Illinois coach Lovie Smith chose to host last June’s St. Louis satellite camp at Trinity Catholic High School for a reason. The Titans are loaded with talent -- especially young talent.
The Illini, who will sign Trinity Catholic product Larry Boyd on Wednesday’s National Signing Day, were blown away with some of the underclassmen. And after watching film of Trinity’s 12-1 season (the Titans first loss came in a 26-18 loss to Lamar in the Missouri Class 2A championship game), the Illini extended several scholarship offers to Trinity’s best 2019 and 2020 prospects -- many of whom made big impacts as freshmen and sophomores.
During the last two weeks, Illinois has offered 2019 linebacker Shammond Cooper, 2019 offensive lineman Ira Henry, 2019 running back/defensive back Alphonzo Andrews, 2020 athlete James Frenchie and 2020 running back Reggie Love
“We got a bunch of young guys that are really good ball players,” Trinity Catholic coach Cory Patterson said. “It’s awesome to see Illinois doing something that a couple programs are trying to do now. They’re getting in front of that wave, instead of being late and being behind it when these kids have 10 or 11 offers. They’re getting in front of the wave and come in and watch film on guys and watch a lot. They want to see who’s who.”
How much does it matter to get in this early on so many 2019 and 2020 prospects?
“It matters a lot for me and for our guys,” Patterson said. “It gives our guys an opportunity to do something big, which for me is to go to college and get a degree. That’s the main focus for me as a football coach. I want my guys to be able to go to college. So I’m a guy who’s going to push you and push you and push you and push you and push you so I can get all my guys to college.”
Patterson broke down each of the Illini offers on the Trinity roster with Illini Inquirer.
Illinois is the first power-five program to offer 2019 running back/defensive back Alphonzo Andrews.
“Hardest working kid you’re going to find -- flat out,” Patterson said. “We call him ‘All gas, no brakes’ because he never stops. He starts both ways for me, and I don’t have a bunch of guys who do that. He starts both ways, kickoff and punt return too.
“They like him as a running back. I told coach yesterday that I’m not sure that’s where he’ll be because he’s going to make it hard because he plays like a defender. He’s just a hard-nosed kid, old-school, old-fashioned football player.”
Illinois was the fourth program to offer 2019 offensive lineman Ira Henry, an impressive physical specimen stood out at last June’s summer camp.
“He’s a kid that’s real aggressive," Henry said. "He’s a real aggressive kid,” Patterson said. “He’s a run-blocking type kid. He’s working on that kick-step and everything in pass-blocking, but he’s a run-blocking kid. He’s a nasty football player. He wants to fall on you and push you. He wants to do those type of things. I love Ira Henry.”
Illinois became the second school to offer 2020 running back Reggie Love, joining Iowa State.
“He’s special,” Patterson said. “He’s going to be a very special running back. He’s built. He’s about 5-11, 185 pounds. He looks like a brick. His body’s built-up. He’s got great vision. He runs the ball like a running back.”
Illinois also joined Iowa State in offering 2020 receiver/defensive back James Frenchie.
“Lightning in a bottle,” Patterson said. “You can get the ball to him in traffic, and he’ll start a thunderstorm. He’s lightning in a bottle. The first guy will never tackle James Frenchie Jr.”
Illinois was the sixth to offer 2019 linebacker Shammond Cooper, who led Trinity with 140 tackles last year including 98 solos. Iowa State, Memphis, Syracuse and Bowling Green also have offered.
“Shammond’s the guy that makes our defense go,” Patterson said. “He’s like our quarterback on defense, even as a freshman. He’s led our team in tackles for two years straight and that’s for a reason. He’s a smart kid. He’s got a real long body. He’ll bring the hat. He loves to hit. He loves to tackle. Sometimes it might not be the prettiest tackle, but he just loves to get you on the ground. He’s one of those kids, and he’s getting bigger and bigger so right now he’s about 6-2 and 180 pounds. He’s starting to get some of that girth on him. Not a whole bunch, but it’s definitely coming.”
Illinois was just behind Iowa State -- yes, again -- on joining the offer party for Trinity’s best player, rising junior quarterback Isaiah Williams. The 5-foot-10, 170-pound signal caller with elite speed and quickness could play receiver at the next level too.
His star is on the rise though. He now holds offers from Michigan, Michigan State, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Texas and Wisconsin, among others.
“He’s my guy,” Patterson said. “I’ve put a lot on his shoulders at a young age. I’ve coached the kid since he was six, so I expect a lot out of him. He’s a kid who works terribly hard in the classroom. He’s a 3.8, 3.9 student in all honors classes, and he puts the same kind of effort into football. He’s just one of those guys I can trust with everything.
“He’ll have some options. He’ll have some Ivy League stuff too. He’s just so humble of a kid that nothing really gets him crazy excited. He’s just kind of like, ‘Yes, sir.’ He’s just on to the next part of his day.”
Class of 2019 receiver Marcus Washington has had an Illini offer for a while too. He also holds offers from Indiana, Iowa State, Michigan State, Minnesota, Missouri, Syracuse and Wisconsin, among others.
“Marcus is a big-time receiver,” Patterson said. “Right now, he’s at about 10 offers. He’s like another part of our engine. He’ll make big plays for you. He likes that focus to be on him a little bit. He likes to people to know he’s the guy. He doesn’t mind to have the target on his back. He just likes to play football. He’s going to have fun with it. He’s one of those high-energy guys who will give you everything you’re looking for.”