ST. CHARLES, MO. -- Lovie Smith knows a thing or two about coaching great linebackers, and the Illinois coach thinks Shammond Cooper can be one.
Smith's staff was one of the first programs to offer the star Class of 2019 St. Louis (Mo.) Trinity Catholic linebacker, and Cooper reciprocated some affection on Friday by stopping by the Illinois camp at nearby Lindenwood University.
"We just want to come show love," Cooper said. "They show us love, so we want to show them love."
Illinois has made a huge presence at Trinity Catholic with 10 offers out to 2019 and 2020 Trinity prospects.
"It's crazy really," Cooper said. "That's a place we can all go and still be like Trinity Catholic. We talk about that."
But Illinois isn't the only one. Trinity is one of the most loaded high school programs in the Midwest and power-five coaches are flocking to St. Louis to try and drink from its talent pool.
After leading Trinity with 140 tackles as a sophomore, Cooper is one of the Titans' most popular prospects. The 6-foot-2 linebacker already has earned more than 20 scholarship offers, including Ohio State, Notre Dame, LSU and Oklahoma. Illinois was the third power-five program to offer, behind Syracuse and Iowa State.
"It's crazy," Cooper said. "I'm so young, I didn't know that recruiting would open up like this so early. I got to still keep working though. I got to still let those college coaches know I'm working hard and that I deserve those offers. I'm a hard-working kid. I'm smart during the games. I can make any tackle."
Illinois assistants Thad Ward and Garrick McGee visit Trinity often, and Cooper said Lovie Smith makes Illinois a draw.
"He's a terrific man," Cooper said. "He's got an amazing background being an NFL coach. Playing for him would be amazing."
Asked who is showing the most interest, Cooper said: "Illinois, Oklahoma, Notre Dame."
Nebraska upped its interest during the weekend. The Cornhuskers offered after Cooper participated in their camp on Saturday at Lindenwood.
Don't expect Cooper to decide soon, though.
"I'm really not trying to think anything like that right now," Cooper said. "I'm just trying to wait. I'm just trying to enjoy the process."
What's he want in a college program?
"A family atmosphere," Cooper said. "I can go anywhere, but if they have to rebuild, that's fine."