Georgia LB/DE Lists Illinois In Top Three

The Fighting Illini football team incorporates a hybrid defensive end/linebacker known as a Bandit. It requires a special player with a unique combination of height, speed and coverage skills. True Bandits are hard to find, but the Illini are recruiting one from Georgia who sounds ideal for their system.

Stephen Weatherly is a tremendous athlete. The 6'-5", 197 pounder impressed with his speed at a recent football combine.

"I ran a 4.48 40 yard dash and a 4.5 shuttle."

He has the height and speed for the Bandit position at Illinois, and Illini coach Chip Long has talked with him about it. He performs a similar role for North Atlanta High School.

"I have talked to Coach Long, and he has brought up the Bandit position. He said it was something like DeMarcus Ware, where I can rush or drop back. It sounds like a really good position.

"It sounds like what we call a Dog in our defense. On my team, we play a 3-3-5, so I would be an outside linebacker. But on some plays, I would put my hand down like a defensive end. Then on some plays I play linebacker, and on other plays I drop back and play safety."

His attributes sound like a job description for Bandit.

"My speed, my lateral quickness and my technique. With my size, I already have a little bit of an advantage. I had a really good defensive coach who taught me good technique to help me get a lot of sacks. It helps with my speed."

Long has made a solid impression on the Georgian.

"Coach Long is a real cool guy. He's really down to earth. He's really easy to talk to and tells you stuff straight."

Weatherly considers Illinois among his favorites at this time.

"I would say my top three would be Illinois, Vanderbilt and Georgia Tech. Some other schools are Kentucky, Ole Miss, and Western Kentucky."

A major factor in his college decision will be academics. He has unique career goals.

"I'm looking at the location of the school, the team philosophy and one that has my major. I want to be an engineer. Illinois is a great place to be an engineer. I want to go into mechanical engineering. What I'm really interested in is robotic engineering.

"I was talking to a professor in an engineering field, and he said mechanical engineers can do a whole lot of things. They can branch off into almost everything you can think of. If they don't make it, they make the machine that makes it. It's almost like a recession-proof job."

Weatherly plans to visit the C-U campus soon.

"I plan to visit Illinois over the summer, probably some time in June. Before I make a decision, I want to visit all the schools."

He will also be preparing for what he hopes will be a great senior football season. Last year was good, but this year should be better.

"We set a school record, going 7-3, but we didn't make it to the playoffs. The way our region is set up, they only take three teams. They picked the three teams that we lost to.

"We lost seven seniors, but we have a really big junior class. Next year is gonna be a good year. Hopefully, we'll get to the playoffs and win it all."

Weatherly, who also plays receiver, is excited about his team's offense this season.

"Our quarterback last year didn't have the strongest arm. But we have some real good quarterbacks coming up this year. They can really throw the ball out. This year our offensive philosophy is, you throw it as far as you can, I'll go as far as I can, and we'll meet up in the middle."

Weatherly is keeping in shape this spring by running track. He should do well in the sprints if he can get his big body out of the blocks quickly.

"I do the 100, 200, long jump and triple jump. We're getting close to regionals. I'm doing really good. I've run an 11.13 100. With a little bit more training and a little bit of work on my starts, I hope to qualify for state this year."

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