Brandon Hines will begin his junior year at Homestead High School in Mequon, Wisconsin, this fall. He visited the Illinois campus recently and admitted he has no particular loyalty to his state school.
"I am definitely looking at other schools. Wisconsin has no influence on me just because I'm from there. Actually, my family is from Tennessee and southern states. I have no ties to Wisconsin.
"So they're going to be in the running with a lot of other people. They won't have any huge advantage over any other school. They're a good team, so they're definitely among my top teams for that reason, but not because they're Wisconsin."
It appears Illini assistant coach Luke Butkus has made a major impression on the youngster.
"Coach Butkus talks to me a lot. I just wanted to get down here and show some interest because I definitely like it down here.
"Coach Butkus knows what he's talking about. He played here, and his uncle played here. Last time when I came down here, he really gave me an in-depth tour.
"I was the only person with him on the tour. It was really personal; I got to meet his son. He took me around campus, showed me everything that there was to see. I loved it, especially the new rec center they have for athletes. We actually saw one of the players playing in there.
"I really just got to kind of know who he is. He's a family-oriented guy, and he likes to joke around. It looks like he has a little edge on a lot of people."
Hines appears to have an ideal combination of assets for the defensive tackle position.
"I started this year for my team as a sophomore. I play really physical and hit people hard. That's kind of my mentality. I like to lower my shoulder and just hit people.
"That's my game, and then I'm technical too. I use a lot of moves because our coach pushes that a lot. So I guess you can say I'm physical and technical."
Good football is played at Homestead.
"We went all the way to the second round of the playoffs, which we did for the last four years. I did pretty good this season.
"We're Division I in Wisconsin. I think we have a little over 1400 kids, so it's a pretty big school. It's really a notorious football school. There are a lot of good coaches there who put kids in good places.
"That's kind of why I moved up there to play. I moved from Milwaukee. Nicolet High School didn't have good teams. I wanted to get the best I could."
He believes he may play both ways this fall.
"We have a pretty big school, so we have a lot of kids at every position. They want to give everyone a chance to play. Last year, we were stuck to one position. And our offensive line, we had a lot of guys 6'-4", 290 pounds.
"We lost key players, so they might start putting people on both sides of the line. Hopefully, you'll see some offensive guard on my highlight film."
When asked what schools besides Illinois are in touch with him, he took a deep breath and started rattling off the list.
"I'm hearing from Wisconsin, Michigan State, Michigan (I'm going there for a spring game), Iowa, Tennessee, Oregon, Oregon State, Ohio State, University of Miami, Kansas State, Oklahoma State, OU. I get a lot of mail."
What does he want in a college?
"I definitely want a good fan base. I want a very populated area where I can find things to do. I want a really good coaching staff; that's a big thing for me. It's really who I feel comfortable with."
Hines is grateful for his special opportunity and plans to enjoy the experience.
"I'm very fortunate to have this opportunity. I'm taking advantage of it. I like the idea of getting here early so the coaches can see who I am. I think that will help in the long run."