Coach, I know we were all just kind of waiting on Coran to pick Illinois. But what do you think now that he has committed?
Peoria football coach Tim Thornton: "I think it's a good move for him. I think it's something he's wanted to do maybe before he even offered. So I think it's good for him to be able to get the recruiting process over and just be able to focus on being a high school kid and working hard moving forward."
So what is Illinois getting in Coran?
Thornton: "Coran is a hard worker, and I think he just brings a huge amount of versatility to whatever offensive system they want to use him in. He's got a very live arm, and he's just a playmaker."
Sometimes I just explain to people that he's got an "it" factor. Do you agree with that, and what gives him that?
Thornton: "Yeah, he's a competitor. He just loves to compete. I think the bigger the game, the more you'll get out of him. He was kind of that way for us. We kind of had the reins on him a little bit throughout the season. If you're in a situation where you have just one quarterback, you don't want to necessarily have him running the ball 20 times a game. Then we took the reins off him in the playoffs, and he just really came to life. When it's time to make some plays, he made them for us. We had some big-time throws, whether it was in the semifinals with four seconds left hitting the 50-, 60-yard touchdown pass or the stuff you saw in the finals."
He's obviously a talented athlete and runner, but how's he progressing as a passer and what's his next step?
Thornton: "I think he can really throw the ball. He's done some great things for us, staying in the pocket and really firing it wherever it needs to go. If he needs to throw a comeback on the opposite hash, he has the arm strength to do that. Our system naturally doesn't have you standing back there very often, but when he does, if we need that home-run ball, he's able to do it. He's thrown some nice touch passes and put some passes into holes. He's looked good as a passer. He spends a lot of time with our quarterback coach, and I think they've really got him tuned up pretty good."
How do you think your offense prepares him for the next level and what Garrick McGee wants to do in the Illini offense?
Thornton: "Obviously, any time you move on to the next level, there's going to be a lot more complexities. But I think they match up well. I think there's a lot of plays that they run that we run. So there's definitely some carryover, whether it's reading ends or reading coverages or just making some decisions here and there. I think Coran will be prepared for that kind of stuff."
Now with Coran and Kendrick Green in the fold, what have Lovie Smith and Illinois done well to make sure those guys stay in state?
Thornton: "I think they do an excellent job recruiting. Coach (Mike) Phair and Coach (Luke) Butkus have kind of been the two that get in the building with us. They're guys that love what they're doing. They love their kids, and it shows. When you're recruiting Peoria High School, if that relationship between the players and the position coaches shines through, I think that's a huge contact point. Then every time Coach Smith is around, he's just the kind of guy that you wait for to see what he's going to say next. He walks in the room, and everyone's like, 'Hey, what are you going to say? I'm kind of interested. How's this going to go?'"
You were just at the high school coaches clinic in Champaign. What's that like now with Coach Smith headlining it compared to the past?
Thornton: "I don't know how to put it. It just feels like it's a notch higher. It feels like it's a cut above or a class above. I don't know if it's the fact that I was a Bears fan growing up, but I think it's cool that Coach Smith is around or what it is. I just get the feeling that this staff is more in-tune with Illinois high school coaches. Maybe their interest level is maybe just a bit higher. Everybody comes in and says, 'We want to put a fence around the state.' It's nice to see these guys going after it and try to make it happen."
How has Coran progressed academically?
Thornton: "He's done some real big things academically here lately. He's sitting on the honor roll this past grading period. He just really made some strides. Once he put his foot in the ground and said, 'This is what I want to do, this is who I want to be and this is what needs to happen,' you see those improvements. It's just a testament to the type of kid he is. If it needs to be done, he can go make it happen."