Illinois adds key QB among new recruits
Illinois added the player it hopes is its quarterback of the
future Wednesday and made clear to the other members of its
recruiting class that they could play right away after a two-win
The Illini signed a recruiting class of 20 players on national
signing day, five of whom have already enrolled. First-year coach
Tim Beckman announced earlier that he’s also signed five junior
college transfers to fill immediate needs.
Recruiting service Rivals.com ranked Illinois’ class 46th in the
country and seventh in the Big Ten. Scout.com puts the Illini’s
2013 class 40th in the country and fifth in the 12-team
The signings include Aaron Bailey, a 6-2, 220-pound quarterback
from Bolingbrook, Ill., whose signing Beckman said was big for an
Illinois team coming off a 2-10 season (0-8 Big Ten). Both Scout
and Rivals call Bailey a four-star recruit.
”Huge, huge,” Beckman said, adding that he should be a good
fit for new offensive coordinator Bill Cubit’s versatile,
”I think that Aaron’s commitment to us shows that he sees a
future here,” Beckman added.
Nathan Scheelhaase, who will be a senior this fall, is the
incumbent starter, but Beckman said it’s possible for any of his
top three quarterbacks – Scheelhaase, backup Reilly O’Toole or
Bailey – to play this fall. Scheelhaase was limited by injury last
fall and had a rough season, throwing for 1,361 yards and four
touchdowns, along with eight interceptions.
Beckman said that’s true for just about any of the 25 new
players expected to be on the roster this fall.
”We didn’t win very many football games, but we were still able
to get one of the top recruiting classes … the top half of the
country, by telling these students athletes that they were going to
get an opportunity,” he said.
Another highly regarded addition is running back Kendrick Foster
from Richwoods High School in Peoria. At 5-9 and 190 pounds, Foster
had 1,749 yards on 236 carries and scored 21 touchdowns as a
senior. That capped a career in which he ran for 6,401 yards, fifth
in Illinois high school football history.
Foster is expected to play this fall, giving Illinois the
freedom to move running back Josh Ferguson around in Cubit’s
offense, Beckman said.
”Kendrick definitely will be a factor in that,” Beckman
The Illini also added six defensive backs, along with junior
college signing Zane Petty at safety. Most of the regular defensive
backs from last season, including cornerback Terry Hawthorne, were
seniors. And another, safety Steve Hull, will be moved to receiver
next season, Beckman said.
”Because of graduation, defensive back was a necessity,” he
said. ”To be honest with you, we would have had a hard time
practicing this spring if we did not add some.”
Five of the new signings and all five junior college players are
already on campus, Beckman said. That includes three incoming
freshman expected to help build up the offensive line, a weak spot
New linemen Jesse Chadwell (6-5, 260, from Clarkston, Mich.),
Christian Dilauro (6-5, 270, from Uniontown, Ohio) and Austin
Schmidt (6-6, 275, from Galena, Ohio) are all working on adding
weight, Beckman said, noting that offensive line may be the
toughest spot to play as a freshman because young players often
aren’t yet big enough.
”Everybody saw their size and realized they’re not up to 300
pounds yet,” he said.
Beckman’s class – his first full class at Illinois after taking
over for the fire Ron Zook in December 2011 – includes eight
players from Illinois, among them four from Chicago. The coach said
every member of his staff now recruits in the city, an area where
Illinois’ recruiting has long been hit and miss.
The recruits also include 15 players from the region that lies
within six hours in any direction from Champaign, according to
”That’s the area that we feel is crucial to the success of any
program,” he said.
Illinois also recruited five players from Ohio, which was
regularly a source of talent for Zook and an area where Beckman –
who came to Illinois from Toledo – has a lot of experience.
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