while before Wilkerson's destination becomes evident, but he does want to slim down his list before his senior year so that he has his visits well planned and isn't distracted more than necessary by recruiting during his season.
"The plan is that I'll try to commit before the season, but if it doesn't happen then I want to at least have a top 5 or top 8 going into the season."
DeMatha is sure to have another great season this fall. Hopefully, some of their players will appear on the Illinois campus in the near future.