A: At this point, I'd probably lean more toward Justin Jackson. A couple of reasons. One, Wilbon has picked up a few more offers from around the country than Jackson has. Two, I think Jackson would like the opportunity to play in a spread-type offense that also features some downhill running. Despite his size, Jackson packs a punch, and ran a lot between the tackles for Glenbard North this year. He's also said before that he wants to decide sometime before senior year, so that could play well into Illinois' favor if they can get him on campus a couple times.
A: I'll just come out and say it right off the bat that I don't think Illinois has much of a shot at Clifton Garrett at this point if any at all. Garrett will likely either end up at Ohio State, a school he grew up a fan of, or somewhere in the SEC (Ole Miss is pushing hard for him right now). With Morgan, I think there is a chance, but I wouldn't buy into it too much. Right now I see him possibly ending up somewhere in the PAC-12 (recently offered by USC). Although somewhere in the midwest wouldn't shock me either. He's a smart kid and will value education in his decision, but I think he'll go somewhere known for super-athletic defenses, and Illinois hasn't been that way for a while.
Q: How do the 2014/2015 classes compare to previous years?
A: Talent in the state of Illinois has gotten deeper and deeper every year it seems like. 2013 was a strong year, and this year Illinois is putting even more talent into the top 300 players in the country. 2015 is still a developing class, but there are some potential stars there. And honestly, I don't remember a year where two sophomore quarterbacks have already started to receive BCS offers (David Edwards and Jack Beneventi). In 2014, you look at guys like Jamarco Jones, Clifton Garrett, Parrker Westphal, Dewayne Hendrix, Brian Allen, Ian Bunting, Nic Weishar, Daniel Helm, etc., there's a lot more depth at the top in the state than a lot of other years.
Q: Who is the single most important recruit for Illinois in 2014 and where does Illinois stand with him?
A: He may not be the top-rated guy in state, but I think a guy Illinois needs to land is Bolingbrook CB Parrker Westphal. Given the close relationship with Aaron Bailey and the numerous visits to Illinois he has already taken, I think that's a guy they need to lock down, not only because he would be a leader in the secondary, but also because he's a guy who, if he committed, would be validation of the ability of Illinois to recruit top 100 players, especially the ones in state. Aside from him, I think another guy in a similar case you look at is Dewayne Hendrix from O'Fallon. Same idea with the connection to a current player (Darius Mosely). He's blowing up in a hurry and is a guy they would like to keep inside the borders. Another guy I think that could have a real positive impact for Illinois is Mt. Carmel DL Enoch Smith Jr.
Q: How big of an issue is negative recruiting?
A: I'm not seeing as much about negative recruiting as I did when Zook was the head coach. Of course, Zook also brought with him a reputation of having negative recruiting done against him dating back to his days at Florida. But I think because Beckman has only been at Illinois for one year, people aren't really using the bad first season against him. Plus Beckman & Co. don't seem like they would let it hold them back, and the less you let other people think it bothers you, the less likely they are to keep doing it.
Q: Has there been any recruit feedback on all of the assistant coaching turnover this offseason?
A: Speaking with a few signees during all of the turnover, they were a little surprised by all of the turnover. It's tough when you see your position coach take off for another school, but most of the guys spoke with the new coaches and felt confident in their abilities to get it done. I've also spoken with a few 2014/2015 guys, and they like the fit of the new coaches too, especially Coach Cubit.
Q: Will there be any Aaron Bailey effect in 2014?
A: Getting Aaron Bailey was a big statement for Illinois in 2013 and had sway with a lot of the other recruits. He was active in recruiting other players and made numerous visits along with those guys. That being said, I don't think there will be an "Aaron Bailey effect" unless an "Aaron Bailey" type guy in 2014 commits. Nick Allegretti was a good start in regards to in-state guys. If Westphal committed, it would be a big gain for Illinois, but he isn't a very vocal guy at all, so I'm not sure if he would be active in recruiting like Bailey. One guy who, if he committed, would be active in getting other guys would be Mike Dudek of Neuqua Valley. He would be the 2014 version of Miguel Hermosillo, a guy who follows recruiting closely and wants the best guys to join him.
Q: With a small number of scholarships available, will Beckman be conservative with scholarships?
A: Beckman is still being quoted as saying that depth is an issue on the team. I feel like with this staff, if an offer goes out this early, it's committable. Receiver is still an area where the staff feels they need to add playmakers. Same with the offensive line. They already got Nick Allegretti and Tito Odenigbo, filling two need positions, but with linebacker also a need, and with the depth at the position in 2014, I'm sure at least two of the scholarships will go to fill that need. Still, I think they don't just go throwing out offers like it's going out of style.