CHAMPAIGN - Ra'Von Bonner didn't need to reach far into the memory bank to compare his latest Illinois visit with his previous trip -- because his Saturday unofficial visit to Memorial Stadium came just a week after his first trip to Champaign.
"The first visit was amazing, but the atmosphere was really the difference yesterday though," Bonner said of the Illini's first sell-out crowd in five years. "The visit was incredible. The atmosphere was amazing. The atmosphere and spending time with the (Illini) commits really stuck out. It was great. Tough loss (48-23 to North Carolina), but it happens and they'll bounce back."
Bonner met a few of the current Illinois commits and met more on Saturday, including Bolingbrook ATH Kendall Smith, Huntley DE Olalere Oladipo, WR Ricky Smalling, OL Vederian Lowe, LB Marc Mondesir and OL Larry Boyd.
"They are awesome," Bonner said. "They are great talent but even more a great group of guys."
Bonner has risen on the Illini's running back board recently. The 6-foot, 210-pound running back has a blend of size and speed that has intrigued the staff.
The last two weeks have given both sides a better chance to get to know each other. Bonner talked with Illini running backs coach Thad Ward after the game and also developed more of a relationship with special teams coach Bob Ligashesky.
"I absolutely love coach Bob," Bonner said. "He's filled with passion for the all of the guys and the sport. He puts everything into it."
With two unofficial visits in the books, will the Illini push harder for Bonner?
The Ohio running back said Illinois wants him to come back to Champaign a third time this fall, this time for an official visit. Bonner said he hasn't set a date for that though.
In the meantime, Bonner will try to continue to show out on film. He ran for 181 yards and four touchdowns in Week 3.
"I can lead my team better and also perform better," Bonner said. "My team is filled with talent and passion and I love them."null