Illini get closer look at DE Jackson Perkins

Barrington defensive end Jackson Perkins participated in the Illini satellite camp Saturday at his high school

Barrington (Ill.) Jackson Perkins looks like a basketball player. Actually, he's a pretty good basketball player. Good enough that a year ago, he was still considering playing basketball in college.

But the 6-foot-6, 225-pound senior's upside lies on the gridiron. The long and lean defensive end showed flashes of his potential at the Illini satellite camp Saturday at his high school.

"It was the first camp, so it was the first live one-on-ones in a while," Perkins said. "It was interesting to see, but I think I did well once we got going. It was fun."

Perkins' biggest test came in one-on-ones against Rockford (Ill.) Auburn offensive lineman Vederian Lowe, who was the star of the camp. While Perkins struggled to best Lowe, he said Saturday was a learning experience for the next showdown against a fellow power-five prospect.

"It was great. I was trying to weed out the guys who were the most elite o-linemen and stuff," Perkins said. "I mean, it was good to see different types of blocking. You have to base your plan on different types of technique. I was watching them when they were going against other guys, seeing what they're doing and try to plan my things on that. I got to get better at that, but we're still working." he must continue to add strength, Perkins' frame and solid athleticism make him an intriguing prospect at the next level. He has room to add weight and play well as a strongside defensive end. He may later add the versatility to slide inside on passing downs. The key for Perkins is to build on his pass-rush skills.

"Just rush overall," Perkins said. "Obviously, my run game, that's pretty self-explanatory. I'm a long, lean guy. I got to put some weight on to help that run game, but I play it pretty well. But rush, I just chop, rip. I got to get my hips going a little bit more and running the edge."

This is a big summer for Perkins for recruiting, as well. He holds offers from several MAC schools -- including Ball State, Bowling Green, Miami (Ohio), and Western Michigan -- as well as Nevada, Wyoming and UCF. The previous Illinois staff extended Perkins an offer earlier this year.

"I'm picking up some heavy interest from Notre Dame and Vanderbilt and Illinois as well," Perkins said. 

Illinois has continued to recruit Perkins, and the Illini staff -- especially defensive line coach Mike Phair -- got a better, up-close look at Perkins on Saturday.

"They're welcoming," Perkins said. "They tell me how much they love me, so that's always good."

The previous Illinois staff had made Perkins a priority, but the hire of Lovie Smith intrigues Perkins.

"That's awesome," Perkins said. "That changed the whole game, I think. He's the players' coach as they say and an NFL coach and obviously a defensive guy, which is always good for the head coach."

Perkins plans to attend the Lake Park football camp on Wednesday, where Missouri, Michigan State and Minnesota will be in attendance. Later this month he plans to camp at Michigan, Notre Dame and Vanderbilt. At the same time, the two-sport star also plans on attending basketball camps to prepare for his senior season.

How's he make it through?

"It's tough," Perkins said. "Lots of Pedialyte. Pedialyte and protein bars to keep the weight on."

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