The question of "Who will be the first to commit to Lovie Smith?" now has an answer. Two of them.
Brother Rice rising senior Ricky Smalling, a top-50 receiver in the Class of 2017, and Bolingbrook wideout Kendall Smith gave simultaneous verbal pledges to the new Illini head coach following Tuesday's practice during unofficial visits.
Smith said Smalling had planned the dual commitment for about two to three weeks but kept it a secret.
"It means a lot. We're about to start something great," Smith said. "It's great to be the first seed and be the first thing that actually got this rolling.
"You want your homestate to be great. For a while, Illinois has kinda been like kind of iffy, so I wanted to make them great again. I want to make them excited about being here."
Smith cannot talk about specific recruits but is happy to get the ball rolling in recruiting.
"It means a lot," Smith said. "You have to have a starting point. For us, of course, I talked about how important it is to have a presence in Illinois and the Chicago area. We've had a lot of players come down, see how we're doing things, which is a good start."
Smalling chose the Illini over offers from Indiana, Iowa State, Minnesota, Missouri, Purdue, Syracuse, Virginia and Wisconsin, among others.
Smaling earned Class 8A All-State honors as a junior after hauling in 84 receptions for 1,164 yards and 15 touchdowns. As a sophomore, Smalling totaled 45 catches, 695 yards, and eight touchdowns.
Smith, a 6-foot-1, 175-pound athlete, chose the Illini over offers from Western Michigan, Toledo, Northern Illinois, Central Michigan, Bowling Green, Nevada, Ball State, Miami (Ohio), Buffalo and Wyoming.
Smith played his freshman year at Aurora Catholic but transferred back to Bolingbrook as a sophomore. He was a candidate to play quarterback but played so well at receiver that Bolingbrook kept him there.
He likely play defensive back at Illinois. Smith is a very good athlete with good speed and also is a plus blocker. His coaches laud his leadership as well.
Smith and Smalling say they won't be the last in-state 2017 prospects to commit to Illinois. Crete-Monee defensive back Juawan Treadwell accompanied them on the unofficial visit on Tuesday.
"We're working on Juawan too," Smith said. "We're working on a lot of kids right now."