CHAMPAIGN - Devodrick Johnson could choose from more than a dozen power-five scholarship offers when he plans his announcement this Friday. But Illinois is one of his top options for one main reason.
"Because I've always been a fan of Coach Lovie Smith when he was at Tampa Bay and at Chicago," Johnson said. "I've just always been a fan of what he does and how he runs his defense."
The Lovie Effect was visible Saturday as Johnson, the No. 157 prospect in the Class of 2017, took an official visit to Illinois on Saturday. It will be his only official visit before he makes his planned announcement on Friday.
Are those plans still on?
"Yes, sir -- supposedly," Johnson said. "I may have a little video or something for you."
Johnson said he is considering five schools: Illinois, Texas A&M, California, Mississippi State and Oklahoma State. Though some think Texas is still in the picture.
Illinois began its courtship of Johnson -- a versatile athlete who projects as a linebacker or strong safety but also plays quarterback in high school -- soon after Smith was hired.
"That's when (Illini receivers) Coach (Andrew Hayes-)Stoker popped up at the school, and he said he was going to come get me (laughs)," Johnson said. "Coach Stoker, he's a funny man. He's real funny. But just being around it, it's pretty cool. I've been around some of the players and it's pretty cool. There's a nice vibe going around.
"They feel like they can help me get to the next level and help me get my degree at the same time by meeting a lot of people and developing me to be the best athlete I can be."
Johnson hasn't yet visited Cal and Mississippi State. He said Mike Gundy sticks out most about Oklahoma State.
Though he decommitted from Texas A&M in early August, the Aggies are one of his top options.
"It's just feel like it's just a family up there," Johnson said. "I have a cousin that attends the school and she loves it."
What is Johnson looking for in a program?
"Most important thing would be academics and family," Johnson said. "That's what I'm really looking for, a family who can help me get to the next level and get my degree."
Saturday's visit to Illinois -- again, his only official visit -- proves Illinois is under serious consideration for his imminent decision.
"It's a pretty cool campus," Johnsons said. "It's nice. It seems like it's small, but sometimes small is good. I can see myself being here. The coaching staff, they're just funny. It's a family. You can tell it's a family. I always love talking to the coaches."