Switch To Safety Attracts UI To Marcus Ball

The new Fighting Illini coaching staff has been hitting the recruiting trail hard from the moment it stepped on campus. Looking for depth, especially at defensive back, the Illini have targeted a versatile Ohio athlete they hope will be a part of the "New Era" of Illinois football.

Marcus Ball spent the first couple years of his high school career as a quarterback at Westerville South High School in Westerville, Ohio. However, this past year he added a role at safety and felt right at home almost immediately.

"I was at quarterback, and I think that transition opened up some doors. I threw for 1300 yards and had about 15 touchdowns. I took 30 snaps or so at safety, and that opened up some doors for me too."

The move to safety was a beneficial one, as Ball is receiving a lot of attention from colleges at the position. Despite spending so much time at quarterback, Ball knows where he wants to play in college.

"A lot of colleges want me at safety. I have a passion for it though, and I like to hit. Not a lot of quarterbacks will look you in the eye and tell you they like to hit. It was an eye opener, because I knew playing more than one position would catch some colleges' eyes."

Having a quarterback mentality on defense allows him to anticipate and react much more quickly, making him a better safety.

"Oh yeah. Being a quarterback definitely helped. I've had good training. I went to the Elite 11. Those guys taught me some good stuff.

I know what the quarterback is looking for. A lot of high school quarterbacks predetermine where they're going to throw, but I watch the quarterback and can sometimes bait the quarterback into some throws. I like to trick the quarterback like the quarterback tries to trick the safety."

This coming year, Ball will see his snaps increase at safety as he prepares to play the position in college. His natural ability helps, but working on the technical skills of a defensive back will be his main focus between now and the time he enters college.

"I played some games a lot more at safety than others. Some I didn't play as much. My snaps increased toward the end of the season. I'm definitely ready for my senior season, but getting ready for college, I definitely need to work harder and train more at safety. I need to do things like footwork and drop-backs to prepare for a whole new level."

A well-spoken and academically-inclined student athlete, education will play a big role in Ball's college decision down the road. But beyond that, he hopes to find a great coaching staff that will develop him as a person on top of developing him as an athlete.

"Distance isn't a thing for me. I look for academics obviously. I like to know that the coaches are not only teaching how to be a good football player, but also to be a man of integrity and develop me as a man.

I look at the coaches and what kind of guys the coaches are. What they stand for and how they lead the players not only to championships but in life too. I definitely want to get on the field, so the depth chart matters too. Even little stuff like the city and the surroundings."

Ball is already getting attention from a number of major colleges, and he has a handful of offers already. The three major schools so far that have offered, Illinois, Arizona State, and Minnesota, all have his attention so far.

"Illinois, Arizona State, Duke, Boston College, Ohio State, Michigan State, Oregon, Wisconsin, Indiana, Cincinnati, Pitt, and Syracuse are all recruiting me pretty hard. Definitely Arizona State, Illinois, Minnesota. They all have good football and good surroundings.

I don't really have a dream school, though. So I like to stay pretty open. It's hard to pass up big offers for small offers, but I definitely don't look down on anyone. I'm just blessed to have what I have right now."

Ball ventured to Illinois for the Junior Day on March 10th. During his time on campus, he got to see what the New Era of Illinois football was all about.

"Illinois is definitely interested in me a lot. The visit was great. They were really welcoming. Coach (Alex) Golesh and I got to meet, and I also met Coach (Steve) Clinkscale and Coach (Tim) Banks.

They have a really nice weight room. It was interesting too because I got to see practice and see some hitting. The interesting thing is they have some dbs graduating, and I have a chance to get on the field really early. And that interests me."

In addition to the two defensive back coaches, Ball met head coach Tim Beckman, who shared his vision for the future at Illinois with Ball.

"Coach Beckman is a great guy. He's really enthusiastic about his job. He's happy to be there. He was like a dad walking me around. He was honest with me, that they really want me there, and that they want to win games and win championships. He wants to get back to winning."

Moving forward, Ball has a couple schools he plans to visit in the near future.

"I might go to Pitt this weekend. I've talked to their coaches a lot including Coach (Paul) Chryst. I'm not really sure yet. Notre Dame has some interest in me too, and I'm supposed to go there, but I don't know if I'll be able to go since I'll be on vacation. I've already been to Ohio State. Coach (Urban) Meyer is a good guy. I've also been to Michigan State."


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