It's been a while since Illinois landed a defensive line prospect with offers from Michigan State and Penn State. But that was before Illinois hired Lovie Smith.
On Thursday, Illinois beat out the Spartans, Nittany Lions and several other Big Ten and power-five foes for three-star Huntley (Ill.) defensive end Olalere Oladipo, who committed to the Illini during a ceremony at his high school.
"I'm really excited for this commitment," Oladipo said. "It's been a long time coming. And I just hope I make everyone proud of how far I've come. And I also hope to live up to the hype for the rest of the season and into the future."
Oladipo visited the Illinois campus five times since Smith's hire, including a trip for a team barbecue recruiting event in late July. He didn't visit any other campus this summer.
Oladipo chose the Illini over a top-six that also included Michigan State, Penn State, Indiana, Cal and Duke. He also had offers from Maryland, Minnesota and Missouri.
The 6-foot-4, 235-pound defensive lineman played defensive tackle as a junior but projects as an edge rusher in college. He has the chance to compete for playing time immediately at Illinois as the Illini lose their top three defensive ends (Dawuane Smoot, Carroll Phillips and Gimel President) to graduation.
Oladipo is the Illini's 11th commitment in the Class of 2017 and the seventh Illinois native to commit to Smith.
"Good athlete who gets off the ball well and has the agility to beat would-be blockers with his quickness. Has played both inside and on the edge. Right now, because of his size, he fits better as an end in college. Fluid, can stop and change directions and his short area quickness is good. Must continue to get stronger and play lower more consistently."
Another big notch on Lovie Smith's recruiting belt this month.
First, he landed Antwan Collier over Nebraska and others. Then he landed Tony Adams over Mizzou, and Larry Boyd over Mizzou, Oklahoma State and Arkansas. Then he landed Miami (Fla.) Central receiver. Carmoni Green earlier today over Pitt, Oregon State and others.
Now, he lands Oladipo over several Big Ten foes. These are the recruitments Illinois needs to win to take the next step as a program: legit Big Ten prospects, especially in the trenches. The Illini need to add about five defensive linemen in this class -- I'd suggest one or two more -- and Oladipo is a nice start.
Oladipo has a Big Ten-ready body, and he might need to be ready to use it. Illinois has few desirable options returning at defensive end. Henry McGrew is a solid rotational piece. Sean Adesanya has barely practiced live reps due to a shoulder injury, and freshman Brandon Jones is really raw. It's not ideal to play freshmen defensive linemen, but Oladipo has the quickness, athleticism and strength to be one of their better options. Eventually, he could bulk up and play three technique defensive tackle, so he offers versatility as well.
Oladipo also is a great character guy to add to the program. He's a hard worker and excellent student who plans to pursue an engineering career at the prestigious UI College of Engineering. Beyond his football talents, he should be a great representative of the football program, athletic department and university.
Oladipo also continues the Illini's big in-state push. He's the seventh Illinois native to commit to Illinois. The Illini signed just two in-state prospects last February. Smith has given Illinois more in-state momentum than its had in a long time, a key for Illinois to build and sustain a winning program.