How is Nile Sykes' recruitment going and to what position does he project?
From an Illinois standpoint, one of the things they have done very well is get him on campus pretty often so far. He's made numerous visits in the last few months, which is always a good sign. He does like Iowa State, too, and Syracuse is making a push for a lot of Chicago-area guys as of late. One thing to keep an eye on, though, is that Illinois has had a tough time getting guys out of the Core 6 organization over the last year or two. They were able to snag Jaylen Dunlap in 2013, but it's been tough getting them from Core 6 to Illinois.
As for where he projects as a future college player, I could see him playing a couple different spots. His blend of size and athleticism really gives him a lot of flexibility to put his hand on the ground, be a rusher, or even play an inside linebacker spot. Personally, I think he would be a good fit as the strong-side linebacker in a traditional 4-3 defense, especially against the run that's so prevalent in the Big Ten.
What's the latest with Matt Morrissey of Lincolnshire Stevenson?
Morrissey is an interesting guy. He was a hot name for a while but still only holds offers from Illinois and Toledo at this point. I think he would probably have a few more offers now if he was solely a football player, but he was a starter for a state runner-up basketball team. He has good height and a good frame for a safety. He's one of those guys that's just a natural athlete, and seems pretty heady on the football field. If he doesn't put a lot of weight on before college, he may be a guy that would need to redshirt a year to put the weight on and add strength. Still, he's a guy who knows how to be in the right place at the right time and that takes a lot longer to develop than physical strength.
How will coaching change or speculation of change affect the class?
Recruits are always paying attention to who's coaching where. Throughout the process they build relationships with the players and when they move around, it has a big effect on recruits. I will say that I don't see speculation having as strong of an effect as coaching change. More times than not, outside of the elite coaches in college football, recruits are picking based on both the program and the school for the most part. So some will stick out a commitment even when a change occurs or is possible to occur. However, the potential for change can cause recruits to become guarded in their recruitment toward a given school. If a recruit is worried that the coaching staff may not be there when they get there, it makes recruiting that player much more difficult.
Who on the staff is primarily recruiting Chicago for Illinois?
I know this isn't a specific answer, but it's the most accurate one: They all are. No one coach in particular is "The Chicago Guy." They had a "Chicago Guy" in Butkus last year, but pretty much the whole staff was in Chicago last week and almost the entire staff has been back up in Chicago already this week visiting recruits. Coach Colby has ties to the west suburbs from a while back, but for the most part, recruiting Chicago is a total team effort. What I've seen happen so far more often than not is that they don't necessarily recruit areas as much as they recruit by position. Ricker has been in visiting OL, Ward has been out to see LB's. Salem has been hitting St. Louis and East St. Louis/Belleville hard, but they do positional recruiting now just as much as they do area recruiting.
What would the difference between a 6+ win bowl season and a winless Big Ten make in how the class ended up?
Truthfully, I think it makes all the difference. Most of the recruits out there that I've talked to really like the coaches at Illinois and really like the idea of being able to play early, but the recurring theme I get is that many want to see progress on the field, and a winless Big Ten season wouldn't show that, at least not to a level that it would totally reshape the class. Progress might be as little as being close in every game, but what will win recruits over is, well, wins. I think if they can even win 4 games that it shows some forward momentum and helps with the class. If they make a bowl, I think you see them finish very strong and start to gain a lot more attention from some of the state's better prospects.
What's the situation with Adoree Jackson and what sort of impact would he have?
This is an interesting, and still developing, situation, to say the least. Jackson plays at a talent factory in Junipero Serra out in California, and as one person already pointed out, the school has a knack for producing some nasty guys like Marquise Lee and Robert Woods. Put on the tape and you'll see why Jackson is a top 10 player nationally. As soon as I saw him, my first thought was immediately "This guy looks like DeAnthony Thomas." And while I'm sure he'd be a nightmare at cornerback too, what this guy does with the football in his hands is incredible, and would be an ideal fit for a WR/RB in a spread offense if you can get him out in space.
Now I want to give a little back story on him just so people are up to speed. He's originally from the East St. Louis area, and attended Belleville East High School, which is the same high school that (yep, you guessed it) Malcolm Hill attends. And Hill knows him to some extent too. In addition to Hill, Jackson knows Tori Millender at Belleville West and Kyron Watson at East St. Louis pretty well. He and Kyron are especially close.
The talk right now, and of course this is all preliminary, is that he could potentially be moving back to the East St. Louis area. Apparently his parents still live in the area and he would be moving back in with them. First of all, if he does move back, he's hands down the best player in the entire Midwest at that point. Second, if Jackson ends up at the high school I've heard mentioned, then he makes them an instant favorite to win state, and he'd probably set a few records along the way.
Now, until he makes the move, it really doesn't mean quite as much, but Illinois did extend an offer to him this past week after HE reached out to the staff to let them know about his roots and all that. The word is that he wants to stay close to home for college, and that bodes well for Illinois. Missouri, because of that, will also probably be in play.
BUT, if things all fall into place and he does somehow end up at Illinois, it's nothing short of a game-changer. First of all he would arguably be the biggest recruit Illinois has had in a long while. He may not have all the in-state pull of a guy like Aaron Bailey did just because he's been away for a while, but guys around the state would definitely take notice. And if a guy like Kyron Watson or Tori Millender did commit elsewhere, chances are they would really give some hard thought to Illinois.
But perhaps more importantly, Jackson would be just the fuel the Illinois coaches would need to start bringing home the grand prize recruits in Illinois. By keeping the state's top player in-state and doing it because of his loyalty to his state, that goes a long way toward validating what you've been preaching all along on the recruiting trail.
I'll have more as this whole situation develops, but for now, that's where it stands.
...Shooting for the Stars
As for other guys in that 4 to 5 star range on Illinois' radar, a couple guys are still strong possibilities. The two best chances I see Illinois having to land a 4-star prospect at this moment would be CB Parrker Westphal of Bolingbrook and potentially WR Dareian Watkins of Galion, OH. I think Westphal is more likely due to his close relationship with Aaron Bailey, which should help, but getting Westphal won't be easy by any means. Other than those two, one other guy to keep an eye on is O'Fallon DE Dewayne Hendrix. Hendrix has only gotten better in the offseason and should be a serious force for O'Fallon on D this fall. If Darius Mosely can get in his ear, that's another guy that would make a strong point for staying home for college.
Thanks for all the questions and be checking in on IlliniPlaybook for future Illinois mailbags.