The Illinois football coaches concluded their two weeks of summer camp sessions the way it began, with a large contingent of athletes to evaluate. The first day was held at Lane Tech High School in Chicago and hosted over 100 players including two full teams. And the final session in Memorial Stadium hosted 40 players. It was a good conclusion to the camps.
Friday afternoon saw a number of speedy receivers and defensive backs strut their stuff. Some of the most impressive were three upcoming juniors with bright futures.
Illini signees Steve Hull and Bud Golden, both from Sycamore High School in Cincinnati, came out to watch their teammate Darius Hillary. The junior cornerback blazed to a 4.45 40 yard dash and demonstrated quick hip movements on his drops. He will likely receive an Illini scholarship offer.
Joining him were two junior stars from St. Vincent High School in Akron, Ohio. Defensive back Daron Grant is listed as one of the top five players in Ohio, meaning he will be tough to recruit away from that state. He ran a 4.5 forty and was listed as the top corner at camp. He had some good matchups with receiver teammate Dominique Mitchell.
Rich Central running back Giorgio Bowers was also highly impressive. Illinois has 6 scholarship running backs already and may not take another. But if they do, Bowers would be under consideration despite his short stature.
The powerfully built young man blazed to a 4.44 40 clocking, showed quick footwork in cone drills, and made a spectacular leaping grab of a pass along the sideline. He said he really wanted to make a good impression with Illini coaches, and he did. Bowers will make someone an outstanding back.
Upcoming senior Tramon Magnus from Naperville North was considered the top receiver in the afternoon session. And Wauconda's Braden Prate ran a 4.8 40 as a growing defensive end. Prate is one of an increasingly large number of basketball players who are testing the football waters with success. He has only played football one year, but now he wants to play it all the time.
In the morning session, Dakota Mosley arrived from Little Rock, Arkansas, with glowing credentials. Auburn offered him a scholarship as a tight end/offensive lineman, and he gave an interview while on the UI campus stating he would favor Auburn regardless of his Illinois visit. That despite the fact his mother and her family are from Moline.
However, Mosley did not impress on this day. Perhaps it was the heat. His mom said he had a strenuous workout the day before with his high school team prior to traveling to Champaign. Regardless, he seemed out of condition and had to rest frequently. It is questionable whether he will receive a scholarship offer from the Illini.
Garret Davis made the trip from Ypsilanti, Michigan. The defensive lineman from Willowrun High School is considered a top prospect in some circles, but he ran only a 5.5 40 at 280 pounds. He has no scholarship offers as yet.
The only real disappointment on the day was the decision of Jacksonville, Florida, lineman Tramell Williams to attend South Carolina. He made the commitment while on an unofficial visit to Illinois, and it was reported before he left town. This type of situation happens only rarely, which is fortunate since it definitely had a negative impact on the mood to start the day.
Some of the other top visitors to camp included North Carolina defensive back/linebacker P.J. Clyburn, Illini quarterback commit Chandler Whitmer, Brother Rice lineman Andy Gallik, and Waubonsee Valley linebacker Rickey Simpson. Clyburn did participate, and Simpson worked out in Chicago.
Mike Dennis earned a scholarship offer after performing well at camp. The Carey, Ohio, left tackle made a strong impression with his large frame and athleticism. Upcoming junior Calvin Phillips, a running back from Momence, proved to be a stud with great athleticism and was offered a scholarship. And junior offensive lineman Trey Pettis, out of Deland, Florida, earned an offer for his play at the lineman camp.
Several other prospects might receive offers in the future as the Illini coaches continue to evaluate their play and team needs. Roswell, Georgia, wide receiver Chris Boyd made a strong impression. The 6'-5" receiver ran like a much smaller man and made all the plays. Woodstock's Mike Liedtke might be under future consideration as a defensive end prospect.
In addition, Sean Hickey, an offensive lineman from Murrysville, Pennsylvania, asserted himself well. Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, Punter Cody Webster was highly impressive despite tired legs and might have a chance to earn a scholarship offer down the road. And Wheaton Warrenville South junior quarterback Riley O'Toole had Illinois quarterback coach Kurt Beathard smiling with his effort.
There was a great deal of buzz at the Illini 7 on 7 camp. The quality of the top participants was exceptional, and most are considering Illinois strongly. Many thought the Illini were not in the running for Johnsburg tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz, but they made up significant ground as C.J. and his parents came in a day early and had a good time.
And Fiedorowicz was a man among boys in the games. The 6'-7", 250 pounder had the strength, athleticism, leaping ability and great hands to be a starter as a freshman wherever he goes. He and his parents seemed to be developing close relationships with several Illini coaches, players, recruits and their families.
Superstar receiver Kyle Prater played with his Proviso West team and demonstrated again why he is a 5-star prospect. He is a national recruit who won't make an early decision, but Illinois is extremely familiar to him. And his good friends Corey Cooper and Chandler Whitmer, both Illini commitments, were on hand to cheer his efforts.
Cooper played with his Proviso East team and excelled both as a safety and receiver. He has everything you would want in an athlete including size, strength, quick hips and great hands and anticipation. Despite a desire to take trips and evaluate other schools, there is still no reason to believe he will attend any school but Illinois.
East St. Louis is always loaded. Detchauz Wray is a dynamic passer despite his modest height. Diminutive halfback Courtney Molton is a breakaway threat every time he touches the ball. Junior receiver Keante Minor is the next superstar receiver for the Flyers. And junior tackle Clint Tucker was probably the top defender at the lineman camp.
There were more players at the one-day camps last year than this, but a couple factors played into that. One, most of the Chicago area kids went to Lane Tech to work out with Illini coaches rather than down in Champaign. And the economy limited travel for a number of top out-of-state prospects.
The Cleveland bus tour didn't make it to Champaign this year, and neither did coaches and players from some Washington, D.C. schools that attended last year. This means the Illini coaches will need to maintain close contact with their long distance recruits until they can come in for official visits and coaches can travel to meet them at their homes.
But overall, it was a fun and productive summer. The great prospects don't usually attend one-day camps as they already have an abundance of scholarship offers. But for aspiring college players eager to earn offers, it was an ideal situation. With small numbers of players at any one camp, they all received more individual attention. If they had ability, it was noticed.
With small scholarship numbers and six commitments so far, Illini coaches weren't desperate to find new talent. But the one-day camps gave them more names to evaluate and made it more likely no one would fall through the cracks. In that sense, it was a valuable summer.