Jeremy Werner

Ohio RB Ra'Von Bonner commits to Illini

Illini take commitment from Ohio running back Ra'Von Bonner

Sycamore (Ohio) running back Ra'Von Bonner and the Illinois football staff each took a crash course in the other the past few months. Bonner took two unofficial visits to Illinois for games earlier this month, and Illinois devoured Bonner's senior film multiple times during the courtship.

Both quickly decided they would make for a good marriage.

Bonner committed to Illinois on Tuesday, choosing the Illini over offers from Cincinnati, Toledo and Western Michigan, among others.

"On my visits, I just really felt that was the school for me," Bonner told Illini Inquirer on Tuesday night. "I just talked to Coach Lovie Smith about an hour and a half ago. He just wants me with this family, and they felt I fit perfectly in this program. They tell me to expect to play early.

"It’s a huge blessing for me to be able to play college football no matter what level or what school it is. It's just a great opportunity to still be able to play for another four years, to get a degree and then having Coach Lovie as my coach, I know he'll prepare me for the NFL."

Bonner said he felt a connection to the staff away from football. He said he and Smith and running backs coach Thad Ward especially connected with their strong faith. "It’s the people that they are, not just as coaches," Bonner said. "You'll find great coaching staffs anywhere in the country. It's the people they are. They really just touch me inside to know what it is they want, not just what they want out of football but what they want out of life and how they go about it. It’s inspiring."

Bonner is the 12th commitment in the Illini Class of 2017 and the second running back, joining St. Thomas Aquinas (Fla.) running back Mike Epstein. He adds the mix of quickness and size Illinois wants in its running backs.

Through five games this season, Bonner has run for 782 yards (7.1 ypc) and 15 touchdowns. He ran for 1,429 yards and had 29 touchdowns as a junior.

"They expect me to play early," Bonner said. "They said that if they’re happy that they have an all-around back like me, a back that can get 20-25 carries a game, not a scatback or a third-down guy but a game-changer who can control the line of scrimmage.

"I’ve gained a lot of muscle so that helps a lot with breaking tackles. My greatest attribute has always beeen my vision. Ever since I was younger, I just have a feel for everything going on the field. I hit the hole hard. My patience has gotten better at letting the play develop. I also can catch up out of the backfied, but you can line me at wide receiver too."

Illinois currently ranks No. 46 in Scout's national rankings and No. 11 in the Big Ten.


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