Illinois may have tapped a new junior-college pipeline -- with the 2016 NJCAA national championship team.
On Wednesday night, four-star Broncbusters linebacker DelShawn Phillips committed to Illinois. He is expected to sign with Illinois during the junior college/mid-year signing period, which started Wednesday.
UPDATE 12/14, 8:45 a.m.: Phillips has signed with the Illini.
Phillips, who had been committed to Arizona, took an official visit to Illinois last weekend. He is ranked the No. 14 JuCo prospect by Scout.com. Phillips will enroll for spring semester and will have three years to play two at Illinois but likely will play a big role immediately.
Asked why he flipped from Illinois, Phillips told Illini Inquirer: "To be honest, I don't know. It was just something I felt in my gut and my heart. I just so happened to connect to Illinois."
Last season, he led Garden City with 95 tackles, including 12.5 tackles for loss and 2.0 sacks. Phillips -- who originally committed to Western Michigan out of Michigan high school powerhouse Detroit Cass Tech -- also had four pass break ups, three interceptions, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery.
"What he brings sincerely is an attitude," Garden City coach Jeff Sims said. "DelShawn Phillips is straight business. What I mean by that is I haven't had to worry about nothing. He does his homework. He does his practice. He does his weights. He does everything, but he does it with an attitude, with a business-like (approach). He's coming in there and he's serious."
Sims compares Phillips to Tampa Bay Buccaneers star Lavonte David, whom he coached at Fort Scott Community College.
"When Lavonte David was going to the NFL, NFL scouts would come and ask the Nebraska coaches, 'How will be as a professional?' and their response back was, 'He's already a professional,'" Sims said. "I would say DelShawn's a professional. DelShawn is straight business. He doesn't play (around). He's serious. He works hard. He's got a chip on his shoulder. He's got great length. He's physical. I would love to see the Illinois coaches take his game to the next level. I think if they do, he could be a great, great player."
Phillips will add speed, physicality and experience to an Illinois linebacker corps that loses leading tackler Hardy Nickerson to graduation. Rising junior Tre Watson had a breakout sophomore season (102 tackles). But the two other spots were expected to be an open competition among junior Julian Jones (32 tackles) and sophomores Dele' Harding (13 tackles), Jake Hansen (12 tackles) and Justice Williams (12 tackles).
Illinois now 13 commitments in the class of 2017 and expects to sign a full 25-man class.