Werner's Whits: Illini second-chance targets

Illini Inquirer publisher Jeremy Werner discusses the Illini trying to pounce on former commits reconsidering their options

One of head coach Bill Cubit's edicts to his staff was to have no fear in recruiting against fellow power-five schools. He no longer wanted Illinois to shy away from recruitments against fellow Big Ten programs (like Wisconsin, Nebraska, Maryland and Minnesota) nor other regional (Cincinnati, Mizzou) or national programs (Miami, Texas A&M).

Cubit's thought process goes something like this. To get good players, you have to compete against good programs. That means you're going to lose some recruitments. But the few you win may change your program.

The Illini are looking to snag a few late splashes before the Feb. 3 National Signing Day, and many of their targets include commitments or former commitments now reconsidering their options. Here's a deeper look at some of the Illini's second-chance targets.


Mackenzie Nworah, OL: The former Mizzou commit is scheduled to officially visit the Illini this weekend, and new Illini offensive line coach A.J. Ricker -- who recruited Nworah to Mizzou -- is scheduled to visit Nworah on Friday. The Illini have a real chance here.

Trystan Castillo, OL: Like Nworah, the Mizzou commit is receiving a lot of attention from Ricker, who visited Castillo this week. Castillo is near the top of the Illini's offensive line priority list.

Tre'Vour Simms, OL: The East St. Louis product has been pulled in opposite directions which has resulted in him committing, decommitting, committing and decommitting from Illinois. While he currently lists Mizzou as his "commitment," Illinois still has a 50-50 chance in this one and if the player is able to pick his destination, the Illini chances go up.

Darius Anderson, RB: After decommitting from Mizzou last month, Illinois felt confident it would receive an official visit. It's hard not to love him when you watch his film, but Anderson's quick cut ability has impressed some big boys too. He rcently received offers from Alabama, Texas A&M and TCU. Texas also visited in-home this week. The Illini aren't giving up quite yet and may visit Anderson next week, but Illinois is a long shot (at best).

Sam Brodner, RB: The Illinois Gatorade Player of the Year and former Vanderbilt commit reopened his commitment and is seriously considering Illinois. Illini running backs coach Nathan Scheelhaase visited him this week. Brodner has scheduled three official visits: to Wisconin this weekend, Illinois next weekend and Syracuse the following week. Brodner could be a bruising running back, a hard-hitting linebacker or a special teams star. Regardless, he'd help Illinois as a player, a leader and a buzz recruit.

Sean Foster, OT: The former Minnesota commit is visiting Iowa State, who seems to be pushing hardest for Foster, who has had offers (at some point) from dozens of programs. Despite his lofty (probably a tad overrated) four-star ranking, he's viewed by many programs as a bit of a roll-of-the-dice prospect.

D'Ante Smith, OL: The Appalachian State commit received an Illini offer and a visit from Illini assistant Al Seamonson this week. The Illini may bring him in for an official visit later this month.

Evan Fairs, WR: Illini wide receivers coach Mike Bellamy visited the Maryland commit this week prior to Fairs' official visit this weekend. Kansas is the Illini's top competition.

Brandon Benson, WR: Bellamy this week visited the SMU commit, who could add the stretch-the-field presence the Illini covet.

Zarrian Holcombe, TE: The former Texas A&M commit is taking an official visit to the Illini this weekend, and new Illini tight ends coach Jeff Hecklinski visited him in person this week. Holcombe -- a refined pass catcher and willing blocker with the frame to add strength -- is on the Illini's short list of priorities at tight end.

Dredrick Snelson, WR: The former Minnesota  commit received a visit from Illini quarterbacks coach Ryan Cubit this week. But Snelson currently has scheduled his three remaining official visits for UCF (Jan. 15), Maryland (Jan. 22) and Wisconsin (Jan. 29). The Illini will try to steal one of those final two dates for themselves.

Andrew Trainer, TE: The Illini appear to have struck up a quick relationship with the big (6-foot-7) Virginia commit, who is visiting this weekend. Tight end is a prioirty position to fill.


Colby Reeder, LB: A favorite of mine in this class, the underrated and underspoken linebacker committed to homestate Delaware last week. Expect Illini coach Bill Cubit to head to Delaware next week to try to sway Reeder away from his alma mater (Cubit and assistant Paul Williams played at Delaware). But Reeder isn't a typical recruit. Playing for his homestate school and his father's alma mater seems to mean more to him than playing in the Big Ten. Plus, his older brother Troy -- who started this season at Penn State -- is transferring to Delaware.

Jake Hansen, LB: The Iowa State commit is taking an official visit to Illinois this weekend before visiting Florida International the following weekend. The Illini are his biggest standing offer.

Elias Reynolds, LB: The former Rutgers commit is still considering the Scarlet Knights and will visit there on Jan. 22. But Pitt, where he will visit this weekend, may be the team to beat. The Illini received a December visit and will check in on him in New Jersey twice in a week to show him how much they are prioritizing him.

Tymir Oliver, DE: The big Philly defensive end just decommitted from Rutgers and Williams visited him this week. The Illini appear to be in his top-three, along with Boston College and Rutgers.

KaDerrion Mason, DE: Mason committed to Southern Miss recently despite offers from Kentucky, Mississippi State, Missouri and West Virginia. Illinois may visit him in the next week or so to test the strength of that bond.

Izon Pulley, DE: The Miami commit received a visit from Williams, a former Miami assistant, after the Illini extended an offer recently.

Jeremy Level, S: The Appalachian State recently received an Illini offer. It's not clear yet where he ranks on the Illini priority list, though Illinois could schedule an official visit for the North Carolina native later this month.

Frank Coppet, CB: The Vanderbilt commit keeps getting interest from the Illini. Ryan Cubit visited him this week during his trip to see current commits James McCourt and Dominic Thieman. The Illini hope their bond at St. Thomas Aquinas could sway Coppet to reconsider.

Jeremy Werner is the publisher of IlliniInquirer.com. Follow him on Twitter @JWernerScout.

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