Cleveland Lineman Commits To Illinois

The Fighting Illini football team has been looking for offensive linemen in recruiting this year. Illini coaches are always looking for players who may have flown under the recruiting radar of other schools. They may have found one in Simon Cvijanovic, an athletic tackle from Cleveland Benedictine. He committed on his official visit.

Simon Cvijanovic made his official visit to Illinois last weekend. On Sunday morning, he committed. He describes his visit.

"My visit was good obviously, I committed. I like the coaches, I like the players. They have everything I was looking for. I went there in the summer for camp and saw the football facilities. But I hadn't met many of the other players and coaches except Coach (Joe) Gilbert, the line coach.

"So we had in mind to meet the players, see how the coaches were, Coach Zook, and the campus. I liked everything so I said, 'Why not commit? There's no reason not to.'"

Cvijanovic was not highly recruited.

"I had offers from Toledo, Bowling Green and Ohio University. The only other one I was considering was Ohio."

Cleveland Benedictine plays a tough schedule and didn't win many games, making it harder to impress college scouts.

"We went 3-7. We played some of the best teams in Ohio. We played Columbus DeSales, runnersup in Division 2. Youngstown Cardinal Mooney I believe won the championship in Division 3. We played St. Edwards and a handful of really good teams."

Whatever the reason, the Illini feel they may have found a diamond in the rough.

"Coach Gilbert said he couldn't help but offer me because he thinks I'm being extremely overlooked. He knows I'm not the strongest. My numbers aren't that great in the weight room. But I had a really good year, and he knows I will get stronger. If I don't get stronger at Illinois, I won't get stronger anywhere."

Cvijanovic has the quickness line coaches crave.

"I played tackle this year, but last year I also played guard half the season. I'm quick off the ball, more athletic. I weigh 280 right now, but you would never guess it if you saw me in person because I hold my weight pretty well.

"I'm 6'-5", 280, and I can hunt down linebackers. One of my traits is my ability to move around in the open field."

Versatility is definitely one of his assets. He hasn't been told what position he will play at Illinois, but he presumes tackle.

"My high school was all about running the ball, Pro I. And we switched this year to a spread offense. So I'm used to the spread and different styles of run blocking. I picked up on it real well, and so did my teammates.

"I'm not just a right side tackle or left side tackle. We have a big tackle and a quicker, smaller tackle. I played the big tackle just because I was the biggest kid on the team this year. Last year I played the quick tackle. We switch sides almost every other play. I'm just as effective with a left hand stance as a right hand stance."

Cvijanovic describes what he needs to improve besides strength.

"Just getting to know the offense, getting to know more technique because you don't really learn much technique in high school. At least at my high school, you learn more plays and assignments than technique. Anything I got was from camps over the summer and the previous summer."

Players like Cvijanovic can be overly ambitious about their summer camp schedules. Wanting to impress a number of schools in a short amount of time can backfire as the rigors of travel and daily workouts take their toll.

"This summer we went to 9 different camps. One was Illinois. I also went to Vanderbilt, Cincinnati, Toledo, Notre Dame, Northwestern, Indiana, Michigan and Ohio State.

"We went to seven straight. Illinois was the fifth camp in a row. I did pretty good for being my fifth camp."

The Illini offense is undergoing changes as three new coaches are being hired. Cvijanovic didn't know much about new offensive coordinator Paul Petrino, but he's prepared for any style offense.

"I know they got rid of the offensive coordinator and the quarterback coach if I'm not mistaken. But I didn't really know those coaches. I know they run somewhere between a pro and spread type offense. I like both those styles. I'm not really picky about that kind of stuff.

"They haven't done very well the last couple years, so I know Coach Zook wouldn't pick up someone worse. They've still got Coach Gilbert there and Coach Zook there. So it's not a bad deal."

The intelligent young man plans a rigorous course of study at Illinois.

"I'll be in pre-med, either Biology or maybe Kinesiology."

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