UI Battling With Many For New Jersey Star

The addition of secondary coach Mike Gillhamer has already paid dividends for current Fighting Illini defensive backs. Now this offseason, he is looking to make a name for himself as a recruiter. Among those on his recruiting list is a top New Jersey safety prospect.

D.J. Singleton has just about everything you want in a safety. At 6'-3" and 200 pounds, he has great length and runs a 4.46 40 yard dash. Singleton hails from St. Peter's Prep, which has produced an abundance of top football players over the years. As loaded as the school is, it was tripped up in the state semifinal by another New Jersey power.

"Last season, we lost in the semifinals. Our goal was to beat Don Bosco, but we didn't succeed. We just made a couple mistakes. I think I contributed a little less than I could have, but when I had to make plays I made plays. And we could have done a lot better."

At his size, Singleton is versatile and can play multiple positions. However he knows his strength, and his coaches do as well.

"I played mostly safety. I cover more ground than other dbs, and I get to the ball quicker. Coaches have been talking about that a lot. My length and my arms are really good too."

One of Illinois coach Mike Gillhamer's specialties is technical work. Singleton knows he has the physical ability, and now he just needs to work on his precision skills.

"This year, I need to work on my footwork and not lose the player by looking at the ball. It's not a habit I have all the time, but I need to work on it."

Singleton admits to having a different personality on the field than off.

"Off the field, I'm really down to earth once you get to know me. I'm real comfortable around people, and I'm not all about myself. I like interacting with my teammates and with other people. On the field, I'm totally different."

He puts a lot of weight on academics. He's dedicated to his work in the classroom, so it's no surprise he will value a strong academic program in college.

"Number one is a very good academic program. I'm actually looking to major in Sports Medicine. I'm looking to be a P. A. one day. I also want the coaching staff to be stable and be there my whole college career."

Though he's looked into a few schools already, Singleton is still wide open.

"I'm looking into all the schools really. I've been talking with Rutgers a lot. I keep in contact with Wisconsin a lot as well as the other schools that offered me like Nebraska and Miami."

Singleton is being recruited at two different positions, depending on the school.

"Right now a lot of schools want me at outside linebacker, but some are talking about safety. I want to play safety in college."

Illinois is one of those schools that want Singleton to play safety should he choose them. He understands that he may still get bigger, so he's keeping his options open.

"Illinois, Syracuse, Indiana, Wisconsin. Some of the other schools are waiting to see what size I end at before they decide. Depending on how I develop, if I have to end up playing linebacker, I'll play. But I feel like I can contribute a lot better at safety."

Singleton stayed busy this spring with school and track, so he didn't get much of a chance to travel. He has taken a couple of visits so far, and is working on taking a couple more visits this summer.

"I didn't take any visits this spring. The last school I went to was Wisconsin, and I'll go to Rutgers soon. I'm going to talk to my dad about getting around. My dad and I are talking about going to Nebraska and Wisconsin and maybe Tennessee too."

Will Illinois be one of his stops?

"Hopefully I can get to Illinois. Coach Gillhamer came in last week, and he wants me to come down and visit the rest of the coaching staff and meet everybody too. My dad and I are just trying to figure it all out."

A former NFL defensive backs coach, Gillhamer has an eye for talent. He sees something special in Singleton.

"He really liked my range and how I moved for my size since most safeties can't move as well at my size."

Though he hasn't seen Illinois in person yet, he is aware of the tradition of the program.

"I know Illinois has a great history for football, and the academics are top notch. I'll probably talk to coach Gillhamer soon."

Recruiting is important to him, but his main goal is to turn the tables on Don Bosco Prep this year and take home the title.

"In general, I just want to help the team and better myself. My main focus is just to get the ring this year. The Don Bosco rivalry is huge, and every year we end up seeing each other going on since Will Hill was here. Before he even got there probably."

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