The first recruit Lovie Smith visited on the recruiting trail was Bobby Roundtree.
When the Illinois coach -- who arrived late in March --- was finally allowed by NCAA rules to leave campus to recruit, the Largo (Fla.) defensive end was the first stop for Smith, who took a particularly keen interest in Roundtree. If that didn't show enough of how much the Illini wanted him, Smith and five Illini assistants showed up at Roundtree's high school a week before Signing Day,
That attention and persistence paid off. Roundtree signed with Illinois on Wednesday, giving the Illini the cherry on top of Smith's satisfying treat of a first recruiting class.
Roundtree chose Illinois over Indiana, which had long made Roundtree a priority and signed several other Tampa-Clearwater prospects on Wednesday. Roundtree also had offers from NC State, Louisville, Kentucky, Michigan State, Minnesota, Mississippi State, Oregon State, Rutgers, Syracuse, Vanderbilt and Virginia Tech, among others.
"It's a school that stood out, and I love talking to Coach Lovie," Roundtree told Illini Inquirer after his November official visit to Champaign. "He loves the way I play. It feels like I'd be able to come here and start and be able to make an immediate impact on the team and help the team get some wins."
The 6-foot-5, 220-pound three-star defensive end fits the mold of what Smith wants in a defensive end: long and athletic.
He helps Illinois rebuild a defensive line that loses star senior defensive ends Dawuane Smoot and Carroll Phillips, as well as top backup Gimel President. Illinois signed five defensive ends on Wednesday: Roundtree, Huntley (Ill.) DE Olalere Oladipo, Miami (Fla.) Central DE Owen Carney, Jacksonville (Fla.) Trinity Christian DL Deon Pate and Hueytown (Ala.) DE Jamal Woods.
Roundtree is fairly raw and has to continue to work on developing some go-to moves, but possesses a great frame and undeniable size and length at the midpoint of his senior season. Roundtree is a smooth athlete that does a nice job of operating in space and chasing down the football, but has packed on noticeable mass in recent months as well. He plays with good discipline by setting the edge, breaking down and then striking his opponent with good pad level.