Five standouts at Illini Big Man camp

The Illini held their Big Man Camp on the Illinois campus on Sunday. Out of hundreds of campers, here are five who stood out, as well as other notes on the padded-up offensive and defensive linemen.

Sorry, if we're getting repetitive here, but newest Illini commit Vederian Lowe once again stood above the rest. The Rockford (Ill.) Auburn offensive linemen dominated FBS defensive linemen last week at the Illini satellite camp in Barrington and except for a snap or two, once again dominated other Division I talents on Saturday. Lowe lost about 30 pounds since the fall and moves his massive frame much better. But his newfound nasty streak might be as important to his recent progress. Lowe doesn't just want to win battles, he wants to dominate them. Lowe has a devastating punch that often knocks pass rushers back, and with his improved mobility, he usually maintains the block and finishes them. However, his aggression can get the best of him sometimes as he tries to throw the rusher to the ground every time, which can cause him to lose his technique. Still, Lowe unquestionably is on the short list of best offensive lineman in the state's Class of 2017.

Lowe made some loud blocks, but Indiana offensive tackle Bryce Bailey looked like the most consistent blocker on the field. The 6-foot-5 offensive tackle doesn't have the longest arms (32.75 inches) but has great size, footwork and technique. He projects to be a great pass blocker at the next level. He must continue to add strength but looks like he has the frame to do so. Illinois currently is in his top-three, along with Vanderbilt and Indiana (the Hoosiers offered yesterday following Bailey's strong performance in camp). The Illini would love to land the Hoosier. After his performance on Saturday, we see why.

I develop certain man-crushes. Nnanna Egwu and Clayton Fejedelem to name a few. I've developed a new man-crush: Montini defensive tackle Joe Spivak.. Spivak isn't really a prospect for Illinois. He's 5-foot-11, 292 pounds with shorter arms. But he's explosive, ridiculously tough and powerful. He's simply a throwback player. He's not the most physically gifted but he's a bowling ball who wreaks havoc in the middle of the front four. Spivak has the lower body and football IQ of a college senior. His frame limitations -- he overcomes some of them because he's a workout warrior who pushes massive weight -- likely will keep him from going power five, but MAC programs should be all over a player they can plug in the middle of their defense for at least three years. Northern Illinois, Ball State, Central Michigan and Wyoming have all show interest and he has offers from Illinois State, Air Force and Dartmouth, among others.

Like Spivak, Christian Wills doesn't have the greatest measureables. The 2017 Belleville Althoff defensive end is 6-foot, 258 pounds and ran a 5.03 50-yard dash. But he has a great burst (1.81 10-yard split, 2.78 20-yard split) and a nice array of pass rush moves. He was one of the few players to beat Lowe in one-on-ones with a nice inside rush move. Wills could be a nice boost to the pass rush for FCS or lower-level FBS teams.

Why did Ft. Lauderdale (Fla.) St. Thomas Aquinas offensive lineman Grant Miller participate in the Illini camp? He grew up in Chicago and has a connection to Lovie Smith. His dad, Fred Miller, played for Lovie's Chicago Bears from 2005-2008. Miller has a solid frame (6-foot-3, 257 pounds) but still seems to have a lot of room to grow (he's a young-looking 2017 prospect). You can tell he's received great coaching (his father, IMG Academy, St. Thomas Aquinas, etc.) because he was one of the most technically sound linemen at the camp. Miller needs time to grow, but he's an intriguing prospect. He has offers from Minnesota, Colorado State and Toledo, among several others.

Other notes

  • Huntley defensive end Olalere Oladipo attended Illinois on Sunday but did not participate in the Big Man Camp, rather he was there to watch a few teammates. Still, it was a positive for Illinois. Oladipo has visited campus three times in the past few months and knows the staff really, really well. Oladipo plans visits to Indiana and Michigan State soon. He's hoping to make a decision soon, and Illinois is on the short list. Oladipo knows many of the Illini commits and other in-state targets very well.
  • Nazareth Academy defensive end Christian Sampleton has a burst and athleticism, but he's a bit undersized (6-2.5, 225 pounds). He has offers from Air Force, Wyoming, Harvard, Dartmouth, Southern Illinois, Navy, Nevada, Southern Illinois, Western Illinois and several others. Expect more FBS interest, but he'll likely need to be patient if he wants power-five interest.
  • 2018 offensive lineman Wyatt Blake certainly looks the part. He needs to get stronger, but he has a good frame and a nice burst off the line of scrimmage. Northwestern and Virginia were the first power fives to offer.
  • Johnston City offensive tackle Max Edwards is an intriguing small-school prospect. He dominates lower-level IHSA opponents on his film. He wasn't as dominant against the better prospects at Sunday's camp, but he looks like he belongs. The 6-4.5, 278-pound 2017 linemandserves a second look due to his size and solid athleticism. He could be a late riser in the class.
  • Batavia offensive tackle Evan Day (6-foot-5, 294 pounds) and Geneseo's Sam Thomas look like Division I offensive linemen.
  • Niles West OL Joshua Weichel (6-foot-5, 350 pounds) is massive but needs to trim down to move better.
  • Mt. Carmel 2018 defender Terrance Taylor is transitioning to defensive end. He's a great athlete with a good frame but learned during a battle with Lowe that he must add strength.
  • Champaign Centennial 2017 defensive end Jordan Williams shined during one-on-one drills. The 6-foot-3, 223-pound senior has a great burst off the line of scrimmage and overcame his lack of great strength by using his athleticism well. Another local product to watch? LeRoy defensive end Alex Lamont. The 6-foot-3, 222-pound senior is just 16 years old, so he's a bit behind in his physical development but catching up quickly. He beat Miller impressively on one rep.

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