Illinois football hasn't won many recruitments over Missouri lately, especially for St. Louis-area prospects. But Lovie Smith on Friday earned his first big head-to-head win over Mizzou with a commitment from St. Louis University three-star athlete Tony Adams
The Illini needed a late burst to edge out the Tigers over the finish line.
"It was Mizzou yesterday, to be honest," said Adams, who will play cornerback at Illinois. "But I was still having doubts, and I didn't want to have no doubts when I made this decision. I wanted to get this off my mind so I could focus on the team and season."
A deeper relationship put Illinois over the top.
"It was hard," Adams said. "I was going back and forth, and then a couple people told me to go with my gut. Then this morning, I woke up at 4 o'clock in the morning like I usually do and go work out, and when I did, I don't know, I just came to a clear mind. I was like, 'Who do I have a better relationship with?' And I think out of anybody, me and (Illini running backs) coach Thad (Ward) got the best relationship. So I think coach Thad did it."
Adams plays for St. Louis University High but lives in Belleville with his mother. He felt pressure from both sides of the Border War.
http://www.scout.com/college/illinois/story/1691732-trending-meter-illin... "I tried to block it out, but at some point it gets to you," Adams said. "I live with my mother and my mother lives in Belleville. My daddy lives in Centerville, Illinois. It's the 618 (area code), but then I go to school in St. Louis. It was crazy. I was hearing it from both sides. I have uncles and cousins to go here and there. I tried to block it off and go to the mentors who have helped me change and help me become the person I am today. I think really gave me some good advice. I had to all together figure out this decision by myself."
Adams -- the Illini's eighth commitment in the Class of 2017 -- earned a scholarship offer from Illinois after a strong showing at the Illini's St. Louis satellite camp in June. There, Adams flashed his speed (4.5-second range), athleticism (10 feet, 1 inch broad jump) and versatility. He worked out as a defensive back for secondary coach Paul Williams, at running back with assistant Thad Ward and at wide receiver with assistant Andrew Hayes-Stoker.
Days later, Adams camped at Mizzou and received an offer from the Tigers, as well.
In the end, Adams felt a pull to stay east of the Mississippi River.
"I remember at a young age, me and my daddy used to sit outside his house and he used to tell me all about the Galloping Ghost, about in-state prospects who stayed at Illinois and how Illinois has set great players to the league and how it used to be legendary," Adams said. "Looking up to my daddy at a young age, I wanted to make him proud. I always thought about putting on that jersey and now it's my opportunity so it feels great."
Adams plays mostly receiver in high school but will transition to cornerback at Illinois.
"I think I can be a really good corner," Adams said. "I think I got potential with it. I got a lot of work to do. I just can't wait to get up to Champaign to start my journey."
He can't wait to play defense for Lovie Smith.
http://www.scout.com/college/illinois/story/1695141-awodiran-to-yale-now... "Man, it's going to be crazy," Adams said. "He kind of showed me a new technique, and I've been using it. I really liked it. Instead of shading inside, I'm shading outside to take away anything over the top. I actually like it better because I believe I have the speed to break up anything inside. Just to stop a receiver from going deep and playing over the top, it'll be something good. It's something new that I'd never heard of before. I can't wait to see what he can teach me."
Adams is happy he now can focus on his high school season.
"I finally can focus on my team 100 percent," Adams said, "because my mind has been present but it really hasn't. It's been on this decision. Now, I can focus on my season and put my team first and try to help win the state championship."
Adams plays at SLUH but he's a Belleville, Ill., native, so he's technically the sixth player in the Class of 2017 to commit to Lovie Smith's staff. Last year, Illinois signed just two in-state prospects. Ricky Smalling is the lone top-10 player from the state to commit to Illinois, but this is nice progress for the state flagship university.
As for Adams, he's another example of the staff quickly evaluating a player, offering and closing. The Illini offered QB commit Cam Thomas a few weeks after Garrick McGee watched him throw in person. They received a commitment soon after. They offered Marc Mondesir a week after he impressed at the Chicago satellite camp, and they closed on the same day. They reaffirmed their offer to Vederian Lowe after a strong performance at the Barrington satellite camp, pushed for him and closed a week later. This Illini staff is confident in their evaluations, even if other power-five programs haven't offered, and move quickly.
Adams also gives them a win over Mizzou, and those have been tough to come by recently. With the unfortunate resignation of Gary Pinkel due to health reasons and turmoil at the university and athletic department, the door has creaked open for the Illini in the St. Louis area. Mizzou offered days after Illinois and picked up momentum recently. But Adams grew up rooting for Illinois, and the Illini finished the job.
Adams gives the Illini a boost of athleticism and versatility. Illinois likes him at cornerback but could eventually move him to slot receiver if they want. Adams has track speed, solid length and physicality. He hasn't played a lot of cornerback, so he may need some time to develop. But he's a legit Big Ten athlete and a good get for Illinois.
Now, Illinois wants another win over Mizzou and have their sights set on St. Louis Trinity Catholic offensive lineman Larry Boyd, who visited in July and may make a return appearance to Illinois soon.