Illinois just scarier looking when it walks off the bus.
Tre Johnson announced his commitment to the Illini, becoming the second prospect to commit to interim coach Bill Cubit since Tim Beckman was dismissed -- joining two-star Missouri defensive end Brandon Jones -- and the first prospect to commit during the season.
The Illini (4-2, 1-1 Big Ten) are loading up on beef in the Class of 2016. Johnson, who the Illini recruited to play strongside defensive end though he could play offensive tackle, is the fifth defensive line prospect to commit to Illinois, adding depth to a defensive line (excluding the LEOs) that currently has only two underclassmen on the roster (DT Jamal Milan and DL Tito Odenigbo). The Illini also have four offensive line commitments in the class and would like to add two more.
The Illini have depth at skill positions, especially wide receiver and running back. But the reason the program has struggled so much in the past three to four seasons is mostly due to a lack of size, strength and athleticism up front.
While Johnson is a bit raw, he checks off all those boxes of needs for Illinois.
Now, let's see if Cubit and company can land more like him.
With most of the 2016 needs filled, the Illini are honed in on a select few prospects and and will swing for the fences for a couple targets, like top-150 prospect Donnie Corley, a wide receiver out of Detroit, and Alaric Jackson, an offensive tackle out of Detroit.
Scouting report on Tre Johnson
"Offensively, Johnson has a quick first step and plays with good upper body leverage. Once he engages, he is very good in maintaining and finishing his blocks, even against shorter offensive linemen. He will need to refine his footwork more at the college level, but he doesn't appear to have any bad habits that would greatly hinder him in that area. However, his offensive technique may not even matter.
"Johnson also is an impact player on the defensive line, and the way his high school team utilizes him on the line isn't all that different from the way Illinois utilizes mammoth defensive lineman Jihad Ward. Johnson is much more raw than Ward, but he is also four years younger and has years of college weight training ahead of him. The two are similar in frame: Tall, athletic, with long arms and the ability to chase plays down from behind."
– Ryan Easterling, IlliniInquirer.com recruiting reporter
Class of 2016, so far
Illinois currently has 16 verbal commitments. The class -- which currently consists of one (1) four-star prospect and nine (9) three-star prospects -- ranks 53rdnationally in the Scout team rankings and 12th of 14 teams in the Big Ten. The Illini's average commit rating (2.71) ranks 13th among Big Ten teams.
- Quarterback (1): Eli Peters
- Running back (1): Kentrail Moran
- Wide receiver (1): Dominic Thieman
- Tight end (1): Griffin Palmer
- Offensive line (4): Jake Cerny, Kurt Gavin, Tre'Vour Simms, Devon Robinson
- Defensive line (5): Tre Johnson, Joshua Black, Antonio Shelton, Kenyon Jackson, Brandon Jones
- Linebacker (1): Tim Walton
- Defensive back (2): Drake Spears, Juwuane Parchman
- Specialist: none
The Illini currently have about 22 scholarship spots allotted for the Class of 2016, if including the three oversigns allowed by the Big Ten. That leaves the Illini with roughly six remaining scholarships to fill.
- Offensive line (2): The Illini still have two more scholarship spots slated for offensive linemen. They will definitely add one more, but the staff still want quality though. If Illinois doesn't get two quality linemen, it'll use this scholarship at another position, possibly linebacker or defensive line.
- Defensive back (2): The Illini already have two spots slated for in-state safeties, but they'd like to add another lanky cornerback or two to complete their secondary slate for 2016.
- Wide receiver (1): Illinois has added size in recent years with Malik Turner, Sam Mays and Dominic Thieman but they have their eyes set on adding a speedy burner who can stretch the field vertically and wreck havoc in the screen game.
- Kicker (1): This staff hasn't yet used a scholarship on a kicker or punter out of high school, but after last year's kicking struggles, the staff is ready to invest a spot in the right one. Read Alex Golesh's comments about offering a scholarship to a specialist here.
Prospects to watch
- Rontavius Groves, WR Nashville (Tenn.) Pearl-Cohn: The Illini have established a good relationship at Pearl Cohn and Groves, the former teammate of current Illini Ke'Shawn Vaughn and Cameron Watkins, would fill the Illini's need for a speedy wideout.
- Jair Anderson, WR/DB Duluth (Ga.) Northview: The Illini would like to get a visit from the top Georgia athlete.
- Bryce Banks, DB Columbia (Mo.) Rock Ridge: The 6-foot-3 corner would add much needed size and physicality to the Illini secondary. He visited the Illini last month, and Illinois recently added another Columbia, Mo., native (Jones).
- Stanley Green, DB East St. Louis: The 6-foot-1, athletic in-state prospect recently added a scholarship offer from Illinois. Teammate Tre'Vour Simms is committed to Illinois.
- Anthony Johnson, DB Euclid (Ohio): The 6-foot-3 defensive back recently visited the Illini and recceived an offer. Kentucky and Cincinnnati are the Illini's top competition.
- Alaric Jackson, OT Detroit (Mich.) Renaissance: The 6-foot-7, 280-pound offensive tackle has some big offers but doesn't plan to make a decision for a while, which could benefit the Illini.
- Coy Cronk, OL Lafayette (Ind.) Central Catholic: The 6-foot-5, 270-pound offensive tackle -- who also played middle linebacker as a junior -- is a bit raw on the offensive line but he has the combination of frame and athleticism that projects well as a pass blocker. Cronk, whose grandfather and great-grandfather played at Illinois, also has power-five conference offers from Indiana and Vanderbilt.
- Grayson Stover, OT Hudson (Fla.): The 6-foot-6, 290-pound lineman is expected to take an official visit Illinois for the Oct. 24 game against Wisconsin and has a nice list of power-five conference offers.
- James McCourt, K Fort Lauderdale (Fla.) St. Thomas Aquinas: The Illini recently offered one of the country's better kickers, and Bill and Ryan Cubit have a strong connection at St. Thomas Aquinas (one of the nation's premier prep programs), already landing commitments from 2016 WR Dominic Thieman and 2017 running back Mike Epstein.
- Braxton Pickard, K Edmond (Okla.) Memorial: The Illini recently checked in on Scout's ninth-ranked kicker, who is expected to take an official visit to Illinois for the Oct. 24 game against Wisconsin.