Hardy Nickerson and the rest of the Illini staff have been extremely busy dishing out offers to prospects throughout Texas.
Nickerson has led the recruitment of athlete Gabe Lemons from Coppell (Texas) High School. Illinois watched Lemons work out, and Nickerson offered him a scholarship on Tuesday.
“Hardy Nickerson direct messaged me today and told me to call him as soon as I can," Lemons told Illini Inquirer. "So I called him and he said that after evaluating the film he was happy to officially offer me a full scholarship. It was unbelievable. I knew that they had interest in me, but I didn’t realize it was going to come this fast.”
Illinois was very impressed with Lemons’ speed, length and reach. They are the first power-five school to offer Lemons.
“They are looking at me to play defensive back,” Lemons said. “I’m fast and I can cover a lot of ground really quickly, and I can break on a ball really quickly and pick it off.”
Lemons' 40-yard dash was clocked at an impressive 4.52 seconds, and he also has a 36-inch vertical jump. For comparison, former Ohio State star cornerback Gareon Conley had a vertical jump of 37” and a 40-yard dash of 4.44 seconds at the 2017 NFL combine. Conley was drafted in the first round of the NFL draft by the Oakland Raiders and was an All-Conference player in the Big Ten as a junior.
Illinois is the lone Big Ten school to have interest in Lemons, though he has an offer from Rice and also has interest from North Texas and Texas State.
“The competition of the Big Ten is awesome. It’s a great conference to play in with great teams to play against," Lemons said. “It’s a good challenge to help push yourself to get better. The coaching staff at Illinois with all the NFL background is also great.”
Lemons hopes to get up to Champaign soon so that he can visit the campus. The distance from home could be a negative factor, but he is keeping his options completely open.
“At the moment, I’m kind of experimenting," Lemons said. "I’d like to stay close, but at the same time, Illinois is a great place to be and I would definitely like to look into it. Illinois is in a good position with me because they are the first bigger school to believe in me.”