Fact or Fiction: Lovie will sign double-digit in-state recruits in 2017

The previous Illinois staff signed just two in-state recruits on Signing Day 2016. New Illini head coach Lovie Smith has received commitments from five in-state recruits during the past six weeks. Will Lovie double that number by Signing Day 2017? The Illini Inquirer staff weighs in.

Fact or Fiction: Lovie will sign double-digit in-state recruits in 2017.

Ryan Easterling, recruiting reporter

I'll go Fiction here, but just because camp season has kind of come and gone, and I think they've already identified most of the guys in-state they want.  Currently they sit at five in-state commits and are targeting two key guys who are likely deciding this summer in Marist LB Micah Awodiran and Huntley DE Olalere Oladipo. This is already better than many expected this early after just starting as head coach in March.

http://www.scout.com/college/illinois/story/1674287-trending-meter-illin... The top five uncommitted in-state prospects that Illinois is heavily targeting right now are Awodiran, Oladipo, Crete-Monee DT John Mitchell, Crete-Monee DB Juawan Treadwell, and Barrington DE Jackson Perkins. That makes a total of 10 in-state prospects. Could a couple more emerge? Sure. Could Illinois steal a commit or two from other schools? Possibly.  Those targets I listed above are all strong possibilities, and that alone is a sign of progress. But is it realistic to land every last one of them? Probably not.

Ten in-state prospects in the 2017 class alone is a pretty steep number. If not, I would expect them to target projectable athletes from states like Texas, Florida, Alabama, California, and Georgia to try to fill the needs in this class and aim for that 10-count of in-state recruits in 2018 where the state is deep yet again with talent.

Jeremy Werner, publisher

Dang. I really want to go "Fact" here. Because it is possible with such a large class, but so many things would have to line up. So I'll relent and go Fiction.

Lovie is off to a great start in the home state. I don't know if he's "Making Illinois Great Again," as quarterback commit Cam Thomas said. But Lovie certainly is making Illinois cool again for in-state prospects.

Illini in-state signees

Year # of signees
2016 2
2015 6
2014 5
2013 8
2012 4
2011 8
2010 6
2009 6
2008 10

Last year, Illinois signed just two (!) in-state prospects. Lovie has received five in-state commitments during the last two months. While Ricky Smalling is the only four-star of the group, the Illini are landing the kind of in-state prospects the program too often missed on the last five years -- the kind who set a solid foundation for the program. Each of the in-state commits has Big Ten size and athleticism.

Ten in-state prospects -- Illinois last signed that many in 2008 -- will be tough though because the Illini staff joined the process late, with several of the top in-state prospects either committed or with already narrowed lists. The Illini would love to add East St. Louis star receiver Jeff Thomas, but he already has narrowed his list and he has some academics questions. The Illini also wanted A.J. Epenesa (Iowa), Isaiah Robertson (Notre Dame commit), Cole Kmet (Notre Dame), Ivory Kelly-Martin (Iowa), Izayah Green-May (Wisconsin), Jake Marwede (Duke), Logan Christopherson (Mizzou) and Kevin Jarvis (Michigan State). Of course, Illinois will never "own" the state. But one or two of these top-level in-staters would've been ideal.

http://www.scout.com/college/illinois/story/1676026-filling-illini-needs... The state's power-five talent is drying up quickly. The Illini have identified the ones they still want: Oladipo, Awodiran, Mitchell and Treadwell. Can the Illini land all of them? It's possible. They're on the short list for all. Mitchell and Treadwell look like Illini leans at this point, and Illinois has recruited Oladipo and Awodiran as hard as any other program. They are selling Lovie's defense, playing for the state school and outstanding academics (which are important to Oladipo and Awodiran).

Even if the Illini land all four of those prospects, you'd have to add another. The Illini want OT Dalton Wagner, but he hasn't reciprocated that interest yet. Illinois watched Perkins and Deerfield defensive end Joshua Maize at the Barrington satellite camp. The Illini are intrigued by both, but haven't turned up the heat for either yet. Western Michigan commit Marcus Hayes also impressed at Barrington but may not have the speed the staff wants in the secondary.

The Illini could flip someone currently committed to lower-level schools -- Hayes, OT Isaac Hawn (NIU commit) and DT Devonte Dunn (Toledo commit) are all solid prospects -- later in the process. They also could change their minds on certain prospects. Peoria wide receiver Jamir Whitelow has size but not-so-great speed, while teammate Kendrick Green just received a Minnesota offer as a defensive lineman. Maybe another sleeper like Mondesir develops.

This exercise is fun fodder, and the quantity doesn't really matter all that much when deliberating between 8-12 players or so. Plus, the quality of the talent is more important than where the talent comes from. But this conversation is pretty encouraging given that Illinois likely needs to consistently land Big Ten talent from within its borders to consistently compete in the conference. 

Four months removed from a signing class that included just two in-state prospects, we're discussing the not-that-far-fetched possibility of Illinois scoring double-digit in-state recruits or the first time in a decade. Legit power-five talents from the Land of Lincoln are again starting to think they can succeed at Illinois and receive the coaching to help them reach the pros. That's an encouraging step forward.


Illini Inquirer Top Stories