Mt. Carmel defensive tackle Vontrell Williams made his verbal commitment to Illinois in September. The three-star prospect from Chicago was heavily recruited by the Illinois staff, including former Illini head coach Ron Zook.
Williams and Zook built a close relationship during his recruitment. Williams got to know Zook as more than just a coach. So when he got fired, Williams took it to heart.
"I was very disappointed. Very. Coach Zook is a great coach, but even more than that, he is a great guy. I think that he didn't have the right amount of time. I think with Coach Zook, they could have been one of the top in the Big Ten. But, things happen for a reason. The AD is the boss, so you really can't argue with him."
But Williams committed to Illinois for other reasons than just Coach Zook. He was comfortable with the university and players that will surround him, so he will not be changing his mind.
"I was still committed to Illinois, and that's the way it is now. I'm not focusing on anyone else, just Illinois."
Williams heard about Illinois's hiring of Toledo head coach Tim Beckman almost instantly. He met Beckman previously while at Toledo but had no immediate feelings about the hire.
"I found out Thursday night. I actually met Coach Beckman once before when we was at Toledo. At the time, I didn't really build a relationship with him and see what Coach Beckman was about. So, it wasn't a negative or positive feeling. I just knew I had to get to know him now."
That vague was temporary. Beckman quickly jumped on the recruiting trail, and Williams was among the first contacted. Williams gained a positive vibe from Beckman from their phone conversation.
"He called me Saturday; we basically just talked about turning the Illinois football program around and going toward a National Championship. We also talked about who he wanted to keep on the coaching staff and who he wanted to bring from Toledo and things like that.
"Coach Beckman is a high energy guy. I have no doubts that he is probably a great coach, but I will learn more about him when I spend more time with him down at Illinois and when I get to know him better."
Williams enjoyed a successful senior season. His high level of play helped his team win and was rewarded with several accolades.
"We went 10-4; we won the Prep Bowl Championship. I had 16 sacks and 46 tackles. I also made First Team All-State for CSN and Rivals. So, it was a pretty big year for me."
Williams is ecstatic about starting his collegiate career next summer.
"I am looking forward to my first time ever on a college field with a college team. I am looking for the energy of all the players. It's amazing I'm even getting the chance to play this game against big colleges. I am looking forward to the whole opportunity."
For Williams to get a chance to play at the next level, he knows he has to continually improve his game.
"There are a lot of things every person needs to work on. I would say I need to work the most on shedding the block more. Then, I will pretty much be a true defensive tackle."
He has no intentions of an early enrollment.
"I am going to stay in high school the rest of the year. I have no plans to graduate early right now."