Jeremy Werner // Illini Inquirer

2018 Illini Football Trending Meter: Defense (June 2017)

Check out the Illini football defensive Big Board for the latest Trending Meter, notes, buzz and new offers.

Check out the latest Trending Meter Offensive Big Board too!

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. Illinois may take only one or two defensive linemen in the class -- though that could increase as scholarships open up due to attrition. The Illini are shooting for some stars in 2018.

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

TRENDING METER:  

Offer: Yes

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 has said he'd prefer to get closer to home for college. Ohio Stats looms large, and Michigan is getting entrenched here now too. But he has a genuine interest in Illinois and possibly being a key foundation piece for Lovie Smith's rebuild -- proven by yet another visit to Champaign in early June. Brown has been to campus more than a handful of times and has developed a deep relationship with the staff. Brown would likely play immediately for Illinois and be highly revered in his home state. Most four-star prospects choose the blue blood. But is Brown just a bit different?

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

TRENDING METER: 

Offer: Yes

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

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. A few sources recently said Illinois has a better chance in this pursuit than most assume and think the Illini are on his very short list. He visited Illinois in March, when Lovie and company made their pitch. Also, Oklahoma is a major player and Bob Stoops retirement might cause some hesitation on Perkins' end to go there. Still, Perkins has offers from some of the best programs in the country -- and fellow St. Louis star Ayodele Adeoye is pushing for Perkins to join him in Texas. Nearly an up arrow, but Illinois still has a lot of work to do.

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

TRENDING METER: 

Offer: Yes

Top competition: Alabama 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 that Alabama offer is a big one and Oklahoma, Missouri, USC and UCLA are high on his list.

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

TRENDING METER: 

Offer: Yes

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 certainly 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

TRENDING METER:  

Offer: Yes

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

Comment: Illinois offered the in-state defensive end a little later than some other programs. For some prospects, this may have hurt the Illini. But McCabe is drawn to playing for the state school, and the Illini are a major player here. They'd like to close this down this summer because they like his versatility to play both inside and outside -- much like 2017 signees Deon Pate and Jamal Woods. Given his offer list, this is one Illinois needs to win.

http://www.scout.com/player/204170-jaylen-joyner?s=169

TRENDING METER: 

Offer: Yes

Top competition: Tennessee, North Carolina, Indiana, NC State, South Carolina

Comment: Joyner is quickly accruing a hefty offer sheet.

http://www.scout.com/player/215491-myjai-sanders?s=169

TRENDING METER: 

Offer: Yes

Top competition: Virginia Tech, Maryland, Rutgers, Mississippi State

Comment: The Illlini got in somewhat early on this lanky, athletic Florida defensive end. But he's racking up offers quickly.

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/208068-brian-johnson?s=169

TRENDING METER: 

Offer: Yes

Top competition: Baylor, Missouri, Louisville, Texas A&M

Comment: The long, fast linebacker would be a great fit in the Illini's scheme. The Illini are in the top-seven, but it looks like it'll be tough to get him out of the South. A campus visit is a must.

http://www.scout.com/player/204216-khalan-tolson?s=169

TRENDING METER: 

Offer: Yes

Top competition: Iowa, Indiana, Iowa State, Pitt

Comment: The Illini recently offered the short but speedy and strong linebacker who has an impressive offer list.

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

TRENDING METER: 

Offer: No

Top competition: Indiana, Central Michigan, Toledo, Northern Illinois

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 strong enough to play defensive end, but he's showed well in camps with a hand on the ground. If he can show the same in pads either this summer or fall, he could raise his stock. He best projects as a 3-4 edge rusher but so did Carroll Phillips. 

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

TRENDING METER: 

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/216770-antwain-walker?s=169

COMMITTED

Comment: Walker is the first defensive player to commit to the Illini in the Class of 2018 . The Oswego East cornerback has great length and solid athleticism. He earned his scholarship offer after showing 4.5 speed at the Illini Showcase Camp. He's a good fit for what the Illini want in corners, but he needs to add strength and improve his tackling.

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

TRENDING METER: 

Offer: Yes

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 has his eyes on the bluer bloods. He wants to play for a proven winner and NFL factory. Tough to blame any top prospect who chooses that route. He plans to trim his list in the coming months, and Illinois seems to at least have a chance to make the first cut. But they are a huge long shot to make the final cut.

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

TRENDING METER: 

Offer: Yes

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

Comment: The Illini missed on top safety target Greg Newsome, so there's even more of a 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, which unsurprisingly made Craddieth's top-12, seems to have solidified itself as a player. But the Illini have some work to do.

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

TRENDING METER: 

Offer: Yes

Top competition: Iowa, Indiana, Notre Dame

Comment: The Illini made the top-three for Indianapolis cornerback D.J. Johnson -- who visited Champaign earlier this spring -- along with Iowa and Minnesota. But Notre Dame recently offered and certainly will be a major player here and possibly help lift this recruitment to another level. The Illini are huge fans of Johnson, Scout.com's No. 25 cornerback in the Class of 2018. But the Illini were No. 3 out of Johnson's previous top-3, and Notre Dame's offer likely moves them down even further.

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

TRENDING METER:  

Offer: Yes

Top competition: UCLA, Iowa, Wisconsin, Nebraska, Iowa State, Indiana, Purdue, Syracuse

Comment: Williams is being recruited as both a basketball and football player, so athleticism certainly is a strength. Williams has officially blown up, recently earning offers from UCLA, Wisconsin, Nebraska and Vanderbilt also showing interest. Illinois expects soon to host him and his parents for a visit.

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

TRENDING METER: 

Offer: Yes

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/215931-teja-young/news?year=2017&s=169

TRENDING METER:  

Offer: Yes

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.

http://www.scout.com/player/217168-gabe-lemons?s=169

TRENDING METER: 

Offer: Yes

Top competition: Oklahoma State

Comment: A long, athlete, Lemons' lone power-five offer is from Illinois -- which is looking at him as a defensive back. But Oklahoma State was a huge recent offer.

http://www.scout.com/player/216350-justin-birdsong/recruiting?year=2017&...

TRENDING METER: 

Offer: Yes

Top competition: Kansas State, Minnesota, Iowa State

Comment: Illinois recently jumped in with a scholarship offer for the Florida cornerback. Notre Dame also is showing interest.

http://www.scout.com/player/217392-avery-thornton?s=169

TRENDING METER: 

Offer: Yes

Top competition: No other D-I offers

Comment: Illinois is recruiting Thornton as an athlete, but his best prospects are as a rangy free safety. He needs to add strength but he plays with some physicality and can cover a lot of ground quickly.


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