It's crunch time. Signing Day is just four days away, and the Illini have plenty of needs to fill.
The Illini need a linebacker who can contribute immediately.
The Illini need to add strength and size to the offensive line -- and maybe one who can compete for playing time immediately.
The Illini need defensive linemen who can provide depth for the future and play by 2017.
The Illini need a receiver who can stretch the field.
The Illini may even want another defensive back.
They'll try to fill most of those needs in one weekend as they host 10 official visitors.
Who's trending toward and away from the Illini? Check out the latest Illini Inquirer Trending Meter!
- Jordan Carmouche, LB: Committed to SMU on Jan. 28
- Stewart Reese, OL: Cancelled visit to Illinois on Jan. 28
- Darta Lee, OL: Committed on Jan. 25
- Andrew Trainer, TE: Committed on Jan. 25
- Antonio Shelton, DL: Decommitted on Jan. 25
- Tim Walton, LB: Decommitted on Jan. 25
- Erik Swenson, OT
- KaDerrion Mason, DE
Ekton (Md.) Eastern Christian Academy linebacker Dele' Harding visited Rutgers last weekend, and the Scarlet Knights were hoping to close the deal. But he left campus without a public commitment, and he will visit Illinois this weekend. That's a win for the Illini, who can now sell even more playing time following senior starter T.J. Neal's defection. Meanwhile, Rutgers received their fourth commitment from a 2016 linebacker. The Illini will sell Harding -- who has previously held offers from Tennessee, Michigan and USC -- as a shot to be the starting strongside linebacker from Day One. Harding would be a big-time get at a big-time position for Illinois
Groton (Ma.) offensive tackle Eddy Fish committed to Boston College in December and visited BC last week. But he is visiting Illinois this weekend. The Illini have added some interior depth in this class but would like to add some help at tackle as well. He has the frame and strength to play tackle but needs help with his technique and footwork. Fish told Illini Inquirer that he is excited to visit the Illini. The buzz is that the Illini have a legit shot.
If the Illini want to get bigger and stronger up front -- or just scarier looking off the bus -- Shane Richards certainly would help. The 6-foot-7, 310-pound New Mexico Military Institute sophomore is a mountain of a man, and by far the most intriguing junior college offensive lineman the Illini have pursued in recent years due to his Big Ten-ready size and strength. Richards committed to Oklahoma State during an official visit on Jan. 15, but it appears more of a reservation as he takes more visits. He visited Buffalo on Jan. 22 and will just wrapped up an official visit to Illinois on Thursday before heading to Louisville for the weekend. The Illini can sell him on the opportunity to compete right away for a starting guard spot with Gabe Megginson and Nick Allegretti, but the competiton is stiff.
Pampano Beach (Fla.) Blanche Ely receiver Thomas Geddis holds more than a dozen offers -- including Cincinnati, Utah State and Toledo -- but he will visit Illinois this weekend. The Illini can sell the three-star the opportunity to play Big Ten football. He is a speedy, long strider but needs to add strength and physicality to go across the middle.
Texas wide receiver Evan Fairs visited the Illini on Jan. 15, calling the trip "better than expected." He's down to two choices -- Illinois and Kansas -- and plans to visit the Jayhawks this weekend before making a Signing Day Decision. Fairs, recently upgraded to a three star by Scout, has told us previously that he sees himself as a Big Ten player. Illini wide receivers coach Mike Bellamy was scheduled to visit Fairs this week. But Kansas will get the last swing at him with an official visit this weekend. He is likely No. 1 on the Illini priority list. The Illini likely want to know his decision prior to Wednesday though, so they can decide whether to prioritize other targets.
The Illini need more "quick-twitch" athletes who can take the top off the defense and make defenders miss. Though short, M.J. McGriff has that type of burst. He took an official visit to Ball State last weekend, but he will visit the Illini this weekend. As his best big-time offer, Illinois has a great chance at McGriff and likely will seal the deal this weekend.
We've taken off the label of "soft commit" for Orlando (Fla.) The First Academy defensive end Tre Johnson. He took an official visit to East Carolina, which did not please the Illini staff. He also has some academic issues that could keep him from enrollment at Illinois. Meanwhile, Miami is coming hard for the 6-foot-6 strongside defensive end and is hosting Johnson this weekend. The Hurricanes appear to be frontrunners.
Cooper City (Fla.) defensive end Rashad Weaver officially parted ways with Michigan on Monday after Harbaugh allegedly told Weaver he may not have a spot in the class unless he take a preferred walk-on spot or went to a prep school. The Illini offered Weaver and have been recruiting Weaver for weeks. Waver visited USF last week and Temple appears to be a possibility. Illinois hasn't yet locked up a campus visit, and Weaver recently received offers from Iowa State, Toledo, UCF, Hawaii, East Carolina and Kansas. Others showing interest include Kentucky, Arkansas, Indiana, Pittsburgh, Penn State, Virginia, Minnesota, UNLV and Duke. Needless to say, that's a lot of competition given Illinois' situation.
With KaDerrion Mason likely off the board and Weaver seemingly a longshot, the Illini were hoping to bring in South Carolina commit Sadarius Hutcherson for an official visit this weekend, but that fell through. The 6-foot-6, 250-pound Huntingdon (Tenn.) product has a frame similar to former Illini Jihad Ward and would have been a great fit in new defensive coordinator Mike Phair's defense. But without a visit, the Illini appear to have little chance.
With the all the above defensive line targets falling off and the 2017 DL depth chart looking like a horror movie, Illinois desperately needs to land a solid DL prospect or two. Olney (Md.) defensive end Izon Pulley was the biggest surprise addition to the final weekend visitor list and would fill the need. The former Miami commit received an Illini offer this week. New Illinois assistant Paul Williams, a former Miami assistant, recruits the East Coast and knows plenty about Pulley. UConn and Boston College appear to be the top competition.
Arlington (Texas) defensive tackle Myles Adams has been committed to Rice since August, but the Illini interest is making him think twice. It's a great sign for the Illini that Adams is taking a visit days before Signing Day. After Antonio Shelton's decommitment -- he's visiting Penn State this weekend -- the Illini need defensive line depth in the worst way. Adams is a bit small (6-foot-2, 265 pounds), which certainly has kept other power-five conference teams away. But he has a great burst off the line and plus athleticism -- a fit for the three technique -- to go with a solid core of strength to build on. He also plays with a nasty streak. He'll need a season to bulk up. But at this point, he would be a solid get at a position of great need for Illinois.
Montvale (N.J.) defensive tackle Ibn Foster will visit Illinois this weekend. He doesn't yet have an Illinois offer or any power-five offers. The 6-foot-3, 310-pound nose tackle is massive but is raw and doesn't have much athleticism. He'll need to cut some baby fat and tone up in a college weight program, but he projects as a solid run-stuffing nose tackle. The Illini will decide whether to offer during or after the visit.
Arlington (Texas) Mansfield Summit linebacker Ayo Shogbonyo, Adams' teammate, will also trip to Illinois this weekend. Shogbonyo has good read-and-react skills, burst and doesn't mind physicality (he played offensive line too) but he needs to add about 20 pounds to shed Big Ten blocks and tackle Big Ten running backs The Illini may offer this weekend..
Leeds (Ala.) athlete Tadarryl Marshall was scheduled to visit Illinois this weekend but cancelled this visit and is instead visiting South Alabama. Marshall -- a high school quarterback who could play cornerback, safety and wide receiver -- has held some big-time offers (Tennessee, Auburn, Alabama, Missouri and Georgia Tech). He recently visited Arizona and Kentucky.
Miami (Fla.) Coral Reef safety Harvey Clayton Jr. has been on the Illini campus the last few days and leaves on Saturday. The Illini have immediate playing time to sell at safety. Temple, Louisville and Middle Tennessee have also offered.
Cincinnati (Ohio) Mt. Healthy running back David Montgomery recently received an offer from the Illini and was scheduled to visit this weekend, but he cancelled the visit. He recently visited Iowa State, and the Cyclones are the leader in the clubhouse. Adding another running back wasn't a top priority for the Illini.
East St. Louis guard Tre'Vour Simms has flip-flopped between Illinois and Missouri for the past month. The Illini continue to recruit him hard, as an entire staff, every day. Simms' feelings about where he wants to go appears to depend on the day. Sources say he and his family lean toward the Illini but his high school coaches and teammates pull him toward Missouri. He's given the Illini great vibes throughout the process. If Simms makes a personal decision, Illinois sits in well. He has a great relationship with the staff, especially Mike Bellamy. But he has a lot of people in his ear.