Illinois signed arguably its best offensive lineman class in a few years in 2017. It became clear that Lovie and Garrick McGee preferred bigger, and more physical offensive linemen. But one year doesn't fix the entire position group, though the OL haul may be smaller in 2018. Here are a few targets to keep an eye on for the offensive line.
Iowa has done a great job early on with Blake, who is the top in-state offensive lineman in 2018. The Crystal Lake product has been garnering college interest for a couple of years now, and for good reason. With fellow NW suburban OL Jeff Jenkins already committed to Iowa, Illinois may look to turn up the heat on Blake a bit more.
Cox already has an offer from Iowa State as well as a few MAC programs and FCS Illinois State. But the high school teammate of Coran Taylor and Kendrick Green is intriguing, and has the big body type that Lovie would like. He was injured toward the end of his junior season, but has a lot of potential and could be one to watch once he rebounds from his injury.
Illinois has maintained a presence at St. Thomas Aquinas for a few years now, despite coaching changes. Dumervil who has a younger brother that is also gaining a lot of attention, is massive at 6'5" and 350 pounds. He played on both sides of the ball for Aquinas, but would be a mauler as an interior offensive lineman in college. And yes, he's related to Elvis Dumervil.
Illinois got a good one in 2017 in Kendrick Green, but with more options available in 2018, a higher priority will be placed on this position.
Brown used to be the top defensive tackle in-state, but transferred to IMG Academy in Florida for his senior season. Still, the former Chicago Mt. Carmel product remains firmly on the Illinois radar. Sure he may be listed as an offensive tackle, and he's a pretty good one at that. But Brown has shown that he can be a difference-maker at defensive tackle. Expect him to visit this spring for a junior day.
If there's one territory where Illinois gained quite a bit of momentum this offseason, it was in the St. Louis area. And one of the Illini's top targets from STL in 2018, regardless of position, is Trevor Trout. He has visited campus more than once, and is an ideal fit for the type of defensive tackle that Lovie Smith prefers. Now he will be highly-recruited, but Illinois got involved early and done well so far.
Thompson is a big-time national recruit with offers from darn near everyone, but he's from... St. Louis. Illinois has been involved, but haven't seen the same sort of traction they have with Trout. Still, Lovie has shown that his credibility can earn him a chance to recruit some of these guys. If Illinois can have success with some of the other STL area guys, then maybe it gets Thompson's attention.
One of the recently-emerging in-state defensive tackles is Marist's Elijah Teague. Teague, who is more suited to be a run-stuffing 5-technique, has a few Big Ten offers, including a recent one from Illinois. He is an exceptionally strong interior lineman and should make even more noise next season.
Others to Watch:
Kingsley Enagbare - Enagbare has a few P5 offers, including Illinois. He's a bit undersized now, but will be able to carry more weight at the next level and grow into an interior DL.
Noah Shannon - Shannon already has a couple of P5 offers, but not yet from Illinois. The Oswego DT is explosive and plays mean football.
After landing a handful of defensive ends in 2017, landing a large crop of DE's in 2018 isn't a huge priority. But Illinois has a couple of defensive ends on the board who they are actively pursuing.
O'Rourke has legitimate P5 size, and is already a strong player. His build and style are a good fit for the Big Ten, which is fitting because he has said that his three top schools are all in the Big Ten West. He is targeting a spring decision, and Illinois has had him on campus.
A lot of the DL attention in St. Louis has centered around the aforementioned Thompson and Trout, but Perkins is a gifted DE prospect. With a broad array of offers to show for his reputation already, the top-150 prospect could be an important recruit as the Illini seek to further establish themselves in the Gateway to the West.