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

season.

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

conference.

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,

pass-oriented offense.

”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

said.

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

last season.

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

Beckman.

”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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