Illinois finally got on the board in 2018 with a commitment last week from Coran Taylor. It's been a frustrating start for the Illini, who have missed in recent weeks on top in-state targets like Luke Ford, Quincy Patterson and Greg Newsome.
But the staff hopes to pick up some steam in a smaller Class of 2018 after adding a headline piece in Taylor, Scout.com's No. 29 quarterback in the Class of 2018. The staff hits the road Saturday, April 15 for the start of the spring evaluation period, which runs through May 31.
The Illini will focus first on Chicago, St. Louis and Indianapolis. Then they will branch out to their other territories, including Florida, Texas, Georgia, Alabama and California, to name a few.
So who could be next to pop in the Class of 2018? Check out the first Illini Football Trending Meter for the Class of 2018!
On the board
Illini commits in Class of 2018 -- Illinois expects to sign a class of 14-18
Off the board
Illini targets who have committed elsewhere since last update
Illinois already has one quarterback in this small recruiting class, but they want another. Kaleb Eleby was pretty impressive at The Opening in Chicago this month. He wasn't in the top elite group, but he was at the top of the next group -- and had a better day than Taylor. Eleby doesn't have a lot of elite traits, but he has a solid overall skill set. His ball has some zip on it, he is pretty athletic and fast and he is consistent. He has some similarities to former Illini Reilly O'Toole. Illinois is one of two power-five offers for Eleby (Iowa State), who wants to decide by July. He doesn't plan many visits this summer, and Illinois is atop his wish list. It's just a matter of whether Illinois truly wants him or not.
No one has pursued Scout 300 linebacker Ayodele Adeoye harder than the Illini. He's taken notice. Now, the competition will be stiff. He visited Iowa, Missouri and LSU recently and also has offers from Ole Miss, Oklahoma, Indiana and Minnesota. But Adeoye seems genuinely interested in playing for Lovie Smith and Hardy Nickerson. Illinois currently doesn't plan to take a linebacker in this class -- but will make an exception for Adeoye, who would be an instant-impact player for the Illini and a headliner for the class.
A green arrow usually follows a prospect who calls Illinois his leader. Samuel Oshodi received an Illinois offer this week and told Scout.com's Corey Bender that Illinois has taken the lead, despite an Oregon offer. Illinois will take a few wideouts in this class and is focused mostly on getting them out of Florida and Texas. Oshodi doesn't have elite timed speed, but his quickness and elusiveness pops out on film. He'd be a good fit in the slot, a position Illinois struggled to fill in the 2017 class. Expect a visit to Champaign this summer.
Illinois would like to make a big splash this year in St. Louis, which arguably has the best class of talent the city's seen in about 25 years. Of all the power-five prospects in thee Class of 2018, the Illini might have the best shot at Cameron Brown. The 3-star receiver has similarities to Carmoni Green: a bit raw but a speed demon. Iowa, Indiana, Missouri, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Iowa State and Kentucky all have offered as well. But when asked about his recruiting this month, Brown singled out the Illini as the program recruiting hiim hardest.
Illinois missed out on possibly the best tight end in the country when Caterville's Luke Ford committed to Arkansas last month. Luckily, the state of Illinois has more power-five talent at the position. The Illini offered and hosted T.J. Ivy -- a long, athletic, physical prospect -- for a visit last month and are near the top of his list. The Illini should make a big push now though. Other programs, including Miami and Tennessee, are showing increased interest too.
The state of Illinois doesn't have many power-five offensive linemen this year, so Illinois is searching far and wide for offensive line targets. They found one in Briason Mays. The Illini liked Mays' film but were impressed by his frame during a recent visit -- and offered the same day. Mays has no other power-five offers currently, so the Illini look to be in the catbird's seat early on.
The Illini missed on top safety target Greg Newsome, so expect even more focus on St. Louis safety Dallas Craddieth. Some think Iowa is the leader with Minnesota, North Carolina, Missouri and Ole Miss also in the mix. But Illinois seems to have solidified itself as a player and likely will make the cut when he trims his list.
Verdis Brown continues to add more impressive offers (Michigan recently) but the Illini continue to be a major player in his recruitment. Brown is at IMG Academy in Florida now, but the Chicago native is expected to be drawn back closer to home for college. Michigan and Ohio State loom large, but he has a genuine interest in Illinois and possibly being a key foundation piece for Lovie Smith's rebuild. He would play immediately for Illinois and revered in his home state.
Charles Robinson showed off his athleticism at The Opening regional in Chicago earlier this month. He is an intriguing weapon, but he is a 'tweener. He's 6-foot-3, 202 pounds, so he doesn't have the ideal size the Illini want in a tight end. But receivers coach Andrew Hayes-Stoker really likes him. He's not as long as Zarrian Holcombe or Micah Jones, but he's faster and more athletic than either. He won't be a burner, but Illinois could use a longer target in this class. The Illini are really intrigued by him, so an offer might not be that far off.
Samson Evans has the makings of a stud slot receiver. He has blazing speed (4.5ish), is strong and tough. But he wants to play quarterback. He chose to rep at the position at The Opening at Halas Hall earlier this month. He has Big Ten offers from Illinois, Iowa and Minnesota to play either slot receiver or safety. But there is buzz that Northern Illinois has a legit chance to land him because they are one of the few that is offering him a chance to play quarterback. Stay tuned.
Illinois became the first power-five program to offer Woodrow "Trey" Lowe when they hosted him for a visit recently. Despite taking a commitment from Taylor, the Illini want to add another quarterback and Lowe fits the dual-threat, athletic profile. Southern Miss, Navy and Memphis are his other offers, so the Illini sit in a pretty good spot entering the spring.
The Illini are in the top-three for Indianapolis cornerback D.J. Johnson, along with Iowa and Minnesota. Johnson visited Illinois last month and received his offer. The Illini are huge fans of Johnson, Scout.com's No. 24 cornerback in the Class of 2018. But they have some ground to make up.
The odds still seem low that Illinois lands four-star St. Louis defensive lineman Ronnie Perkins. But he did get to campus last month for an unofficial visit, where Lovie and company made their pitch. Still, Perkins has offers from the likes of Michigan, Georgia, LSU, Texas, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, etc. Gonna be really tough.
This one will be tough too. Michael Thompson is a bit raw, but the physical tools alone make him one of Scout's top-50 prospects in the Class of 2017. Like Perkins, Thompson made a campus visit to Illinois last month, where he met with Lovie. This will be a long recruitment with some of the top programs in the country. The odds aren't in Illinois' favor, but they've at least had an audience with Thompson.
Legacy recruit Houston Griffith visited Illinois in February with IMG and former Mt. Carmel teammate Verdis Brown in February, so the Illini continue to have a relationship with the son of Howard Griffith. But the four-star safety still seems to have his eyes on the bluer bloods. Griffith visited Notre Dame earlier this month and will trip to USC soon. He plans to trim his list in the coming months, and Illinois seems to have a chance to make the first cut.
Kamryn Babb is one of the more physically impressive receivers in the country and has the offers to show it. Unlike some of the other top St. Louis prospects, he didn't make it up for a visit last month. He seems focused on the top programs, including Michigan, Ohio State, Michigan State, Alabama, Auburn, Oklahoma, Texas, LSU, Ole Miss and Tennessee, just to name a few.
Like Babb, Trevor Trout was invited to the St. Louis junior day weekend at Champaign but did not make it. He has visited Illinois previously but most recently mentioned Oklahoma, Missouri, USC and UCLA as the programs with which he's most in contact.
Tyrik Henderson will play for a power-five program, but unless something changes drastically, it won't be Illinois. The Illini and Henderson just haven't been a fit. Illinois wants a longer cornerback. Henderson could decide soon though with Iowa, Missouri and Indiana as possible destinations.
Bryce Effner is one of the better available offensive linemen in what looks to be a pretty weak in-state crop this year. He definitely has the frame to play tackle in the Big Ten. Penn State, Maryland and Minnesota already have offered. The Illini hope to host him for a visit soon to get a closer look. But the Nittany Lions are trending strong with this one.
Illinois offered and prioritized I'Shawn Stewart early but have backed off a bit recently. Stewart is a great athlete but isn't the longest and as a junior didn't play much cornerback, tthe position at which the Illini prefer him. Like teammate and Illini signee Kendall Smith, he needs to add some more physicality to his game to play defense.
Illinois offered the short wideout earlier than most power-five suitors, but Rondale Moore is blowing up after running a 4.33-second 40-yard dash and impressing in most other drills at The Opening at Halas Hall earlier this month. He's added nine offers since then, including Alabama and Georgia.
Terrance Taylor is an impressive looking prospect, but he's a bit raw still and is a total 'tweener in the Illini scheme. He's not quite long or big enough to play defensive end, but he's not quite fluid enough in coverage to play linebacker. He best projects as a 3-4 edge rusher. Also, Illinois probably won't add a linebacker in this class, unless he's a blue-chipper like Adeoye.