Elijah Camara only has played defense for one season. Yet, he may have shown enough to soon become a Big Ten defender.
Camara played tight end his first season at Lackawanna College, a junior college in Pennsylvania, but moved to the defensive line for his senior season, playing defensive end in a 3-4 alignment. In nine games last season, Camara totaled 22 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks and two forced fumbles.
"I've only been playing (defensive line) for a little bit now, and it was definitely a learning curve," Camara said. "You have to pick up faster than most people because I was going against (offensive tackle) Ashton Julious, who's currently on Oklahoma. Going against him got my better and helped speed the process up."
Camara did not qualify for Division I out of Reynoldsburg High School in Ohio. He preferred to go to prep school but that plan didn't make financial sense for he and his family. Lackawanna -- NFL players and former first-round picks Bryant McKinnie and Kevin White both played at Lackawanna -- recruited him, and Camara was drawn to how many Falcons players were recruited to power-five schools.
He could be next.
Illinois started recruiting Camara a year ago with outside linebackers coach Al Seamonson watching him during spring drills. Illinois was the first school to extend a scholarship offer (he now holds offers from Southern Miss, UAB, James Madison and UCF), and Camara visited the Illinois campus last summer.
"I think it's a great program," said Camara, a 2016 recruit who could join a Division I program this summer. "When I went up there for my visit, they showed me they're a great academic school. I want to go to business school, and they have really good academics which attracts me to go there."
Camara, who has two seasons of eligibility remaining, plans an official visit to Illinois on March 11 -- the Illini's first spring practice -- and currently has no other visits planned. Illinois has a glaring need for impact depth on the defensive line, especially in 2017 with all four starters set to graduate following the 2016 season.
With his academics supposedly cleared at Illinois, Camara's preferred destination appears clear.
"Illinois' a perfect school," Camara said. "They basically want to see my vitals and see how much I weigh, how tall I am because things changed from the summer. That's basically what the visit is for. If that visit goes good, then I'm definitely going to be an Illini."
While Signing Day was Feb. 3, the spring signing period for football extends until April 1. The Illini still have three scholarships remaining in the Class of 2016. With a small Illini senior class, using one, two or three scholarships in the Class of 2016 likely will have no effect on scholarships in the Class of 2017, which likely will be a full class of 25.
Head coach Bill Cubit said he only wants to take players who can make an impact. We should soon know whether he and defensive coordinator/defensive line coach Mike Phair, who also is talking to Camara, think Camara can help the Illini over the next two seasons.
"Just playing in the Big Ten, the highest level of college football, that alone is a dream come true," Camara said. "Just playing against top competition week in and week out, that's definitely what attracts me to Illinois."