Illini Prospects Shine At Nike Combine

It seemed strange to watch football players from all over the Midwest playing on Zuppke Field inside Memorial Stadium Saturday without seeing any Illini football coaches. But the Nike Combine was off limits to them, and all other college coaches as well. There were a large number of talented athletes present, and several Illini prospects/commits shown brightly.

Illinois quarterback commitment Chandler Whitmer loves to compete and continues to attend camps for that purpose. Despite the presence of a large number of quality signal callers, the Downers Grove South star showed sophistication and fundamental soundness. He was named the camp's most valuable quarterback.

Proviso East superstar Kyle Prater has offers from all over the country and needn't prove himself. But he was there to compete as well. The 6'-5" Prater stands out in a crowd and proves his worth with every drill he runs. He was named most valuable receiver at the camp. Illini stars Juice Williams, who assisted at the camp, and Arrelious Benn visited with Prater afterward. Illinois has a chance with him if it has a successful season this fall.

Junior Davaris Daniels also looked outstanding at receiver. The Vernon Hills athlete showcased his considerable skills against some excellent cornerbacks. Oak Lawn Richards receiver Keith Sconiers also performed well. He doesn't have a scholarship offer from Illinois yet, but he may sometime down the road.

Chicago St. Rita defensive tackle Bruce Gaston Jr. showed outstanding quickness and explosion. Illinois offered him a scholarship yesterday, and he likes them a lot. The 6'-3", 309 pound Gaston had an amazing 30.8" verticle leap at a recent camp, and that leg explosion helped him speed past unsuspecting offensive linemen.

Gaston beat Homewood-Flossmoor's Zach Fulton a couple times in one-on-one competition, but Fulton ended up being named the most valuable offensive lineman. Fulton received a scholarship offer from Tennessee after performing great at their camp recently. His uncle said Fulton wants to blaze his own trail, so it is possible he many not want to follow older brother Xavier to Illinois.

Defensive end William Gholston, the manchild from Detroit Southeastern, sped by his offensive foes at will. The tall, well-built Gholston wasn't named the most valuable defensive lineman, but he was certainly under consideration for it along with Gaston.

The running back MVP was Livonia, Michigan's Austin White. If you are looking for a smart, quick running back with good hands, White is your man. He was perfection going through his footwork drills. His overall field presence and awareness, coupled with his leadership skills, make him a priority recruit. He came into Champaign Friday evening and had a chance to tour the campus prior to the camp, and he is giving the Illini fair consideration.

Illini safety commitment Corey Cooper was there as well. He and Prater are good friends and often travel to the same events. While he continues to claim he wants to give consideration to other schools, it would be surprising if he didn't end up at Illinois.

Another Illini recruiting prospect looked good at defensive back. Dexter McDonald, the 6'-2" speedster from Rockhurst High School in Kansas City, Missouri, also drove in Friday. This was his second time on the Illini campus. The friend and teammate of Illini signee Nathan Scheelhaase has excellent size and quick acceleration.

Not all the prospects from the state of Illinois scheduled to attend actually did so, but there were plenty of out-of-staters to make up for it. Athletes from Michigan seem to show up in large numbers at a number of these camps, and many are recruitable.

The camp lasted only 3 hours, which isn't enough time to evaluate everyone fairly. It is easy to get lost among 200 athletes, so some top performers were undoubtedly overlooked.

But there was enough talent on hand to keep everyone interested. And Illini fans had a number of reasons for optimism with their 2010 recruiting class.


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