Florida DE Landon Stokes Considering Illini

The Fighting Illini football team continues to recruit the state of Florida heavily. Among those receiving early interest is Lake Highland Prep defensive end Landon Stokes. The son of former NFL defensive end Fred Stokes has a bright future, and the Illini hope their signing of teammate Taylor Barton will help in his recruitment as well.

Fred Stokes played ten years as a defensive end in the NFL. Now he gets to watch his son Landon Stokes grow up and perhaps follow in his footsteps. He is enjoying the process.

"I only played one year of high school football, so I didn't get the kind of interest that he's getting now. I told him I'm proud for him, I'm excited for him.

"I'm trying to allow him to have that experience. Not make it my own, but let him enjoy it himself. He seems to be taking it all in stride. He's interested in all the schools that have made contact with him."

Up to now, the elder Stokes is doing the talking for his son. The experiences of his older son Lance, now a freshman on a basketball scholarship to Tennessee-Chattanooga, convince him to be cautious with media until Landon is ready to speak for himself.

"He actually enjoys the attention, but I told him how the coaches right now are limited in terms of reaching out to talk to him. You can call them, but they can't call you. Pretty soon, he's probably going to ask me to talk to the coaches. I want him to enjoy it; I don't want it to be frustrating for him."

Dad assists Lake Highland Prep coaches in their team preparations. He describes his son's attributes and limitations.

"For what we do, he's a good solid defensive end for us. He gets off the ball, and he uses his hands. Landon is very competitive, and he takes coaching. He probably weighs about 215. He'd probably be 220 if he didn't play basketball.

"When I went to Georgia Southern, I measured in and about 6'-3" and weighed 208 pounds. On my first weigh-in day with the then LA Rams, I weighed 252. So I gained about 40 pounds in college and ended up playing defensive end the whole time. I told him to take his time. He needs to gain the weight the right way.

"He plays receiver for us as well as defensive end. We played him more at defensive end this year, and he got chances to play tight end and that funky position they play in the NFL, something like a Tony Gonzalez. He was a mismatch for some teams.

"He loves to work out. As a matter of fact, me being at the school and being in the weight room helps me remind him when he has a basketball game to play.

"He's very athletic. He's playing at the center position for the basketball team. Landon is more like an inside banger, like a Dennis Rodman if you will. Landon is about 6'-4" to 6'-5." In his last game, he ended with 15 points and 17 rebounds.

"When Landon gets away from here, I don't want people to think that I hyped him up. If he's going to be a defensive end, he still needs to work on his hands. One thing I've talked to him about, those offensive linemen that he plays against will be 300 pounds up 330 to 340. They want you to run into them. But they don't want to move their feet.

"He gets so angry and competitive with some guys, he wants to run the guy over. I told him, if you try to run them over, you're playing in their box. He's come a long way, but he still has a long way to go. He's working hard to get there."

This upcoming season, Fred would like to see Landon work more as a hybrid defensive end/linebacker, similar to the Bandit position Illinois employed the past couple years.

"Probably this year, as a defensive end I'd like to see him stand up a little bit and drop back in coverage like an outside linebacker. They can rush from a standup position, and you can kind of move them around from one side to the other. Some college teams have inquired about him playing that double role just because of his size."

Fred may want to protect Landon at this stage of his maturation, but he doesn't like being a parent who counters the coaching his son receives at school.

"I hate the parents who try to coach the kids over the top of the coach. You confuse them, and the coach is mad at you. My approach has been to talk about things after the game is over. But once I get home, I'm done unless he continues to want to talk about things. I don't continue to play the game. I always try to finish on a good note."

Does dad want his son to stay close to home for college?

"Not really. Wherever they go, the one thing I tell them is they've got to go to a college that wants you. You've got to go to a place that, whether you're playing football or not, you love that school and they offer what you want. If you get hurt, or the coach leaves, what are you going to do? Make sure you handle your grades so you can get into the school so if you're hurt, you can finish the school."

"I travel and do professional speaking. I speak at high schools around the country. Life is more than sports."

It appears Landon is ambitious about his career after football.

"He's talked about becoming an architect. Landon is very detailed when it comes to that kind of stuff. I tried to instill good study habits in my kids because when they get to school, I'm not going to be there to wake you up and make sure you're doing your homework."

The elder Stokes met Illinois head coach Tim Beckman and assistant Keith Gilmore when they recruited safety Taylor Barton this past year. He looks forward to meeting Landon's Illini recruiting coach Tim Banks soon.

"Gilmore was down with the head coach because they were both talking to Taylor Barton. I think Banks has talked to him on Facebook."

Stokes feels Barton has a bright future at Illinois.

"He's a good-sized kid. I told him I thought he was playing out of position. I told him if I was coaching him, I would place him closer to the ball because of his size. He made some big-time plays for us on a couple of blitzes that we have. He shot through the line and actually made tackles in the backfield. He has the speed, but with his size I'd put him closer to the ball, like strong safety or somewhere on the run-support side."

Fred hopes to get Landon to the Midwest for college visits this summer.

"We've looked at trying to get up to Illinois. We've visited some of the schools close here in Florida; Florida State, Miami, those schools. We want to get out and visit some schools like you guys and a couple of other schools that have been looking at him. Get a closer look at the schools."

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