Meet The Illini Class of 2004: Part III of III

In the third 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 final eight players alphabetically in the class: Jason Reda, Jeff Sobol, Tony Sparkman, Alex Stroud, Derek Walker, Russ Weil, Remond Willis, and Andre' Young. <br><br> Read more on the Fighting Illini Football Recruiting Class of 2004 from in this story.

K Jason Reda
Height: 6-3
Weight: 190
High School: Rock Island HS
Hometown: Rock Island, IL
Visit Date: 12/5/2003 Star Ranking:
Jason has been a kicker on the Rock Island varsity squad for three years. His leg is both extremely accurate and strong. He sent 95% of his kickoffs through the end zone in 2003, and recorded a 48-yard field goal as a senior. That 48-yard field goal is not even the longest that Jason has kicked because he stated that he had a 65-yard field goal at Illinois camp. Jason chose Illinois over Northern Illinois.

Reda told Chris Pool of that he selected Illinois because "Illinois is losing two scholarship kickers and I've been told in not so many words that I'm going to walk into the job. I know there's going to be kickers already on the roster to compete with me and I'm fine with that. Competition, especially for kickers is always good."

Rock Island Head Coach Vic Boblett as told to's Kedric Prince:
Jason is a great athlete. I tried to get him to play other positions, but he wasn't interested. To show you the kind of player he is, one day during practice I told the kids if one of you could do 100 push-ups in a row we will not run once in practice today. Guess who got down there and finished the job? Jason Reda."

Illinois Head Coach Ron Turner on Signing Day
"Jason has a great leg, as good as I have seen in a long time. He is another player that we had the luxury of seeing in camp. What we discovered is that he has leg strength that is hard to find in somebody at that level. He has tremendous potential and upside."

DL Jeff Sobol
Height: 6-4
Weight: 250
High School: Herculaneum HS
Hometown: Peverly, MO Star Ranking:
Photo Courtesy the University of Illinois
Jeff was a three time all-conference performer as both an offensive and defensive lineman, and was named to the KJFF Dream Team two straight years. Jeff was named to the PrepStar All-Region team.

"You watch Jeff's film and see that he is all over the place. He is a very active player with tremendous quickness off the ball. He uses hands very well and has that tenacity and toughness you can't teach/ I love the way he brings a spark every time he hits the field."

OL Tony Sparkman
Height: 6-4
Weight: 280
High School: Wayzata HS
Hometown: Brooklyn Park, MN
Visit Date: 12/5/2003 Star Ranking:
Photo Courtesy the University of Illinois
Tony committed to Illinois after taking a visit to the Champaign campus in December over an offer from UConn. Tony is originally from Chicago and coming down to Champaign will be a homecoming of sorts for the Minnesota lineman.

Wayzata Head Coach Brad Anderson as told to Chris Pool, Midwest Recruiting Analyst:
"Tony is an extremely gifted football player. He has a nasty streak to him and he's very dominant on the line of scrimmage. Tony had some injury problems this year but he's fine now. Illinois is getting a good football player."

Illinois Head Coach Ron Turner on Signing Day
"Jason has a great leg, as good as I have seen in a long time. He is another player that we had the luxury of seeing in camp. What we discovered is that he has leg strength that is hard to find in somebody at that level. He has tremendous potential and upside."

WR Alex Stroud
Height: 6-1
Weight: 185
High School: De La Salle HS
Hometown: Danville, CA Star Ranking:
Photo Courtesy the University of Illinois
Alex played both wide receiver and outside linebacker as a senior at De La Salle, starting all 13 games. He recorded 17 catches for over 300 yards and 65 tackles with 2 interceptions.

"Alex is a standout athlete with the best of his career still in front of him. He has only played football for a couple of years, but played on traditionally one of the best high school teams in football, De La Salle, in California. He has a 40-plus inch vertical jump and great speed and explosiveness. His coach was most impressed with how quickly he took to his only year of playing defense."

DL Derek Walker
Height: 6-5
Weight: 245
40-Time: 4.8
High School: Glenbard East HS
Hometown: Glenbard Heights, IL
Visit Date: 12/5/2003 Star Ranking:
Photo Courtesy the University of Illinois
Walker committed to Illinois during the summer of 2003 after camping at Illinois. Derek told Chris Pool of that his experience at Illinois' summer camp just "seemed to grab at" him. Other reasons given for his commitment included that Derek also "felt comfortable with the coaches and Illinois is close to home."

In high school Derek was named to the Champaign News-Gazette All-State team, and a SuperPrep and PrepStar All-Region selection. In his senior season Derek recorded 32solo tackles, 15 for loss and 18 sacks in just 9 games.

"Derek is a really gifted athlete, defensively. He has a tremendous upside. His senior year he was much improved. As a junior he played strictly on athleticism, but learned to be a much more aware football player. He brings great burst and acceleration to the defensive line."

FB/LB Russ Weil
Height: 6-0
Weight: 240
40-Time: 4.6
High School: Minooka HS
Hometown: Minooka, IL
Visit Date: 12/5/2003 Star Ranking:
Russ Weil was the first commitment in the Fighting Illini Class of 2004 when he committed to Ron Turner and Illinois in May of 2003. When discussing his reasons for committing to Illinois, Weil told Chris Pool of, "I visited Illinois in April and I felt comfortable down there. I know a couple of guys on the team and it's close to home."

Russ was a three-year varsity starter for Minooka High School, earning an All-Conference selection in each season. As a senior, Russ made 24 solo tackles, had 36 assists, and 10 tackles for loss. Among the accolades that were placed on Weil were PrepStar All-Region, SuperPrep All-Region, Morris Daily Herald All-Area Most Valuable Player, and Big Ten Region Hot 100 player.

Chris Pool, Midwest Recruiting Analyst
"Weil brings his same warrior mentality that he uses on the wrestling mat to the gridiron. Russ was a work-horse for the Indians and never came off the field.

On defense, Weil was all over the field making big hits and I mean big hits, he leveled All-American linebacker/fullback Kyle Williams on several occasions.

On offense, Weil was the bell-cow. He used his tremendous balance and strength to gain yardage when there was none to be had and he also used his speed to score the only touchdown for Minooka.

Weil is a throwback football player that is going to make the Illini fans proud."

Mike Briscoe, Minooka HS Head Coach, as told to Chris Pool, Midwest Recruiting Analyst
"I remember watching Alstott play in high school. Russ is every bit as good as Mike was and that just goes to show you how good Russ is. To say Russ Weil exceeded my expectations would be a fair statement. He's rushed for 1,300 yards and he's a warrior on defense. Russ is the best back I've ever coached. He has very good speed, he can make cuts and he can outrun people. On defense, Russ is a warrior. He has tremendous closing speed on a ball carrier from the backside and he's a big hitter. His best attribute is his toughness. Russ will play through pain like nobody I've ever had. He gets hurt, he comes off the field, gets taped or whatever needs to be done and he's back on the field."

Illinois Head Coach Ron Turner on Signing Day
"Russ is as intense a player as I remember seeing. He has only one speed and that is 100 percent all the time. He is very versatile and could play fullback, linebacker, or defensive end. He won a wrestling state title, which shows his great mental toughness."

LB Remond Willis
Height: 6-0
Weight: 220
40-Time: 4.63
High School: New Madrid HS
Hometown: Lilbourn, MO Star Ranking:
Remond Willis was the second commitment in the Fighting Illini Class of 2004, who committed to Ron Turner during Illinois' summer camp after really liking the school's atmosphere and coaching staff. Willis played both running back and linebacker for New Madrid, and he projects to be an outside linebacker in college.

Josh Clark, Big XII Region Recruiting Analyst
"A true sleeper in the state of Missouri, Willis was my #3 linebacker prospect in the state behind Van Alexander and Arthur Miller. Remond is raw, but you'll be hard pressed to find a better athlete at inside linebacker."

Illinois Head Coach Ron Turner on Signing Day
"When you think Remond Willis, you think great speed. I am really excited about what he brings to the table. He excelled his senior as a running back after previously being known for his great defensive play. I like the way he has the ability to make play after play."

WR Andre' Young
Height: 6-5
Weight: 190
40-Time: 4.6
High School: North Augusta HS
Hometown: North Augusta, SC
Visit Date: 1/16/2004 Star Ranking:
Andre' committed to Illinois after his January visit to the Champaign campus. He was the third wide receiver in the class, and he will give Illinois quarterbacks a big target to throw the ball to in the future. When Andre' was asked in early January before he committed to Illinois why he liked the Fighting Illini he told that he "just like[s] the style of offense they run. They throw the ball downfield, vertically."

In high school Andre' set school records for three receiving categories by catching 72 passes for 1,311 yards and 12 touchdowns. Young set a South Carolina single game record with 13 catches and 322 yards in the state playoffs. Andre' was also named a SuperPrep All-Region player.

"Andre fits the mold of receiver that we try to get in this program. He plays basketball and had a chance to possibly play in college. He has great body control and is impressive with his ability to go up and get the ball. He reminds the coaching staff of Walter Young, except more polished as a receiver coming out of high school."

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

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