Peoria Central Star Has DL Capabilities

The Fighting Illini football staff has made multiple trips to Peoria this winter. Unlike most years, there are at least three good prospects for 2013 in an area that has suffered through a drought of talent in recent years. One of the players receiving a scholarship offer is Josh Augusta, coached by a former Illini.

Peoria Central coach Tim Thornton says he walked on to the Illinois football team during the "dark ages."

"I was there in the fall of '96 and fall of '97. It was (Lou) Tepper's last year and Ron Turner's first year."

While he won't tell one of his players where to attend college, and he transferred to Illinois State to complete his degree, he is at least favorable toward his state school.

"Luke Butkus was one of my teammates when I was at the U of I. I have a lot of faith in Luke. I'd like guys for my team to play for those guys."

He has an outstanding 2013 prospect in Josh Augusta, who has an amazing combination of size and athleticism.

"He's dynamite. He's gonna be fantastic for us. Josh is 6'-5", 278 pounds. He is an explosive player, a fast kid. He took second place in the state in the shot put last year as a sophomore, so he's a really good athlete. He's a three sport athlete, track, basketball and football. He's got great feet on the basketball court.

"He's played everything from tight end, receiver, fullback, defensive end, and defensive tackle for us. I think he was the leading receiver in the conference last year reception-wise. Someone else was the yardage leader.

"He's probably a sub 5.0 40 guy if we put him on the clock. He's a 600 pound leg lifter to go with it, so he's a strong kid. He's everything you could want out of a guy."

Illinois head man Tim Beckman has reached out to Peoria schools.

"Coach Beckman came over and sat down with myself and my assistant coaches, and we had a long talk about Josh. We also have a senior we're trying to get as a walkon for them. He's on the bubble right now. We'll have to see how that shakes out.

"I (later) got a call from Coach Beckman, and they offered Josh a scholarship. It kind of sounds like they're thinking defensive line for him. He has the ability to run low and play low. For being that big, it's just phenomenal."

Beckman has made a strong impression on Thornton.

"I like Coach Beckman. He talked about how he was a walkon in college and earned his way on the hard way. I can relate to that because I did the same thing in Illinois.

"He has a hard-work ethic, and the guys he brought in on staff seem like hard-working guys that care. Maybe a little less flash and a little more roll-up-your-sleeves-and-let's-get-after-it mentality. I'm impressed, and I'm pleased with it."

After years of producing primarily basketball players, Peoria may now be shifting more toward football.

"Football is picking up in Peoria a little bit. We've had a bunch of players who were close, but we've lost a lot of good football players to basketball.

"Josh and Logan (Tuley-Tillman) both were guys who I imagine coming in they were more basketball guys than football guys. As they grew up, they noticed the difference. There have been many good basketball players coming out of Peoria that would've made good football players."

In his second year at the school, Thornton is pleased with the improvement shown in 2011. He sees an even better year ahead.

"We went 5-4. It was our school's first winning season in 16 years. So we were pleased. This is our second year as a staff. We're still on a 17 year playoff drought.

"We have a lot a guys returning; we had a real good junior class that'll be seniors next year. And we had a really good freshman class this year. It could end up being one of our best if we can keep them all together."

Thornton says Augusta is expected to be a qualifier. He can make no promises, but it's obvious he would enjoy seeing his young giant play close to home.

"I want to find the best fit for Josh. If that's Illinois, fantastic."

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