Jeremy Werner // Illini Inquirer

2018 Illini Recruiting Big Board: Defense

Check out profiles and highlights of the Illini's top defensive targets in the Class of 2018 with the latest Illini Inquirer feature: the Recruiting Big Board.

Defensive line

Illinois loaded up on defensive linemen in 2017, signing seven defensive linemen -- including six players who can rep at defensive end. Several should have the opportunity to play this season but several should redshirt, which would balance the group between graduating after the 2020 and 2021 seasons. With a limited amount of scholarships in this class, Illinois may take only one defensive linemen but would take two of the right ones. The Illini are shooting for some stars in 2018, including several out of St. Louis.

http://www.scout.com/player/209102-verdis-brown?s=169

Interest in Illini: HIGH

Top competition: Michigan, Ohio State, Michigan State, Florida State

Comment: Verdis Brown is one of those rare athletes who has a massive, NFL frame already but also moves fluidly and smoothly for his size. He's played mostly offensive line and could be a dominant guard, but Illinois likes him most as a disruptive defensive tackle. Brown has blue-blood offers and 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 be highly revered in his home state. 

http://www.scout.com/player/206207-ronnie-perkins?s=169

Offer: Yes

Interest in Illini: MEDIUM

Top competition: Michigan, Georgia, LSU, Texas, Notre Dame, Oklahoma

Comment: Perkins is a strong yet explosive athlete who has the versatility to play on the edge or as a disruptive three technique -- and be both a great pass rusher and run stuffer. He did visit Illinois in March, when Lovie and company made their pitch. Still, Perkins has offers from some of the best programs in the country. Gonna be really tough for Illinois.

http://www.scout.com/player/188210-trevor-trout?s=169

Offer: Yes

Interest in Illini: LOW

Top competition: UCLA, Oklahoma, USC, Missouri, Texas, LSU, Iowa, Ole Miss

Comment: Trevor Trout reminds us of former Illini Akeem Spence. He's really thick and powerful and will plug the middle of the defense. But he also has a quick first step  and can penetrate the backfield. He 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.

http://www.scout.com/college/illinois/player/200457-michael-thompson

Offer: Yes

Interest in Illini: LOW

Top competition: Alabama, Missouri, Iowa, Florida, Michigan, Ole Miss, Ohio State, Oklahoma

Comment: 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 in March, 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.

http://www.scout.com/player/211988-gavin-mccabe?s=169

Offer: Yes

Illini interest: MEDIUM

Top competition: Arkansas, Indiana, Iowa, Wisconsin, Purdue

Comment: Illinois offered the in-state defensive end a little later than some other programs, but the Illini like his versatility to play both inside and outside -- much like 2017 signees Deon Pate and Jamal Woods.

http://www.scout.com/player/209928-tyler-manoa?s=169

Offer: Yes

Illini interest: LOW

Top competition: Arizona, BYU, California, Utah

Comment: One of the top defensive tackles in California, Manoa is a strong, relentless nose tackle who will be tough for the Illini to pull from the western schools. He recently visited BYU and Utah.

http://www.scout.com/player/211599-taylor-upshaw?s=169

Offer: Yes

Illini interest: MEDIUM

Top competition: California, Georgia Tech, Indiana, Ole Miss, Northwestern, Oregon, Pittsburgh

Comment: Upshaw, the son of former NFL player Regan Upshaw, has only played football for one season but his pure size and athleticism -- and blood line -- make him a no-brainer offer for a lot of power-five schools. 

http://www.scout.com/player/213352-noah-shannon?s=169

Offer: No

Interest in Illini: MEDIUM

Top competition: Iowa, Indiana, Iowa State, Minnesota, Missouri, Duke

Comment: Shannon is a no-doubt, stout power-five defensive tackle. But he isn't quite as long or as explosive as the Illini prefer. He's more of a nose tackle, and the Illini are setting their sights higher in this class. Shannon likely would have a lot of interest in the Illini, but with Illinois is pretty deep at the position in future years and may only take on defensive linemen in this class. They're intrigued by Shannon, but not enough yet to offer.

Linebackers

Illinois has a young, deep corps of linebackers, so linebacker is a low priority in the Class of 2018. In fact, Illinois may not add a linebacker -- but would add a very talented one.

http://www.scout.com/player/214407-ayodele-adeoye?s=169

Offer: Yes

Illini interest: HIGH

Top competition: LSU, Missouri, Oklahoma

Comment: No one has pursued Scout 300 linebacker 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.

http://www.scout.com/player/208054-terrance-taylor?s=169

Offer: No

Illini interest: HIGH

Top competition: Ole Miss, Wake Forest and Purdue

Comment: 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.

http://www.scout.com/player/212873-aaron-antoniou

Offer: No

Top competition: No Division I offers yet

Comment: The Chicagoland native didn't play his junior season after transferring from Hinsdale Central to Montini Catholic. He made another move this spring, transferring to IMG Academy. With no junior film, Antoniou must show out  this spring and fall. Illinois has kept in touch for a while. Antoniou could play outside linebacker, safety or nickel in the Illini defense.

Defensive backs

Illinois added four defensive backs in the Class of 2017. But they aren't very comfortable with the rest of the future depth chart in the defensive backfield. The Illini want more length, athleticism and physicality in the secondary. The Illini have some hard hitters at strong safety but would like a few more long and physical corners as well as a rangy centerfielder.

http://www.scout.com/player/191383-houston-griffith?s=169

Interest in Illini: MEDIUM

Top competition: Ohio State, Notre Dame, Michigan, USC, Florida State

Comment: Legacy recruit Houston Griffith would be a huge addition to the Illini secondary. He has the physicality and fluidity to play corner and the range, football IQ and ball skills to play free safety. He 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 in April and will trip to USC soon. He plans to trim his list in the coming months, and Illinois seems to at least have a chance to make the first cut.

http://www.scout.com/player/193031-dallas-craddieth?s=169

Offer: Yes

Interest in Illini: HIGH

Top competition: Iowa, Missouri, Ole Miss, Minnesota, North Carolina, Wisconsin

Comment: 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.

http://www.scout.com/player/209251-d-j-johnson?s=169

Offer: Yes

Interest in Illini: MEDIUM

Top competition: Iowa, Indiana

Comment: 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. 25 cornerback in the Class of 2018. But they have some ground to make up. 


http://www.scout.com/player/207452-jordan-miner?s=169

Offer: Yes

Interest in Illini: MEDIUM

Top competition: Auburn, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Indiana, Ole Miss, Oregon, Penn State

Comment: Illinois just recently offered the four-star Florida cornerback but seem a long-shot to land him given his impressive offer list.

http://www.scout.com/player/208405-davion-williams?s=169

Offer: Yes

Interest in Illini: MEDIUM

Top competition: Iowa, Iowa State

Comment: Williams is being recruited as both a basketball and football player, so athleticism certainly is a strength.



http://www.scout.com/player/204188-ely-doyle?s=169

Offer: No

Interest in Illini: LOW

Top competition: UCLA, Utah, Washington State, Northwestern, Arizona State, Purdue

Comment: The physical safety with solid athleticism recently took a Midwest tour of programs and visited Illinois, which hasn't yet offered.

http://www.scout.com/player/215931-teja-young/news?year=2017&s=169

Offer: Yes

Interest in Illini: HIGH

Top competition: Florida Atlantic

Comment: Young plays quarterback and cornerback for Palm Beach Lakes and is a playmaker with the ball in his hands, meaning he likely projects as a returner too. He has quick hips and can turn and run with most receivers. He has great closing speed to break up passes and is pretty well-built. He's just not as long or as physical as the corners Illinois usually goes for. But he could be a fit at nickelback/returner.


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