Illini coach Tim Beckman received 15 letters of intent on signing day today, capping off his first full class as head coach at Illinois. While he did sign players last year, this year was his first class that he could take full credit for. Unlike previous years under Ron Zook, this year was drama free on letter of intent day. Zook usually had a few tricks up his sleeve every year, but Beckman’s class had been set in stone for a while now. There will be 25 total newcomers to the Illini next season, 10 early enrollees (5 freshmen, 5 JuCo), and 15 regular enrollees.
The 2013 Illini class was headlined by 4-star QB Aaron Bailey out of Bolingbrook. Bailey will come into fall camp and immediately challenge for the starting QB job against senior Nathan Scheelhaase and Junior Reilley O’Toole. Bailey is a dynamic athlete with a power arm and someone who can make all the necessary throws. Scouts say Bailey’s main weakness is field vision, which hopefully new offensive coordinator Bill Cubit can improve. Scout.com ranks Bailey as the #11 QB in the nation.
One big weakness last year for Illinois was the secondary. Beckman is bringing depth to the defensive backfield with eight newcomers, headlined by 4-star DB Caleb Day out of Ohio. Day and Darius Mosley, a DB from O’Fallon, will challenge for early playing time due to the departures of Terry Hawthorne and Justin Green. JuCO safeties Zane Petty and Eric Finney will battle for playing time as well.
Perhaps the biggest weakness for the Illini last year was the offensive line. Even with a glaring weakness, Illinois only signed three offensive linemen. JuCo All-American Dallas Hinkhouse will step in and compete for a starting job, and incoming freshman TE Christian DiLauro could move to the line and provide depth.
Illinois came out of signing day extremely well with defensive line recruits. The Illini signed the #17 and #20 defensive ends in the nation in Jarrod Clements out of Ohio and Paul James out of Florida. If offer lists are to be believed as the honest truth, James had offers from Alabama, Florida State, Miami, and Texas A&M. With Michael Buchanan and Glenn Foster graduating and Akeem Spence leaving for the NFL, plenty of playing time is available. JuCo DT Abe Cajuste can fill right into one of the tackle spots. Tackles Bryce Douglas from Plainfield and Merrick Jackson from Belleville probably need a few years to develop before they’ll compete for playing time. Douglas is the son of former Illini basketball great Bruce Douglas.
Lastly comes the skill players. There’s just one running back in this class in Kendrick Foster out of Peoria Richwoods. Foster was the captain for his team in the Semper Fidelis All-American game recently. Tom Lemming on MaxPreps ranks him as the 20th best RB in the nation. The Illini signed four receivers and one tight end as well in this class. Dionte Taylor heads this receiver group out of the state of Florida. Taylor is a quick slot receiver with solid hands. Marchie Murdock from Texas is a little bigger than Taylor and is more of a vertical threat, and is also strong after the catch.
Here’s the list of signees this year (with Rivals rankings):
- QB Aaron Bailey- 4-star- Bolingbrook, IL
- RB Kendrick Foster- 3-star- Peoria, IL
- WR Dionte Taylor- 3-star- Ft. Lauderdale, FL
- WR Marchie Murdock- 2-star- Arlington, TX
- WR Michael Hermosillo- 2-star- Ottawa, IL
- WR Martize Barr- 3-star- Washington, D.C., Iowa Western C.C.
- TE Tyler White- 2-star- Kalamazoo, MI
- TE Christian DiLauro- 3-star- Uniontown, OH
- OL Austin Schmidt- 2-star- Galena, OH
- OL Dallas Hinkhouse- 3-star- Clive, IA, Iowa Western C.C.
- OL Jesse Chadwell- 2-star- Clarkston, MI
- DE Dawuane Smoot- 3-star- Groveport, OH
- DE Jarrod Clements- 3-star- Trotwood, OH
- DE Paul James- 3-star- Miami, FL
- DT Merrick Jackson- 3-star- Belleville, IL
- DT Bryce Douglas- 3-star- Plainfield, IL
- DT Abe Cajuste- 3-star- Miami, FL, Victor Valley College
- DB Caleb Day- 4-star- Hillard, OH
- DB Darius Mosley- 3-star- O’Fallon, IL
- DB Darwyn Kelly- 3-star- Washington, D.C.
- DB Dillan Cazley- 3-star- Charleston, IL
- DB Jaylen Dunlap- 2-star- Crete, IL
- DB James Crawford- 2-star- Ft. Lauderdale, FL
- DB Zane Petty- 2-star- Corning, CA, American River College
- DB Eric Finney- 2-star- Corona, CA, College of the Canyons
Videos of all the signees can be seen here -> http://www.fightingillini.com/signingday/