Illinois assistant coach Ron West developed a number of excellent recruiting connections during his ten years with Clemson. Those connections are beginning to pay off for the Illini as three top athletes from South Carolina paid an unofficial visit to campus over the weekend.
Among them was Ralph Cooper, an inside linebacker from Winnsboro. He discussed his impressions before returning home.
"I'm enjoying everything. I like all the players and coaches and everything. I like them so far."
What schools most interest him?
"Besides Illinois, I'm considering Georgia Tech, Clemson, Oregon and Louisville."
He is in no hurry to make a decision as he hasn't visited all the main schools on his list. But the Illini have made a favorable impression.
"I'm gonna take awhile to make my decision. But right now, Illinois is at the top."
A humble man of few words, Cooper said he had a good 2009 season for Fairfield Central High School.
"I did all right. I had 95 tackles, 25 for loss. I had two interceptions and four forced fumbles."
The middle linebacker described his best attributes.
"I'm pretty balanced. I can both stop the run and cover. I'm a good leader. Those are probably my best traits."
Fairfield Central did well also, although he thinks they can do even better this fall.
"Our team did all right. We won our region but lost in the first round of the playoffs. We had a lot of juniors, so so far so good (for 2010). We have good competition in the region, but it's looking good."
What does he think of Illini head coach Ron Zook?
"He's a cool dude."
And what about West?
"He's cool. He talks a lot about defense and wanting to be good."