The basketball side of things has a tendency to command the attention at Illinois, but the football staff is slowly gaining traction with it's pitch to high school prospects as well.
Starting the season off with two wins will do that. Beating Cincinnati last weekend served notice. This Saturday's matchup against Washington in Chicago's Soldier Field is another stage is push the momentum on and up.
According to Illini tight ends coach and recruiting coordinator Alex Golesh, if this weekend sounds like a big event that can be used as a recruiting advantage, it's because that's what it truly is. The game is even more of a selling point now that it's been solidified as an event that will happen every other year for the near future.
"We can tell kids, 'you're going to get to play up there in front of your fans, your friends and they don't have to drive two hours to see you. You're going to get to play in one of those historic venues.' We've been selling it with those Chicago kids like crazy," Golesh said.
Saturday is considered a home game for Illinois, but the recruiting tactics won't be the same as a regular contest in Memorial Stadium. The staff was allotted 300 tickets to give to recruits and families to disperse as necessary.
The catch, though, is no contact can be made between the staff and players because it's currently an evaluation period. Coaches can't talk to players away from campus.
"There's a little bit of a negative to it because you really want to get kids on campus, to be able to talk to them, to meet our staff," Golesh said.
Still, Saturday is a big moment for the Illini, a chance to play a ranked opponent in a nationally recognized atmosphere.
"It would help if we win," Golesh said, laughing yet with a serious tone.
True that. Last week's victory against Cincinnati played out in front of an impressive visitor list. And those who weren't able to make the trip were quickly notified by the staff via Facebook and Twitter.
"It's funny because what we've been selling we finally have been able to say , 'here's our stamp. You can finally see it.' You can sell anything you want but until kids see it it's hard," Golesh said. "I think as long as kids can see it, they want to see explosive offense and big hits on defense. That's what we're kind of showing them now. There's 120 (current players) and 30-something staff members that knew that. Now it seems like a lot of people are starting to buy it."
But Golesh is quick to point out, "momentum lasts one week so you've got to keep it going… I don't think we've arrived by any means, but we're getting there."