Jamal Woods will have a special visitor in his home Wednesday: Lovie Smith. The personal visit from the Illinois head coach -- on the first day after the NCAA dead period is lifted -- is further proof of the Illini's high level of interest in the Hueytown (Ala.) defensive end.
"It's a blessing," Woods said.
It's going to be a busy January for Woods, a Memphis who told Illini Inquirer he will take an official visit Louisiana-Lafayette this weekend followed by official visits later this month to Memphis (Jan. 20) and Illinois (Jan. 27). Woods said he is focused on learning as much as possible about each suitor.
"I want to see facilities, and I want to meet with the academic people," Woods said. "And just getting around the coaches and the place and trying to fit in there. The relationships with the coaches and players it's something that's going to be on the top of my list."
Memphis: "When I went down there, it feels like home. They have a nice coaching staff, a new coaching staff that's starting from scratch."
Louisiana-Lafayette: "I like their defensive line coach down there. They have a great football program."
Illinois: "Their football program is power-five, Big Ten. The coaching staff is good, and they have a wonderful head coach."
Woods said Lovie Smith certainly makes Illinois stand out.
"That's the best coach out there to me, for real," Woods said.
Playing in the Big Ten also has its draw.
"That's special," Woods said. "That's big-time football right there."
Illinois offered Woods -- who describe himself as "a beast" on the field -- before his senior season and are making an even bigger push for him now.
"They say I'm one of their top defensive ends that they've seen," Woods said. "They think I'm a good pass rusher, and they believe that if I come down there that I can be a starter as a true freshman. They lose a lot of guys at the position. During the visit, I just want to get to know the coaching staff and the players and see if I can fit in."
Woods plans to make his decision close to Signing Day.
"I'll just look at all the pros and cons and review it with my family," Woods said.