Jeremy Werner

Illini Football Trending Meter: Jan. 2017

December was a huge month for Illini football recruiting. With several spots still open in the Class of 2017, January should be as hectic, if not more. How are the Illini trending with their top targets? Check out the Illini Football Trending Meter!

Update - Jan. 26

With Signing Day on Wednesday, the finish line is coming into view -- and so are the likely possibilities for Illinois.

The Illini will likely host five or six visitors for the final weekend -- four have confirmed so far -- and the Illini have the chance to close on all of them, several who have just recently risen up to the priority list. The Illini also are still pursuing some targets they've focused on for a long time, though they have some uphill battles to land most of them.

Illinois looks like it will finish with at least 25 prospects, with one or two more possible. With the four early enrollees likely back-counting to the Class of 2016, Illinois will likely still have two to four scholarships to use on fifth-year transfer possibilities this spring.

Who will round out the Illinois Class of 2017? Check out the Illini Inquirer Trending Meter below!

Update - Jan. 24

The IlliThe Illini landed their top priority -- at least on my board -- with a commitment from Alex Palczewski late Monday. 

The Mt. Prospect (Ill.) offensive lineman is the 10th Illinois native to commit to the Illini for the Class of 2017 and the fourth legit Big Ten-caliber offensive line recruit. This is starting to get really good.

The Illini now rank No. 33 in the team rankings and could rise more with about five official visitors expected this weekend -- and more targets soon making decisions.

Who's next to pop? Check out the Illini Inquirer Trending Meter below!

Update - Jan. 21

Add another one. Tight end Louis Dorsey committed to Illinois on Saturday morning during an official visit, filling a huge need in the Class of 2017.

Who's next to pop? Check out the Illini Inquirer Trending Meter below!

Update - Jan. 20

The priority options are diminishing, and new targets are emerging. Welcome to the final 11 days before Signing Day. We're starting to get a clearer picture of the real possibilities for the Illini's final 7 to 10 scholarship spots in the Illini Class of 2017.

So how are the Illini trending with their top targets? Check out the Illini Inquirer Trending Meter below!

Update - Jan. 16

And here comes the frantic end to the 2017 recruiting cycle.

Illinois has had a busy few days, starting with a commitment from East St. Louis defender James Knight. Illinois hopes to add seven or eight more commitments leading into Signing Day -- which is just 15 days away.

Also, with some priority propsects coming off the board and with others possibly heading elsewhere soon, Illinois has started to widen its net. On Monday, the Illini offered California defensive back Bennett Williams and Florida defensive end Torri Singletary. Expect more "B-list" targets to emerge as Illinois puts its ducks in a row to put the final touches on this class.

So how are the Illini trending with their top targets? Check out the Illini Inquirer Trending Meter below!

Update - Jan. 13

The shackles of the dead period were unfastened on Thursday, and the Illini football coaching staff immediately fled to the recruiting trail for the final couple weeks of the Class of 2017 recruiting cycle.

The Illini made stops in Florida, Alabama, Texas, St. Louis and Chicago, among others, and two recruits -- Arizona defensive end Jalen Harris and North Carolina defensive end Zion DeBose -- arrived on campus Friday night for official visits. The Illini will host several more priority targets the next two weekends before another dead period hits on Jan. 30 and National Signing Day hits on Feb. 1.

A lot will happen between now and then. The Illini first must hold onto all their current commits. They're also looking to add about eight to 10 more prospects to a Class of 2017 that currently ranks No. 38 in the team rankings. That ranking could rise quickly if Illinois lands some of its top targets or could fall if they miss out on them.

So how are the Illini trending with their top targets? Check out the Illini Inquirer Trending Meter below!

Original Story: Jan. 3

It certainly was a happy holidays for the Illinois football staff. Four players signed tenders of financial aid with Illinois and three more gave verbal commitments. You better believe there was a festive atmosphere in the football offices before the coaches took some time off around Christmas.

The Illini Class of 2017 suddenly has the chance to be the deepest and most talented in almost a decade -- and it's likely to just get better. The class currently  ranks No. 34 in the team national rankings, which is ninth in the Big Ten and third in the West Division. Their average star rating currently ranks 29th in the national team rankings. Illinois has added much-needed talent at all positions.

And with 17 commitments, the Illini now can hone their focus on a select number of prospects leading up to the Feb. 1 Signing Day. With early enrollees likely to be back-counted to the Class of 2016, Illinois still could add eight to 12 more prospects in this class -- though expect them to hold a few spots for possible fifth-year transfers this spring or to roll over into the Class of 2018.

The Illini have three more weekends to host official visitors and are gearing up for an especially busy weekend on Jan. 20. Expect another furious month, one that could help Illinois sew up a top-35 national class -- and if they land the right guys, possibly one that approaches the top-25.

Who are those prospects? How are the Illini trending with those targets? Check out the Illini Inquirer Trending Meter!

On the board

Prospects who committed to Illinois during the last month

Off the board

Prospects who have committed elsewhere since the last update

Trending Meter

UPDATE 1/29: Williams didn't announce on the visit but expect him to make it official for Illinois during the next few days.

UPDATE 1/24: Lovie Smith and Hardy Nickerson visited Williams prior to his upcoming official visit this weekend. Expect Illinois to close this one then.

UPDATE 1/16: California defensive back Bennett Williams just heard from Illinois last week but quickly earned an offer and plans an official visit on Jan. 27 -- and if Illinois wants him, Williams should be theirs. The 3-star defensive back's father played with Illinois defensive coordinator Hardy Nickerson at Cal, and Illinois likes the athletic, instinctive Williams as a free safety. "That's standing right at the top of my list," Williams told Illini Inquirer of the Illinois offer. "Obviously I have to come see it and see what it's about, but it's definitely a huge one and definitely somewhere I could see myself."

UPDATE 1/29: Pate decommitted from Appalachian State on Sunday and told Illini Inquirer he will announce soon, likely on Monday. He's all orange and blue.

UPDATE 1/24: The arrow gets turned up with new from's Corey Bender that Pate indeed will visit this weekend. The Illini have a great shot to flip the Appalachian State commit.

UPDATE 1/13: Lovie Smith is expected to visit Pate soon, and Pate is expected to visit Illinois later this month.

Appalachian State sure seems to know how to scout defensive ends. App State commit Deon Pate recently received an Illinois offer and will visit the Illini and Rutgers this month. Illinois needs four defensive ends, but it might be smart to add more. Pate is more ready to play than some targets, including Callendar.

UPDATE 1/29: Following his visit to Champaign, Woods told Illini Inquirer he will announce on Signing Day. It'd be a shocker if the Memphis commit didn't flip to Illinois.

UPDATE 1/24: Woods on Monday confirmed to Illini Inquirer that he will be taking his official visit to Illinois this weekend. The Illini have a great chance to flip the Memphis commit and add even more depth to the front four.

UPDATE 1/16: Hueytown (Ala.) defensive end Jamal Woods received an in-house visit from Lovie Smith on Thursday. Woods plans an official visit to Illinois on Jan. 27. Before then, the Memphis commit will stop at Louisiana-Lafayette and Memphis. The Illini, though, seem in a good spot to land Woods if they want him. "Their football program is power-five, Big Ten," Woods told Illini Inquirer. "The coaching staff is good, and they have a wonderful head coach. That's the best coach out there to me, for real."

UPDATE 1/26: Robbins told Illini Inquirer on Thursday morning that he will visit Illinois this weekend. Asked when he plans to decide, Robbins said, "Looking forward to the visit."

UPDATE 1/24: Illinois special teams coach Bob Ligashesky found the (second) punter he wanted. After missing on Tucker Day, Ligashesky visited California punter Ryan Stonehouse and Ohio punter Brad Robbins. Apparently, he came away more impressed with the Midwest kid as he extended a scholarship offer on a follow-up visit to Robbins on Monday. A visit to Illinois is in the works. If that happens, cue up "Closing Time" for the Illini. "Well, it's my first Big Ten offer so far, and it's been a dream to play a sport in the Big Ten since I was a little kid," Robbins told Illini Inquirer. "It definitely makes things more interesting for my recruitment. I'm just very honored to be considered by Illinois."

UPDATE 1/26: Indiana is still thought to be the leader because Tom Allen has done a good job here, but the Hoosiers did lose Roundtree's main recruiter to Michigan this week -- and Illinois sent Lovie Smith and five assistants to show just how big of a priority he is. This one ain't done yet.

UPDATE 1/24: Most expect Roundtree to commit to Indiana during his official visit this weekend, even though the Hoosiers already are loaded with six defensive line commits.

UPDATE 1/16: Illinois is widening its net at defensive end, and it knows Indiana is the presumed leader for Roundtree.

UPDATE 1/13: Illinois coach Andrew Hayes-Stoker stopped in to visit Roundtree at his high school on Thursday. Indiana is very, very confident though -- and Illinois knows it must make a big push. Roundtree plans a visit to Indiana on Jan. 27, and some around Indiana think the recruitment will end that weekend.

The Bobby Roundtree recruitment has gone pretty quiet. It has been an Illinois-Indiana battle with other programs inquiring, like NC State where he visited last month The Hoosiers have built up a great relationship and promoting Tom Allen helps their cause. A visit to Bloomington could be one of the last steps in this recruitment, but Illinois is a major player. and the staff plans to visit him again in Florida after the dead period. The Illini received his first official visit. Also, Lovie Smith made a then-stealth visit to watch Roundtree play during the Illini bye week -- one of the few prospects Smith has visited in person. Smith has personally made Roundtree a top priority and sees him as a Julius Peppers-type defender (long, athletic and versatile) for his defense.

UPDATE 1/26: An Illinois source said the Illini have "counted (Alstott) out," expecting him to stay with Purdue. But others think he could flip to Illinois. Conflicting information on this one, but that's because Alstott himself has remained silent.

UPDATE 1/24: Alstott visited Illinois last week, and that suggests he's definitely wavering. Things are quiet -- almost too quiet -- from all parties involved: the Alstotts, Illinois and Purdue.

UPDATE 1/16: Garrick McGee visited Alstott in Florida on Monday, though the feeling is that he will stay with Purdue.

UPDATE 1/15: Florida quarterback Griffin Alstott, the son of Tampa Bay Buccaneers fullback Mike Alstott, currently is committed to Purdue -- his father's alma mater and Griffin's dream school. With a coaching change for the Boilermakers and new coach Jeff Brohm having a specific taste for quarterbacks though, Illinois has peaked in here to see if they can add an athletic quarterback to strengthen their depth chart. Alstott visited Purdue this weekend, so there should be clarity on his status with Purdue soon. Would Brohm part ways with the son of one of the program's all-time greats? Stay tuned.

UPDATE 1/29: Illinois offered hard-hitting Florida safety Dawson DeGroot just about an hour after he committed to Florida International. Illinois tried to get him to board a Sunday morning flight to sneak in a visit before the dead period, but DeGroot couldn't pull it off. Unless he risks losing his spot at FIU and visits Illinois next weekend, DeGroot is expected to stick with Butch Davis.

UPDATE 1/29: Surprisingly, Blankenship passed on an Illini visit this weekend and appears he will stay with Middle Tennessee.

UPDATE 1/26: Blankenship jumps from the "prospects to watch" list to the big board following an Illini offer on Thursday night. Common sense says that Blankenship, a Middle Tennessee commit, will visit Illinois this weekend and to flip. Lovie Smith last week reached out to Blankenship, a rangy, long safety who would add much needed depth.

UPDATE 1/29: West Virginia remains confident but not completely confident. Roberson announces 6 p.m. Monday. Illinois hasn't expressed as much confidence since Roberson visited Utah and West Virginia.

UPDATE 1/26: West Virginia will host Roberson for an official visit this weekend, and the Mountaineers have a lot of confidence right now. Illinois has put in more work and time than any other staff currently recruiting Roberson, so this would be a big disappointment to lose him to such a late suitor.

UPDATE 1/24: After four-star WR Michael Harley Jr. decommitted from West Virginia, the Mountaineers have made Roberson priority No. 1 at wide receiver with Dana Holgorsen and an assistant visiting Roberson at his home on Monday. Roberson is enjoying the recruiting process. He has the deepest relationship with Illinois and receivers coach Andrew Hayes-Stoker, but has this thing lasted so long that he'll ditch the comfortable relationship for the exciting unknown of the new suitor on the block?

UPDATE 1/16: Roberson released a top-six of Illinois, Washington State, Utah, Oregon State, Kansas and West Virginia. Illinois enters this month as the leader. Besides Kansas -- which is no longer a player here -- Illinois has prioritized Roberson much longer than these other schools, all of which offered during the last month. Roberson is visited Washington State last weekend and will visit Utah on Jan. 20. Roberson wants to make the right decision and has free trips to use. Illinois would've liked to have wrapped this one up already, and Roberson had planned an unofficial to Illinois on Jan. 20 that he has since canceled. The competition has stiffened, but all these schools were playing catch-up to Illinois.

Roberson plans to take an unofficial visit to Illinois on Jan. 20, the same weekend that commit Ricky Smalling takes a visit. The two have struck up quite a bro-mance, and Smalling traveled to Texas during Christmas break to hang out and work out with Roberson. Illinois assistant Andrew Hayes-Stoker twice visited Reggie Roberson in his home last month. The wide receiver coach has built a deep relationship with the top Texas target since March. “Him and my mom and my dad probably talked more than I did,” Roberson told Illini Inquirer. “They always talk, and they’re always communicating with each other. I talk to Coach Stoker a lot too. It’s a really good relationship." Roberson is starting to receive more interest and took an unofficial visit to Oklahoma recently, but the Sooners haven't yet offered. Oregon State and Washington State also have offered, and Roberson has set a visit to Wazzu (Jan. 13) and plans a visit to Corvallis. Roberson has taken longer to pull the trigger than some may have thought, but the Illini still are the team to beat.

UPDATE 1/24: Virginia Tech took a commitment from a third 2017 defensive end on Monday, but word is that they still want one more between DeBose and Victor Dimukeje, who is expected to pick Duke. No down arrow yet, but the Hokies continue to push and could be tough to beat -- but the Illini, Mizzou and Pittsburgh continue to push too. 

UPDATE 1/16: Illinois helped itself with its official visit weekend for possibly the top defensive end left on its board. The Illini are selling themselves as the best whole package for DeBose: athletics, academics, mentoring, etc. The Illini left a mark. They just hope its a lasting impression with DeBose heading to Pittsburgh this weekend and Virginia Tech the following weekend. “Illinois is a top school for me for a reason, not just because of early playing time but all around: the people, the academics," DeBose told Illini Inquirer. "It’s just an all-around school, and I think that’s why I made them a top school."

UPDATE 1/13: DeBose is on an official visit to Illinois this weekend. The Illini can make the initial impression but are unlikely to wrap up this recruitment. Virginia Tech is assumed to be the team to beat.

The former Appalachian State commit Zion DeBose will take official visits this month Illinois, Pittsburgh and Virginia Tech. The fast-rising defensive end took an official visit to Missouri last month. Virginia Tech is his "biggest" offer and the most local, but they are coming on later than Illinois and Pitt. DeBose seems to have a really good relationship with Pitt DL coach Tom Sims but is really intrigued by the Illini's coaching staff and chance to play early. The competition is tough and Illinois probably needs to make up ground, but Illinois has shown its capable of winning these after official visits.

UPDATE 1/27: Roach will not visit Illinois this weekend, a source told Illini Inquirer.

UPDATE 1/16: Illinois will receive an official visit from Louisville DB commit Kaheem Roach on Jan. 27. The Florida native told Jody Demling that his commit to the Cardinals is "almost 100 percent," so the odds seem long for Illinois. But they'll take a big swing at him and see if it connects.

UPDATE 1/26: Miami is the heavy favorite, though there is some buzz that some close to Thomas want him to go to Louisville. He is scheduled to visit Tennessee this weekend. None of the schools mentioned is Illinois.

UPDATE 1/20: Thomas left Illinois off his top-3 list.

UPDATE 1/16: Jeff Thomas tweeted he will decide "soon," though how soon is unknown. He didn't make his trip to Louisville due to icy weather last weekend. He has an official visit scheduled for Miami this weekend. Thomas isn't expected to announce his decision until Signing Day. If a decision truly is "soon" though, sooner is better for Illinois. Getting Knight doesn't  hurt Illinois, but Thomas is closer to Estes. As always, academics remain a concern for Thomas too.

UPDATE 1/15: If Illinois doesn't take three or four other East St. Louis players -- some who have little Division-I  interest -- it seems unlikely that Illinois will land Thomas.

UPDATE 1/13: Thomas is expected an official visits to Louisville (Jan. 13), Miami (Jan. 20) and Tennessee (Jan. 27) this month, and some communications with the Thomas camp have left Illinois with less confidence. But this recruitment is tougher to read because Thomas is really quiet and his academic situation still remains a mystery. Buckle up, this big-time recruitment could get really interesting and more complicated.

Original comment: "Alabama and Missouri are out of my top three," Jeff Thomas told Scout's Corey Bender. "Illinois was in there. So now it is Illinois and then I am still looking for my other two." Umm...that's a new one. Rarely do prospects release top threes with only one school currently in that top-three. But Thomas' recruitment has been far from normal with he and his high school coach putting out conflicting information about his top options. Thomas, of course, then put up an MVP performance at the Under Armour All-America Game. He's received a few new offers recently, including Tennessee and Oregon. Some wonder whether this is due to an improved academic situation. Sources tell me that most are unclear on whether he will qualify, though he at least has a (very?) slim chance to do so. But for a talent like this, teams are willing to roll the dice -- especially when they can oversign and possibly sign-and-place Thomas at a junior college. For most who are recruiting him, Thomas is worth gambling one of those spots.

Thomas plans official visits to Tennessee, Miami and possibly Oregon. Louisville also has been under his consideration. He also wants to visit Illinois again.  Regardless, Illinois is sitting in an enviable place to land a generational in-state offensive weapon. Thomas took a short unofficial visit last month and would like to take another visit. One thing Illinois has going for it is that THomas has a comfort level with Lovie Smith. Thomas is really, really shy and barely says a word to most coaches, so some wonder whether he really wants to take these visits and if others are pushing him to do so. Illinois has done much more groundwork than its top competitors. While Thomas -- who likely will announce his decision on Signing Day -- has big academic concerns, he would be a statement commitment for Lovie. He would be worth the wait if he must go to junior college for a while. This one could get interesting leading up to Signing Day. But many big-time recruitments do -- and Illinois is now competing for some big-time recruits, which is a great thing.

UPDATE 1/26: Illinois was interested, but Rutgers landed the final visit for Creamer, who seems unlikely to stick with Minnesota.

UPDATE 1/24: Creamer secretly visited Iowa over the weekend and looks ready to flip to the Hawkeyes.

UPDATE 1/20: Creamer, who planned to visit Iowa, announced he will not take any more visits.

UPDATE 1/13: Minnesota cornerback commit Trey Creamer has received a bunch of interest since Tracy Claeys was fired. Lovie Smith visited Creamer at his high school on Friday, and the Illini still have a big need for a defensive back. This may seem a little bit of a longer shot so last minute, but it's definitely worth a shot.

UPDATE: Notre Dame this weekend will host Harris, who has long seemed a longshot for Illinois -- who seems most focused on Roundtree, Pate and Woods.

UPDATE 1/16: Harris visited Illinois, but the Illini face an uphill climb in this one.

UPDATE 1/13: Harris is currently on an official visit to Illinois, and he recently received offers from Notre Dame and Washington, the latter of which he will visit on Jan. 20. This will be a tough one for Illinois to win, but they earned a shot.

Phair has been working hard on getting Jalen Harris to flip to Illinois -- and the Arizona commit at least is considering it. Harris, who recently visited Colorado, told he plans an official visit to Champaign on Jan. 20. Washington recently offered as well. Like Callendar, Harris needs to add strength and seasoning, but he fits the Illini's prototype for length and athleticism on the edge.

UPDATE 1/26: Adams will visit Mizzou this weekend. He seems to be the insurance policy in case Tigers' commit Jafar Armstrong flips to Minnesota or Notre Dame.

This arrow isn't because Adams isn't interested in Illinois. He told that Illinois is in his top five and one of the three schools recruiting him the hardest. It's not that Illinois isn't interested in Adams. They love him. He ran 4.39 40-yard dashes during an unofficial visit to Illinois last summer. That translates to the football field too. In 10 games this season, Adams has 50 receptions for 1,109 yards and 16 touchdowns along with 560 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns on 52 carries. But I'm told Adams has some academic issues to overcome. Hopefully, he can overcome them because he has the play-making speed that Illinois sorely needs. Adams plans a visit to Indiana this month.

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