Running Back Visits Illini Officially

New Fighting Illini football coach Tim Beckman is in catch-up mode as he tries to round up a solid recruiting class by February. He is seeking at least two quality running backs to join the program, and Florida star Erick Hayward visited the school this past weekend.

Erick Hayward is a powerful and fast running back from Orange Park, Florida. Not well known outside of his home area, former Illini offensive coordinator Paul Petrino had a strong interest in Hayward. While Petrino has rejoined his brother at Arkansas, Hayward still has an interest in Illinois.

He made an official visit to the school last weekend. He's glad he did.

"It was a great trip."

As is true for all prospects, Hayward got a whirlwind tour of the school. He describes the weekend.

"We ate a lot. I toured the campus, I met the academic advisors. I watched them practice, and I hung out with the players."

He also had a chance to meet new Illini head coach Tim Beckman.

"I liked him. He had a good personality and knew what he wanted and expected out of his players."

Beckman didn't say exactly how Hayward would be used in his offense, other than to confirm he would be an asset.

"He just said I was a big back, and he liked what he saw on film."

Hayward originally expected to meet coaches Ron Zook and Petrino, but their absence is not a deal-breaker.

"They were great coaches, and I was excited about meeting them. But I'm sure Beckman will get the job done."

Hayward is just beginning the visitation process.

"That was my first. I'm trying to visit Umass and possibly Arkansas."

Is Petrino now recruiting you to Arkansas?

"Yes he is."

The 6'-3", 220 pounder with 4.4 speed had a good senior season.

"I did good. I had 103 carries for about 1200 yards."

He also played some defense, but his Orange Park team did not fare well this year.

"We didn't do as well as we should have. We were 3-6. One game was cancelled due to lightning."

Beckman plans to visit Hayward in his home sometime in January.

"He did say he would visit, he just didn't say when."

Does Hayward know when he might make his college decision?

"Mid to end of January."

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