Illinois signs solid Florida trio

Illinois signed only three players from the state of Florida, but it's a very talented trio. Mike Bakas takes a closer look.

Illinois has been actively recruiting the state of Florida for many years now. Several quality players -- including A.J. Jenkins and Akeem Spence -- have traveled from Florida to Champagne to play their college ball. Three more players made that decision this year.

D.J. Taylor was the first of the three players to pledge to the Illini. At 6-feet and 175 pounds, Taylor was the second leading receiver at The University School this past season (Jordan Cunningham, Vanderbilt, led the team). He was a big reason why the team went on to win a state championship in 2012. Taylor lacks the size and speed of Cunningham but he knows how to run routes. He can make catches in traffic and over the middle. And he can also be an asset in the return game. Despite taking other visits to UCF, Wake Forest, Boston College, and NC State, Taylor decided to stick with his commitment and it's one Illinois fans will be happy about.

James Crawford was part of a very good defense at St. Thomas Aquinas High this past season. At 6-foot-1 and 190 pounds, he was the free safety on a team that ended up winning a state championship. Crawford has the hips and foot speed to play cornerback but has very good range and ball skills as a free safety prospect. He also knows the game well. He's a kid you want sitting back and playing center field for your defense, mainly because of his overall football IQ. Illinois is getting a smart, steady player who can come in and make a difference.

Paul James emerged as one of the top pass rushers in the Miami area this past season. At 6-foot-2 and 235 pounds, he lacked the ideal size that the Florida schools were looking for. He knows how to drop his shoulder and get after opposing quarterbacks though. He's probably athletic enough to be an outside linebacker, too. His specialty is getting upfield, though, and that's where he'll likely carve a niche early in his college career at Illinois.

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