QB Coran Taylor (Photo Credit: Ron Johnson - Peoria Journal-Star)

2018s to Watch: Offensive Skill Prospects

With the 2017 Illini football recruiting class more or less a wrap, we now take a look ahead at some early prospects to watch at each position in the 2018 class, starting with offensive skill position targets.

Quarterback:

Quarterback always seems to be the heart of any recruiting class, but it will be an especially crucial position in the 2018 class, and could be the catalyst for second strong class in a row.  Here are a few of the quarterbacks Illinois has already offered, starting with the in-state targets.

http://www.scout.com/player/207598-quincy-patterson

Patterson is the most highly-recruited of all of the in-state quarterbacks in 2018.  With legitimate pro size and quality athleticism, Patterson has all of the measurables of a great quarterback.  Patterson does need some work on his throwing motion, but was a big reason Solorio had such a good season leading up to the playoffs.  Illinois offered early in this one.

http://www.scout.com/player/213306-coran-taylor

Taylor had one of the more impressive seasons that didn't get talked about enough until the playoffs.  The junior QB led his Peoria High team to a shootout win in the state title game after a season in which he put up gaudy numbers.  Taylor is a great runner who also has the ability to throw a deep ball.  Illinois was his first offer following the state title win, and many think he could be one of the first commits in the 2018 Illinois class if the coaches turn his recruitment up a notch.

http://www.scout.com/player/193848-kaleb-eleby

Eleby was actually one of the first quarterbacks the Illini offered in 2018.  The athletic prospect from Pattonville (MO) brings a lot of the same style of play as the two aforementioned quarterbacks, but might not be as high up on the board as Taylor or Patterson.

http://www.scout.com/player/214513-cordel-littlejohn

This is one of the more intriguing quarterback prospects that the Illini are looking at.  Illinois was Littlejohn's first offer, but other programs are sure to join them before too long.  After transferring from small-town Lincolnton (NC) to powerhouse Roswell (GA), Littlejohn, who already lit up the stat sheet as a junior, could be set up well to put up bigtime numbers yet again.

Other QBs to Watch:

Samson Evans - The Crystal Lake (IL) Prairie Ridge QB led his team to a state title this year.  Illinois has offered, and it's entirely possible that Evans could end up playing a different position at the next level.

John Holcombe - The brother of current Illini Zarrian Holcombe is a high school quarterback, but at 6'3", 210 pounds, he is more of an ATH who is likely to end up at another position in college.

Running Backs:

Illinois landed a pair of quality backs in 2017, so in 2018, the position isn't as big of a priority as it was in the previous class.  However the Illini are keeping tabs on a few backs in the class.

http://www.scout.com/player/204872-justin-hall

The Homewood-Flossmoor back is one of the more dynamic athletes in the 2018 class in Illinois.  He also started at free safety, but has shown at camps and in games that he is a talented back.  

http://www.scout.com/player/202607-josh-fleeks

Fleeks, who wowed at the Illini's Dallas satellite camp this past summer, is a 4-star back who is an electric playmaker and is great in space.  Illinois would be fighting a battle to land him, but this staff doesn't appear to be intimidated by much.

http://www.scout.com/player/211774-jarrell-anderson

East St. Louis always seems to produce talent.  The next skill guy at East Side might be Anderson, who showed flashes as a junior of what he can be as a back.  A tough runner who can get yards between the tackles, he can also bounce runs to the outside and get yards when he sees the opportunity.

Receivers:

Illinois instantly upgraded the receiver position in 2017 with the addition of Ricky Smalling and Carmoni Green.  But the Illini will need to add a few more skilled pass-catchers in 2018 to help fortify the position group.  Here are a few possibilities to keep an eye on.

http://www.scout.com/player/193961-micah-jones?s=73

The top-rated receiver in the state of Illinois is Gurnee (IL) Warren's Micah Jones.  Jones, who already holds several P5 offers, has long-standing ties to Lovie Smith dating back to his Bears days.  Though not the fastest receiver out there, Jones is very skilled, and is a large body with a huge catch radius and good hands.

http://www.scout.com/player/206437-cameron-brown?s=73

St. Louis (MO) CBC Receiver Cameron Brown is one of the best receivers in Missouri in 2018.  So is his fellow 2018 teammate Kamryn Babb.  Both have offers from Illinois, though Brown seems to have more interest in the Illini, and even took a couple of visits to Champaign during the season.

http://www.scout.com/player/212631-calvin-lockett?s=73

This guy might not have been as much of a target had Bobby Roundtree opted for Indiana, but Lockett is a talented receiver who already has a handful of solid FBS offers.  He has good height and good speed and hails from a program that has placed its fair share of talent into the college ranks.

http://www.scout.com/player/193031-dallas-craddieth?s=73

Illinois had success in the St. Louis area in the 2017 class, but will look to capitalize upon that momentum even more in the 2018 class with players like Hazelwood Central WR Dallas Craddeith.  Craddeith is a physical receiver who could even potentially play safety.

http://www.scout.com/player/205059-terrell-perriman?s=73

Illinois recently offered the Miami Central standout, who holds a few other significant offers.  A high school teammate of Illinois early-enrollees Carmoni Green and Owen Carney, Perriman is a quick-twitch receiver with great ball skills who would fill a big need at the slot receiver position.

http://www.scout.com/player/210638-rondale-moore?s=73

Similar to Perriman, Rondale Moore would address a big need at the slot receiver position and bring a degree of quickness and explosiveness to the intermediate passing game that's been missing.  Louisville is an area where Illinois hopes to increase their presence, so Moore would be a good test for the staff as far as increase in recruiting prowess, especially in the Cardinals back yard.

http://www.scout.com/player/214807-ugo-obasi?s=73

On Wednesday, Illinois offered receiver Ugo Obasi out of the DMV. The Milford Mills Academy prospect came up just short of 1,000 yards receiving as a junior, recording 15 touchdowns in the process. Obasi is also a talented hooper, but is on the verge of blowing up as a receiver prospect.  Illinois offered first here.

Tight End:

Illinois got a big piece at the position in Jacksonville's Louis Dorsey in 2017, but the Illini staff will still look to upgrade the position in 2018.

http://www.scout.com/player/214399-luke-ford?s=73

A recent Illini offer was to in-state TE Luke Ford of Carterville (located just east of Carbondale).  At 6'6" tall and 250 pounds, Ford has legitimate size already for the position, but moves well at that size.  It's no surprise that programs like Arkansas and Oklahoma State have also offered.

http://www.scout.com/player/211987-t-j-ivy?s=73

The Chicago-area tight end is an intriguing prospect because of his athleticism.  He's still a bit raw but has a great frame and has a lot of potential.

http://www.scout.com/player/210197-tyneil-hopper

Illinois has worked to increase their presence at Roswell High School.  With a couple of offers to prospects there already, Hopper may be one to keep an eye on in case the Illini are able to snag any of his teammates.  He's highly-recruited, but as Lovie and his staff have shown, not out of the question.


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