CHAMPAIGN - Lightning took away Illinois football's Friday night game. But it also gave them the opportunity to host two-star McCleur North wide receiver Harry Ballard on Saturday.
"It was a blessing," Ballard said before the game. "Thank the man above, thank the lightning strikes for getting me here because our game ended around 8 (p.m. Friday), so I wouldn't have been able to make the game anyways. I'm glad I got to come see the campus a little bit more."
What is Ballard looking for on the visit?
"A lot," Ballard said. "Let's get a W today for Illinois. Talk to a lot of players, get to know the players, what made them choose Illinois, how they like the environment."
Illinois has been a leader for Ballard for the past few months. Is it possible he makes a verbal commitment on his visit?
"Yeah, it's possible," Ballard said. "It's very possible I could pull the trigger today."
Ballard mentioned Missouri, Purdue, Florida State and Oregon as other schools which with he is in contact. But he said he has no other visits planned. Ballard has some academic concerns, but the Illini are high enough on Ballard to reserve him a scholarship spot. Ballard said he re-takes the ACT exam next week.
Illini wide receivers coach Mike Bellamy has struck a close relationship with Ballard and is the lead recruiter for the talented wideout.
"Coach Bellamy is my man. He gets into me. We're very personable with each other. We talk about a lot of things on a personal level. I can relate to Coach Bellamy.
"He told me about his story growing up, so I'm kind of in the same situation as him, so it made me relate. ...The situation is trying to get past the ACT situation and growing up in a bad environment, so I can relate to it. I just have to keep pushing through it as long as I can."
The Illinois staff is in the unique position of recruiting a week after head coach Tim Beckman's dismissal. They received a commitment from two-star defensive end Brandon Jones last Sunday.
Ballard said Beckman's dismissal was shocking but won't fully determine his decision.
"It was a little effective because it's the head coach," Ballard said. "Losing the head coach is a big deal. But everything happens for a reason. I should still be on board."