Potential impact at Illinois
Ayodele Adeoye is strong, physical and quick. The four-star St. Louis (Mo.) Ritenour linebacker also just has the kind of killer instinct and football intelligence that makes the great linebackers so great. He's everything Lovie Smith wants in a linebacker, and the Illinois head coach has seen some pretty good ones.
Illinois looks to have a solid group of linebackers for the 2018 season. Tre Watson and Delshawn Phillips will be seniors and likely starters. Julian Jones -- a bit of an enigma to this point of his career -- also will be a senior. That year's junior class adds depth with Justice Williams, Jake Hansen and Dele Harding, but will any of them establish themselves as a starter by 2018? Redshirt freshmen Ayo Shogbonyo and Christian Abercrombie are more developmental projects at this point.
The 2017 class also added length and speed in Marc Mondesir and an undersized hard hitter in James Knight. Both likely will redshirt in 2017. So Illinois has a lot of options at linebacker in 2018, which is why the Illini aren't set on adding a linebacker in this class.
But Adeoye has All-Big Ten potential -- possibly early in his career. He's almost already ready for college ball from a physical standpoint. He could contribute as a freshman before fully taking over a starting spot as a sophomore.
Going for Illini
Adeoye has huge offers, but Illinois feels more confident in landing him than most of its other four-star targets because it has a unique sell.
When asked what's most important in picking a program, Adeoye told Illini Inquirer last month that "I want a good head coach; I want a good position coach.
Well for a linebacker, few offer better teachers than Illinois.
Smith coached Hall of Famer Derrick Brooks, future Hall of Famer Brian Urlacher, multi-Pro Bowler Lance Briggs, pro Bowler London Fletcher and Pro Bowler Lavonte David.
Meanwhile, Illinois defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Hardy Nickerson -- whom Smith also coached -- was a five-time Pro Bowler and member of the NFL's 1990s All-Decade Team.
Few programs offer two such highly-esteemed linebacking professors as Illinois.
The Illini are selling the heck out of that. They know they're rebuilding and most prospects with the offer list of Adeoye will likely go elsewhere. But they're selling that he belongs in Champaign to continue a great tradition of linebacker greats - Butkus, Nitschke, Rice, Hardy, Howard, Leman -- and to be the next great coached by Smith
Adeoye already has visited Illinois multiple times. He still has several prominent schools he has not yet visited. That he's taking yet another day to visit Champaign shows that he is very intrigued by the Illini's pitch and wants to hear more.
"Illinois, they just tell me I could come in and be a big impact right away," Adeoye told Illini Inquirer last month. "Playing under Hardy Nickerson, that'd be pretty good. Lovie Smith, that's a great coach. Like I said, a good head coach and good position coach, that'd probably be a good fit for me."
Going against Illini
Adeoye is one of the most sought-after linebackers in the Midwest -- and the country.
Mizzou, Oklahoma and Iowa both have developed solid relationships with Adeoye. Iowa is far more proven than Illinois as a program. Mizzou' first-year struggles under Barry Odom hurt them a bit, but they're selling Adeoye and the other top St. Louis talent that they can stay home and quickly revive the home state program -- much like Illinois is trying to in its home state. Oklahoma should get a visit soon.
Texas and Florida come from states loaded with talent, but both think highly enough of Adeoye to recently extend offers. Texas has stepped up its efforts recently, and Adeoye is familiar with Texas defensive coordinator Todd Orlando, who coached his brother at Utah State. The Longhorns are coming on strong.
LSU are a big threat too. Adeoye's brother also played for defensive coordinator Dave Aranda at Utah State, so there is a relationship there. Adeoye also has visited Baton Rouge already, though he went on the trip to gauge whether he was truly a priority. The Tigers have definitely showed him a lot of interest since.
Texas, Florida, Oklahoma, LSU ... and Illinois? Seems like a lot to overcome for the Illini. And USC now also is showing some interest. It'd take a different kind of kid to chose Illinois over those programs. But with the Illini's unique sell, maybe...
Confidence in a commitment
(On a scale of 1-10, 10 being the highest) 2.5 -- Remember, this is confidence in a commitment during the visit. Illinois is hopeful but not expecting a commitment. Adeoye plans to drop a top-10 list on Friday night and has said he plans to visit Oklahoma and Texas soon. That doesn't sound like a kid on the verge of popping a commitment. Now, Florida may get a visit as well. The mid-year enrollee wants to make a decision soon, though. Another visit to Illinois keeps them on a very short list. It may even help put the Illini in the driver's seat.