Zenden Dellinger witnessed Illinois football's disappointing 34-10 loss to Western Michigan on Saturday. But the Fort Wayne (Ind.) Snider Class of 2017 offensive tackle still saw some positives during his unofficial visit to Champaign.
"Obviously it wasn't a very good game for them, and they played a good team," Dellinger said. "But I toured the campus and I liked what I saw. I want to study pre-veterinary medicine, and they have a very good veterinary science department, so that was pretty interesting to me.”
Dellinger, a 6-foot-7, 310-pound three-star offensive lineman, also is attracted to Lovie Smith's football program. Dellinger received an offer from the previous Illini staff and recently included Illinois in his top-four, along with Cincinnati, South Florida and Harvard.
"I talked to (Illini offensive line coach Luke) Butkus. He just said he’s looking for two more guys (offensive linemen in the Class of 2017)," Dellinger said. "He’s looking for two big guys who can move the line of scrimmage. That’s obviously something they need here in a few years."
Illinois is interested in Dellinger, but the Indiana offensive lineman is still waiting on word that his offer is committable.
“I feel I’m pretty high on their list," Dellinger said. "They’re definitely high on my list. I guess we’ll see in the next month or two. They didn’t really give me a real timeline. I told them I’m looking to make a decision in mid- to late-October, and they said that’s completely fair.”
Dellinger said he's starting to whittle down his list further.
“I think Harvard might be out," Dellinger said. "It doesn’t really appeal to me much anymore. I’m getting a good look at Illinois. That’s a pretty good education there.”
Illinois' top competition appears to be Cincinnati.
“Cincinnati is pretty high," Dellinger said. "They’re probably in my top-two. I’m going to probably visit there next weekend. It just feels like a good fit for me. I see that as a place I can go for four years. I have a good relationship with their staff, and I just feel they’re on an upward trend here recently.”
South Florida is still under consideration. Dellinger plans an official visit to USF on Oct. 8.
“Playing in that weather would be pretty great," Dellinger said. "I have a really good relationship with the offensive line coach.”
Dellinger reiterated why Illinois is near the top of his list.
“They run a pretty similar scheme to what we run at Snider," Dellinger said. "That would be a good fit for me athletically wise. And then they have that major, like I said. And the Big Ten, that’s awesome.”
On the field, Dellinger has helped Snider start its season 5-0. His individual game is progressing as well.
"I just feel like I’m a whole lot more confident than last year," Dellinger said. "I have a whole year under my belt. I’m trying to dominate the line of scrimmage, move it as much as I can and open some holes for my running backs. I feel like pass protection is my biggest strength.”