Ryan Easterling - Scout.com

2018s to Watch: Linebackers & Defensive Backs

Despite adding some quality pieces in 2017, the back seven will be a huge focus for the Illini staff in 2018. Here are a number of targets to keep a close eye on in the 2018 class.


Illinois landed a couple of backers in 2017, but have a few options at the position in 2018.  Here are a few to track early on.


Adeoye is ascending, and in a hurry.  The St. Louis area is loaded in 2018, and Adeoye is one of the premier defenders in the area.  With offers from numerous P5 programs, he's already a hot commodity for schools in the Big Ten, SEC, and several others.


Bonds has landed offers already from several MAC programs, but an offer from Illinois, should he receive one, would be a game-changer.  Bonds is a big, lean, and strong linebacker from a program that's produced a lot of D1 talent.  


Taylor, another Chicago Catholic League target, is a long, super athletic prospect from one of the state's most storied programs.  He camped with Illinois last summer where he turned heads.  As he grows more comfortable with the linebacker position, he could quickly turn into an intriguing target for Illinois.


Illinois has maintained a presence with Ft. Lauderdale (FL) powerhouse St. Thomas Aquinas over the last few years.  Linebacker Darrell Shelton is part of the next wave of talented prospects at Aquinas and could be a guy that Illinois targets to continue that pipeline.



Let's start with a familiar name, shall we?  Some consider Griffith a corner, but he really would make a fantastic free safety with his range and coverage skills.  The son of Illini legend Howard Griffith left Chicago's Mt. Carmel for IMG after his sophomore campaign, and Illinois may have some ground to make up in this one.


Newsome has really blown up as of late.  At first, it was teammate Tyrik Henderson at Glenbard North getting most of the attention, but Henderson is proving that he's just as worthy to be in that D1 conversation.  A rangy and dynamic athlete, Newsome is a great fit for what the Illini seek in a free safety.


Russell is a wanted man, already.  The Miami (FL) Carol City DB is fast and covers well.  It's worth noting here that former Illini DB Marcus "Miami" Thomas has ties to Carol City, and his younger brother Donelle was a 2017 prospect from Carol City, but signed with USF.


Antoniou is a bit of a tweener.  He could technically grow into a linebacker, but has predominantly played safety so far in his career.  The former Hinsdale Central defender sat his junior year at Montini before transferring to Florida powerhouse IMG Academy.  Film is limited, but he's an intriguing target with plenty of in-state roots.



As usual, we'll start in-state here.  I'Shawn Stewart, who was mainly used as a receiver for Bolingbrook, is one of the more athletic juniors in the state.  He may not have the height or length of some other targets, but he has ball skills that are very underrated, and has earned his spot in the discussion among top prospects in Illinois.


Another St. Thomas Aquinas prospect, Blades is a hot commodity, but Illinois offered early and hopes to leverage a long relationship with the program here.  The cover corner is the next generation in a long line of D1 targets from the Ft. Lauderdale powerhouse program.


The competition for Brents is stiff, but Illinois was able to have success in an underrecruited Louisville in 2017 with CB Nate Hobbs.  Brents is a highly-coveted prospect, but Illinois is hoping to establish a stronger presence in the Cincy/Louisville area, and this would be a big statement.


Lenzy was an early offer by Lovie Smith and his staff.  The west-coast product is going to be heavily-recruited, but is a phenomenal athlete and fits the profile that Lovie Smith likes in his corners.


Another Cali corner, Radley-Hiles transferred to IMG over the last 6 months and his move could involve a number of traditional powers in the southeast in his recruitment.  Illinois has been involved for a while, but it could be tough sledding.

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