Houston Bates is a three star prospect on Scout. Ken Sears, his coach at The Saint Paul's School in Covington, Louisiana, confirmed today that Bates will join the Fighting Illini football team and be eligible for play in 2010.
"He signed the scholarship tender today to attend the University of Illinois. He faxed it today and UPSed the other two documents."
Sears believes Illinois is getting an outstanding football player.
"He's a relentless player with a tremendous motor. He's probably one of the best special teams players I've ever had because of his pursuit and relentlessness. He has an outstanding work ethic.
"For us, he made All-State and was the MVP as a defensive end. He's just a tremendous kid. I think he'll be a tremendous asset to your program. I know he's excited about the opportunity to play in Coach Zook's defense. I think they're looking at him as an outside linebacker or rush end."
Bates committed to LSU early in the recruiting process, but he was unhappy with the prospect of having to wait a semester before going on scholarship, a process known as grayshirting.
"Correct. He didn't sign anything because I don't think he was too enamored about being grayshirted. He had plans to go on what we call in Louisiana "TOPPS." If you make a 2.5 grade average in Louisiana, there's a fund that will basically pay your tuition with the exception of room and board.
"He was gonna go for "TOPPS" and go out for the team in August. That basically made him a free agent for some colleges who were still interested in pursuing him."
Illinois outside linebackers coach Ron West had already done a lot of spade work with Bates, and he continued the process after joining the Illini.
"Coach West had recruited him when he was at Tulsa and did a great job recruiting him. He got him up for a visit, and I think Houston really enjoyed his visit. He saw the university and fell in love with it."
Scout lists Bates as weighing 218 pounds, but that is not his true weight.
"He's about 6'-3", 240. Going into his senior year, he went to so many training facility combines plus his summer workouts with us. With all the training and all the running, he got down to about 218. When the season started, he was back up to around 230 or so. I believe he's carrying about 240 now."
The Saint Paul's school has been highly successful during Bates's time there.
"We were 10-2 and won our District. We call them districts here rather than conferences. We lost in the second round of the playoffs to a team that beat us the previous year. During Houston's time here, we've been to the quarterfinals twice and won two district championships."
Sears expects to have an excellent team next year, led by a talented interior lineman who has an Illinois offer.
"We've got some work to do, but we return a lot of kids who can potentially play on the next level. I've got a defensive lineman that's got about 25 offers right now, and Illinois is one of them. Mickey Johnson is about 6'-1", 310 and can run and is physical. If you watch film, he is #99 and Houston #94. Watch them play in tandem. They're pretty impressive kids."
Perhaps West can convince Johnson to continue that teamwork in future years as Illini.