Tackle Ryan Ward Enjoys Illini Visit

The Fighting Illini football team continues to host top-notch recruiting prospects during spring practices. The latest to visit is Ryan Ward, the New Lenox Providence tackle and son of former Illini Brian Ward. It appears the Illini made a favorable impression on the talented youngster.

Ryan Ward is one of the most widely recruited offensive line recruits in the Midwest. He has been making the rounds of a number of schools this spring, the latest of which was Illinois last Saturday.

"Me and my dad have been driving around, checking out different programs. We've been out to Northwestern, Iowa, Wisconsin, Purdue, Boston College, Michigan State and now Illinois. We plan on going to see Minnesota next weekend."

Don't the schools all begin to blend together in his mind after seeing so many?

"It's definitely been pretty crazy, but it's exciting."

Ward listed the schools who have offered him scholarships. There is no doubt his number will increase in the next couple months.

"I have six offers, from Northwestern, Illinois, Michigan State, Boston College, Minnesota and Western Michigan."

The son of former Illini tackle Brian Ward was able to visit the Illini's first spring scrimmage Saturday. He was able to get better acquainted with offensive coordinator Paul Petrino and line coach Joe Gilbert.

"I got a chance to talk to both Coach Petrino and Coach Gilbert. I got to sit in on meetings. They seem like really good coaches, really intense. They got the guys all fired up before practice. That was a pretty good thing."

Ward also had the chance to visit Illini offensive linemen Jeff Allen and Graham Pocic, who described Gilbert's coaching style.

"I talked to Graham and Jeff, and they said he gets in your face a little bit, that's just the way he coaches. But he does coach a lot of technique. He'll study the NFL's style of play and then come and teach it to his guys. He really does take it to another level I guess. Just from meetings and practice, I could tell he really knew what he was talking about."

The Illini don't have much depth at offensive tackle, so Ward would have early opportunities if he chose Illinois.

"Playing early they were trying to sell a little bit."

Overall, it was a good visit for him.

"I thought it was a pretty good day. The practice seemed pretty intense, so I thought it was pretty good."

The 6'-6", 280 pounder is humble, so rather than give a list of his special skills, he shared the words of others.

"I don't like bragging, but people say I have good flexibility. I'm able to bend at the knees. And I guess I'm really good at running my feet and finishing blocks. Those are things that coaches have told me."

He had no trouble discussing what he wants most to improve.

"Looking at the rest of my high school schedule, I'm gonna get some pretty quick d-ends. So I'll try to work on my pass sets, working on my quickness out of my pass sets. There's gonna be some guys that are gonna be flying upfield when the ball is snapped."

Ward knows what he wants in a college.

"The most important thing for me is the people, the coaches and the players. I'm talking about the players and the guys that just signed their letters of intent, and the guys that they're recruiting too because those will be your teammates and guys who will be your buddies. That's the most important thing for me."

When asked if he has a timetable for making a college commitment, it appears the Illini may have gained ground with the young giant on his visit.

"I was just talking to my dad about this on the car ride home. Before, I was hopefully gonna get this done before summer starts and just focus on my team right now. But there's no way I'm gonna be able to see that in a month and a half. In a perfect world, before summer. But I know that's not gonna happen.

"Most likely, I'm gonna have to go around another time. I was hoping to narrow my list of schools by the end of this month after I took all my visits. But I don't think it's gonna be possible then. Maybe after I go through some more visits, I'll be able to narrow it down. It's definitely not something where you can just take one night to figure out."

Older brother Patrick is a starting lineman at Northwestern. He has been through the recruiting process and is available for the younger Ward when the need arises.

"I was talking to my brother about whether this was gonna be a hard decision to make. And he said it was one of those things you just know. All these places I'm looking at, they've all got good football, they've all got good academics. It's just a matter of seeing if I can fit in here, do I think I'll be happy here."

With his brother a Wildcat and dad a former Illini, will either or both try to sway his decision?

"They just want me to go wherever I'll be happy. My dad never pressured my older brother. And my brother's not saying to take a look at Northwestern. He just wants me to go wherever I'll be happy."

Ward isn't ready to select a college major, but one subject is of interest to him at this time.

"Maybe Kinesiology, but it's not set in stone. I was looking at that a little bit."

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