Meet The Illini Class of 2004: Part II of III

In the second part of a three-part story, will take a look at the new recruits that just signed with the Fighting Illini football team. In this first update, we will look at the first eight players alphabetically in the class: Billy Garza, Justin Harrison, Kyle Knezetic, JR Kraemer, Ryan McDonald, Walter Mendenhall, Dan Motuliak, and Jarvis Newson. <br><br> Read more on the Fighting Illini Football Recruiting Class of 2004 from in this story.

QB Billy Garza
Height: 6-2
Weight: 195
High School: Porter HS
Hometown: Brownsville, TX Star Ranking:
Photo Courtesy the University of Illinois
Billy Garza was a quarterback in Texas that flew under the radar from college recruiters for a majority of this recruiting season. As a senior in high school Billy passed for 3,185 yards and 38 touchdowns, while adding 7 touchdowns on the ground. Billy holds the Porter HS single-game school record with 404 yards passing and 7 touchdowns.

Among the honors that Billy received for his senior season, were being named the All-Valley Offensive Most Valuable Player by the RGV Newspapers and the Bay Area Sports Newspaper. Billy earned a total of 11 letters in his high school athletics career in football, baseball, and basketball.

If you are wondering what the Illinois connection was for Billy Garza, all you have to do is look at his high school football coach; former Illini running backs coach Jim Helms.

"Billy has an outstanding feel for the game. He is extremely accurate with good touch on his passes, but at the same time has the strength to make all the throws you want to make. He is also a tremendous leader with that aura you are looking for in a quarterback. He is also a standout basketball and baseball player."

DB Justin Harrison
Height: 5-11
Weight: 205
40-Time: 4.48
High School: Bloomington HS
Hometown: Bloomington, IL
Visit Date: 12/12/2003 Star Ranking:
Justin committed to the Fighting Illini in the summer of 2003 because as he told Chris Pool of he "just felt more comfortable with everything at Illinois. The coaches, the players, the campus, everything pointed to Illinois for me."

In his senior season Justin made 119 tackles, 21 for loss and caused 4 fumbles. Among the honors that were placed on Justin were being named All-State by the Chicago Sun Times, Champaign News-Gazette, Bloomington Pantagraph, and the Illinois High School Coaches Association.

"Justin is a physical player. When he hits you, you know you've been hit. We are really excited about his future contributions to the secondary, primarily as a safety. He never came off the field in high school, playing offense, defense, and special teams."

LS Kyle Knezetic
Height: 6-1
Weight: 195
High School: Minooka HS
Hometown: Channahan, IL
Visit Date: 12/5/2003 Star Ranking:
Photo Courtesy the University of Illinois
Kyle is being recruited to replace the graduating Mike Gomez as Illinois' long snapper. In high school he played both safety and tight end, but he will specialize as a long snapper for the Fighting Illini.

"Whenever you sign someone you look for that special quality and we have found that in Kyle. We had him in camp so we have seen first-hand what he can do. He gets the ball back as quickly as I have seen at this level. He was also a productive linebacker, but has dedicated himself to being the best long snapper in the country and we believe he is."

TE JR Kraemer
Height: 6-5
Weight: 220
40-Time: 4.6
High School: Lafayette HS
Hometown: Wildwood, MO
Visit Date: 12/5/2003 Star Ranking:
J.R. committed to Illinois in October 2003. He played wide receiver in high school, but he is projected to be a TE at the college level. Kraemer selected the Illini over offers from Kansas and Purdue. When discussing his verbal commitment to Illinois with Chris Pool J.R. stated that he chose Illinois because he felt "very comfortable" on his visit and that he "liked the campus, the coaches and the city."

In high school J.R. was a played tight end, safety, and punter for Lafayette. After his junior season he was named to the All-Conference team for all three positions. Among the national recruiting organization awards that J.R. received were being named to the PrepStar All-Region Team and a SuperPrep All-American.

Chris Pool, Midwest Recruiting Analyst
"Solid athlete. I thought Kraemer looked solid at the Ann Arbor Nike Camp. Some coaches in attendance felt J.R. wasn't big enough to play tight end and not fast enough to play wide receiver. The old tweener adage was why Kraemer didn't have more scholarship offers than he did. I feel that Illinois is getting a solid football player who could contribute to the Fighting Illini football program after taking a redshirt."

Josh Clark, Big XII Region Recruiting Analyst
"A solid pick-up for the Fighting Illini. Kraemer does not jump out at you on film with flashy play or freak athletic ability, but he plays hard every down and is more than capable of getting the job done."

Illinois Head Coach Ron Turner on Signing Day
"J.R. is a gifted athlete who can really run, catch the ball and block. He played both sides of the ball, punted and has done just about everything on the field. He also runs track and I know it is his goal to win the state title in the high hurdles where he took second last year. He brings a lot of athleticism to the position."

OL Ryan McDonald
Height: 6-4
Weight: 270
40-Time: 5.1
High School: West Ottawa HS
Hometown: Holland, MI
Visit Date: 12/12/2003 Star Ranking:
When Ryan McDonald was born, he already bled orange and blue. His father was a center for the University of Illinois from 1974-1976 and his mother is also a University of Illinois graduate. When describing the actions surrounding his commitment to Chris Pool of, Ryan stated that "Coach Turner offered me on Sunday [December 14, 2003] and I jumped on it. Illinois runs in my family." Ryan selected Illinois over Toledo, Eastern Michigan, Western Michigan, and Central Michigan.

In the summer of 2003 when discussing how his recruiting was going with Chippewas Insider, Ryan stated that his "dream has always been to play in the Big Ten, preferably for Illinois." Ron Turner helped make that dream come true for Ryan. Ryan plans to major in Engineering at Illinois.

In high school Ryan earned All-Conference honors as a senior and was named to the Holland Sentinel Dream Team.

Thomas W. Mehl, Chippewas Insider a site on Network
"His quickness, strength and agility make him a Div. I-A offensive line prospect."

Illinois Head Coach Ron Turner on Signing Day
"Ryan is a good athlete. He was a two-way player who really has a passion for football at the University of Illinois, with his father as a former player. He is the kind of guy you like to have in the program because of his understand of the tradition of Illini football. He is also an outstanding student-athlete."

RB Walter Mendenhall
Height: 6-0
Weight: 200
40-Time: 4.5
High School: Niles West HS
Hometown: Skokie, IL
Visit Date: 12/5/2003 Star Ranking:
Photo Courtesy the University of Illinois
Walter Mendenhall committed to Illinois in August of 2003 over offers from Colorado, Northern Illinois, Northwestern, and Purdue. Walter told Chris Pool of that he "picked Illinois because I liked the location and the coaching staff. My family can come watch me play and I'm not that far away from home."

Walter averaged 7.7 yards per carry as a senior in high school, rushing for a total of 1,158 yards on 151 attempts for 14 touchdowns. Walter also caught 10 passed for 189 yards and recorded 38 tackles and 2 interceptions. Among the honors that were placed upon Walter were being named a PrepStar All-Region selection, a SuperPrep All-Region selection, and a Big Ten Region Hot 100 recruit.

Niles West HS Head Coach Mark Egofske as told to Chris Pool, Midwest Recruiting Analyst
"Walter is as good as any running back in the state. He runs hard and he has good vision. I've seen reports that says he runs a 4.4 (40-yard dash) but he's more like a 4.6 kid."

Illinois Head Coach Ron Turner on Signing Day
"Walter was extremely productive as a high school running back. He is strong, and athletic, with good running skills and outstanding hands out of the backfield. In this program, we look for that well-rounded running back, which Walter fits very well. He will be an outstanding player for us."

DL Dan Motuliak
Height: 6-4
Weight: 270
40-Time: 5.4
High School: Jefferson HS
Hometown: Lafayette, IN
Visit Date: 12/5/2003 Star Ranking:
Dan gave head coach Ron Turner an early verbal commitment this recruiting season because as he told Chris Pool of he "felt comfortable with the coaches, the program, and the campus." Before committing to Illinois, Dan was able to camp in Champaign, where the Illini coaches were able to scout him before offering a scholarship.

"Dan is another two-way player that we had in camp. We really liked his toughness. He has that mentality you need to have for a defensive lineman. He is very aggressive and physical. He is also an outstanding worker."

DB Jarvis Newson
Height: 6-0
Weight: 185
High School: Columbia HS
Hometown: Decatur, GA Star Ranking:
As a senior in high school in 2002 Jarvis recorded 56 tackles, caused 13 fumbles, and intercepted 4 passes. Jarvis was named to the All-State, All-City, and All-Metro teams. Jarvis' older brother Kendall just complete his first season with the Miami Dolphins.

"Jarvis is a really talented athlete. He came out of high school a year ago, but we didn't have any scholarships available at the time. I admire his perseverance to stay with us. He is a very physical player who could either be a safety or a corner. I like the intensity and aggressiveness he brings to the position."

This story was created from various reports on network and from a University of Illinois Press Release.

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