Jalen Banks Shows Strong Interest In Illini

The state of Illinois does not always produce a large number of defensive backs. The good ones are recruited nationally, making recruitment to their home state school problematic. But Thornton defensive back Jalen Banks has a strong interest in the Fighting Illini, in part because of their top-rated Engineering school.

Jalen Banks is racking up numerous college offers. The defensive back can choose from Illinois, Indiana, Northwestern, Wisconsin and Vanderbilt, among others, and he will undoubtedly receive much more attention before he chooses his college destination.

The Illini are making a strong push for his services. Banks visited for a February Junior Day and hopes to be back for another one this Sunday. That is, if he can arrange transportation.

"I'm going to Michigan State on February 25th. My dad is a cement contractor, so he does a lot of driving. I'm going to ask him if I can go to Illinois the 26th. We just got back from Wisconsin, so I don't want to push my luck.

"I talked to Coach (Tim) Beckman about it. He contacted me on Facebook, and I told him I would try my best to get down there the 26th. It might be a push because I'm coming back for Michigan State right before then because Michigan State has a later Junior Day.

"So by the time I get back, it will be one or two o'clock in the morning. I might ask my coach to see if he's up to taking me down there. At this time, I'm not quite sure."

Coaches differ on what exact position the 6'-0", 190 pound defensive back will play in college.

"A few schools are looking at me at safety, and others at corner. Mostly, they want me as a defensive back because they don't know what position they're going to put me at yet.

"At Illinois, Coach Beckman would like to see me at safety, but Coach Clink (Steve Clinkscale) likes me at corner. I'm willing to go in and play wherever they need me."

Banks describes his assets as a defensive back.

"I do my backpedal pretty well, and I believe what I see. I trust my keys. I'm a physical guy and can come downhill."

Many top high school dbs tend to watch the quarterback instead of the receivers because they have good enough recovery speed to get away with it. Banks appears well trained to avoid this pitfall.

"I've been taught well on knowing when to watch the quarterback. On our two-man-under defense, we're supposed to read the quarterback. But otherwise, you look for the drop, and then you get your eyes back to your man immediately after the drop. That's why you have to read your keys, the offensive guard and offensive tackle."

Banks is reluctant to admit things he needs to improve.

"Us defensive backs, we know our strengths, but we don't want anyone to know our weaknesses. I think I have good ball skills, but sometimes, like in man coverage, I have great position initially. But sometimes when the ball is in the air, I lose my great position when I try to look for the ball. I'd also like to be faster on my breaks."

Banks has ambitions beyond football.

"I want to go into Civil Engineering. When I got to high school, I began to take some engineering classes. I've always loved to draw, and I've always been fascinated with big buildings.

"So I did some engineering programs and stuff on computers, and I gained an interest in engineering. So I stuck with it, and civil is my field. All that stuff interests me."

It's not surprising to hear his priorities in selecting a college. The Illini might have an advantage in this regard.

"Education is first. Any school that offers me a scholarship, I do my research. I look at my major and see what it's like in my major. The school I choose has to have my major. Illinois is actually number one in the Big Ten in engineering. That's why I'm attracted to them so much.

"Second is the facilities. Do they have great athletic facilities? I look at the weight room, the Stadium, the campus and all that. And then I look at the type of people that are at the school. Once again, I do my research and see if the school looks after you not only while you are in school but afterward."

Does he have a timetable for selecting a school?

If I'm not sure, of course I'll wait. But I'd like to make my decision sometime before school starts."

Thornton of Harvey has a history of success on the football field. Banks believes 2012 will be even better than 2011.

"We were 6-3. We were down and out for some games, but we had an inexperienced team. We were undersized at the lines. Our defensive line was okay, but our offensive line could have improved some. Overall, we were a good team. We have a lot of experienced guys coming back for next year."

Whether he makes it to campus this weekend, he plans another visit in March.

"I will definitely be back at Illinois March 10th for the Junior Day."

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