Can Illini pluck more prospects out of Peach State?

Illini ramping up efforts in the talent-rich Georgia

Florida, Texas and California are the three hotbeds of talent for which almost all Midwest schools will leave the region. That's pretty understood.

But outside of Florida, the state with the most FBS signees per capita in 2015 was Georgia. So as new Illini coach Lovie Smith attempts to cast a wider net for premier talent, it's no surprise that his staff has made its presence known in the Peach State. The Illini have offered more than two dozen Georgia prospects already.

Illinois has landed some Georgia talents in recent years, including sophomore linebacker Julian Jones and 2016 commits DB Evan Jones and LB Christion Abercrombie.

The issue is getting the best Georgia prospects out of the southeast. Of the 33 four- and five-star prospects from the state in the Class of 2016, only four went to programs not from the SEC or ACC -- two to USC, one to California and one to Penn State.

But Michigan, Penn State, Wisconsin, Northwestern, Minnesota, Illinois, Indiana and even Purdue (!) all plucked three-star prospects out of the Peach State last year to boost their Big Ten classes.

Can the Illini land more difference-makers out of SEC territory to play in the blustery winds of Memorial Stadium? national analyst and South regional manager Chad Simmons weighs in.


Chad Simmons, national analyst/South regional manager

Opportunity: The depth is strong in Georgia and it continues to get deeper with it becoming regular for the state to produce over 200 Division 1 prospects.  The ACC and SEC do not get them all, and there are always prospects who end up heading north to play college football.  Georgia is an easy state to recruit too, from a financial standpoint.  Coaches are able to fly in or drive in to the Atlanta area or hit schools in Fulton County, Gwinnett County, Clayton County, Forsyth County, and a few others very quickly without driving more than 10-15 minutes to 10 schools or more.  The talent is there, there is enough to go around, and the not only are the numbers good, but the talent level is as well.

Challenges: Illinois will always have the battle of the ACC and SEC schools knowing the area, having strong ties to the area, and just being the easier schools to get to. It is not easy to get top talent out of Georgia for any Big Ten school — not even Ohio State or Michigan. Throwing out the offers is smart though, because it only takes one or two hits to lead to more in the future.

Keys to success: Winning always helps, but as much or even more than that — landing one that has success quickly speaks volumes. Kids want to play, they want to get on the field early, and they want to get to the NFL. That is as important as anything, so if Illinois can land a couple, coach them up, and showcase their ability to get kids from Georgia on the field in an impactful way, that would go a long way.

Intriguing prospect: A couple to watch at this time are wide receivers, Jayden Comma and Josh Johnson. Both could be there for the taking for Illinois. They come from great programs, they both are looking for an opportunity to get on the field, and both want to feel wanted by coaching staffs.  Illinois looks to be in play here.

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