CHAMPAIGN - Micah Jones has visited the Illinois campus so many times during the past year that he's actually lost count.
"I don't even remember," Jones said with a laugh. "I've been down there five, six, seven times. Close to that. I've gotten to get close with all the recruits, the 2018 and 2017 recruits. They're all pretty fun guys, funny guys to be around. Also, I've just gotten to get to know the coaches better."
The 2018 Gurnee (Ill.) Warren three-star receiver made a return visit to Champaign on Thursday for the team's barbecue, an exclusive recruiting event for some of their top recruiting targets. Jones arrived on campus before most of the other recruits and spent time with former Warren tight end and Illini redshirt freshman Caleb Reams at his apartment. He then joined the group, toured campus and hung out with the staff and prospects
"I think highly of Lovie's staff," Jones said. "They're really cool guys. I got to talk to them a lot before today and they're still really cool games. I got to play with some of the coaches. They're real competitive and cool guys. It was fun to be around."
First-year Illinois coach Lovie Smith is selling the 2017 and 2018 in-state prospects on banding together and revitalizing the Illini football program. A few of the 2017 Illini commits, including Ricky Smalling, Kendall Smith and Cam Thomas, made the trip down to sell fellow 2017 in-state prospects (like Micah Awodiran and Olalere Oladipo) and 2018 in-state prospects, like Jones and Verdis Brown.
Jones said those building those relationships with fellow Land of Lincoln recruits "matters a lot."
"Just to know that the kids that are playing right now and the ones that I would be with are cool guys that I can get along with and talk to and be friends with all of them," Jones said. Just to know that they're there is a big comfort for me."
Illinois has developed a strong relationship with Jones but they are facing a lot of competition for the physical, athletic 6-foot-5 target. Iowa and Northwestern offered early, Syracuse offered this spring and Michigan State and Notre Dame hopped on with offers this summer.
http://www.scout.com/college/illinois/story/1690383-wr-jalin-tolbert-ill... "(The Michigan State and Notre Dame offers) meant a lot to me because they're schools I've been watching since I was young," Jones said. "Just getting those offers was cool to see and it was good to talk to the coaches."
Jones is visiting Iowa this weekend and also is receiving interest from Wisconsin and Mizzou.
Jones and teammate Jalin Tolbert form possibly the most talented receiver duo in the state. With Illinois showing more interest in Tolbert, the thought of continue to play with Tolbert is appealing to Jones.
"It would mean a lot for me to be able to play with Jalin," Jones said. "He's one of my very, very good friends. If he gets that offer, it would be something I would consider highly. Something me and him as well as our families have thought about."