Illinois lost a lot of depth at linebacker this offseason due to transfers, graduations, and other departures. However, the staff is looking to build the linebacker position into an area of strength as many of Lovie Smith's past defenses have been.
One promising recruit they have honed in on already in the 2018 class is Indianapolis (IN) Cathedral linebacker Hugh Davis.
Davis, a 6'1", 210 pound outside backer, is a good run defender who maintains quality gap discipline and brings a physical presence when he hits. Right now, he plays a bit stiff and lacks great top-end speed, but he hustles on every play and has a nose for the football.
He was at Illinois for the open scrimmage and visited again just a week later to get to spend more time with the coaches without the busyness of a fan day to be a distraction.
"This was my second time visiting and this time it was a more personal visit," Davis said. "I got to connect with the coaches and talk about more specific things."
Davis was one of several visitors for the Illini's equivalent to a spring game on April 15th when they hosted an open practice at Memorial Stadium for the fans. But this time, he valued the time he was able to spend with the coaches who are both recruiting him and overseeing his position.
"(I liked) talking to Coach Butkus, Coach McGarigle, and Lovie Smith for sure," he said. "I also really liked watching the 1-on-1's in practice. I really like Coach (Hardy) Nickerson and what he is doing with the defense."
Davis got a chance to follow the defense around as they practiced during his recent visit. He liked the aggressive nature of the defense now and how they hope to be disruptive on the field.
"They're aggressive and fast to the ball," he said. "It's all about takeaways for them, and they seem like they're going to be a problem for a lot of teams."
Illinois hasn't offered the talented young linebacker yet, as the staff is focusing heavily on getting caught up in 2017 right now, but Davis believes an offer could be coming his way once they start looking more into 2018.
"They haven't offered yet," Davis said, "but I'm confident they will in the future. They're playing catch-up right now with 2017 guys and are about to start to move on to 2018."