CHAMPAIGN - Since coaches could start calling 2018 football prospects a few weeks ago, Verdis Brown's phone has "been off the hook," the Chicago Mt. Carmel lineman said.
"I get texts at 6 o'clock in the morning telling me to have a good day and in the middle of school sometimes asking me how my day is going," Brown said.
The four-star lineman is the state of Illinois' top junior prospect and the No. 168 prospect nationally in the Class of 2018. He currently holds offers from Illinois, Ohio State, Florida State, Michigan State, Missouri and Purdue.
But two are recruiting him harder than the others.
"Right now, I would say Illinois and Ohio State," Brown said.
Given recent and historical success, that might seem like an odd recruiting battle. Ohio State is 31-1 in the Big Ten under Urban Meyer with a national championship already under his belt.
"Their coaching staff sticks out a lot," Brown said of the Buckeyes. "Those guys stay in contact with you, make sure you're doing the right things, make sure they're staying on top of you. They make sure you're doing what is to be a success. That sticks out a lot, that they make sure you become a successful man in life."
Illinois, meanwhile, has finished near the bottom of the Big Ten for most of the last decade. But the hiring of Lovie Smith has changed their perception. Brown may be the litmus test recruit for Smith's staff to see if they can compete with the nation's best programs for talent.
"They have that sort of connection," Brown said of the Illini staff. They also do the same thing as Ohio State. They make sure you're doing good. They don't try to sugar-coat anything with you. That's who they are. They show their personality."
Illinois also is selling Brown on being the foundation piece in the trenches of a possible program-changing class built on in-state prospects -- and it intrigues him.
"There's a lot that draws me about that," Brown said. "To know I have a chance to build a legacy here means a lot. It's something I think about a lot."
http://www.scout.com/college/illinois/story/1702972-illini-football-recr...Brown has visited Illinois multiple times already and took in the Illini's primetime showdown against North Carolina. Though Illinois lost 48-23, Brown was impressed by the atmosphere of the program's first sell-out crowd in five years.
"There's a lot of excitement going on," Brown said. "There's good electricity here, and it's just a great time to be down here to check out Illinois."
Meanwhile, Brown and the Mt. Carmel Caravan are 2-1 on the season following a tough 35-28 loss to the No. 1 team in the state, Loyola.
"They're a pretty tough team. You got to give credit where credit is due," Brown said. "Good job to Loyola. Now, we just have to get back to work."
Brown barely comes off the field for the Caravan, playing both ways in the trenches (Illinois is recruiting him as a defensive lineman).
"Whatever the teams needs of me, I'm there to help out.," Brown said. I've been playing pretty well. Still a lot of little things to work on. But that'll come in due time.
"I'm making sure that I'm becoming a leader. Even though I'm a junior, I can still help lead a team to a championship, just working on my craft and making sure I can get the seniors their rings."
Brown became the No. 1 player in the state in July -- but it came at a price to his team. Mt. Carmel defensive back Houston Griffith transferred to IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla. But Brown and the Caravan still think they're title contenders.
"Houston was a big part of us," Brown said. "But at Mt. Carmel, it's next man up. But Houston, I still talk to him. I'm not going to say anything bad about him. I like him. We'll still keep in contact. Best of luck to Houston."