Nov 12, 2016; Madison, WI, USA; Illinois Fighting Illini head coach Lovie Smith during the game against the Wisconsin Badgers at Camp Randall Stadium. Wisconsin won 48-3. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
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I have heard many fans of the Illinois football team say this is a big weekend for the future of the program.
When you look at what recruits are visiting, I would tend to agree with these statements.
Here is a list of some of the big recruits who are visiting this weekend.
DT Kendrick Green
The Illinois football team is losing some serious depth on the defensive line.
Starting defensive tackles Rob Bain and Chunky Clements are both departing after great careers with the Illini. Behind these two players are a bunch of question marks, though.
Jamal Milan saw some nice playing time this season due to injuries and to see what he was made of. He will likely be one of the two starting defensive tackles in 2017.
I also liked how Kenyon Jackson performed as well. He saw some playing time as a true freshman that will only benefit him in the future.
But, with the question marks at the defensive tackle in 2017, this leaves the door open for a newcomer to arrive and earn playing time.
That is why I think Kendrick Green is going to be so important for Lovie Smith and Hardy Nickerson.
Green is visiting Illinois this weekend with his fourth official trip. He still has one more left, but rumors are his likely top three right now in no order is Iowa, Minnesota and Illinois.
“It definitely won’t be my last game here. Wherever I go, if I don’t come to the University of Illinois, I’ll be playing here for an away game,” Green said, though he’s uncommitted. “I definitely could be playing here for home games, but I’m not sure yet.”
This is great news for Illinois that Green has such high regard for the program. He would be a big pickup for Lovie and one that I think could make an impact early.
Sep 3, 2016; Champaign, IL, USA; Football fans wearing shirts with a message honoring new Illinois Fighting Illini head coach Lovie Smith enjoy activities in Grange Grove before the game between the Illinois Fighting Illini and the Murray State Racers at Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mike Granse-USA TODAY Sports
DE Daniel Callendar
The Illinois defensive tackles are leaving the program because of graduation and so are the defensive ends as well.
Both Dawuane Smoot and Carroll Phillips are graduating and will likely see playing time in the NFL. This leaves a huge hole for someone to get some serious playing time.
In addition to the two starting defensive ends leaving, Gimel President is also departing. He was the main backup and actually had a pretty good season.
Daniel Callendar might have a chance to come in and get some playing time. Worst case scenario he redshirts and adds depth to a program that needs it.
Callendar doesn’t have a ton of recruiting action right now. He has scholarship offers from Illinois, South Dakota and Wyoming.
Mike Phair recently did an in-home visit with Callendar so that means he must be a player this program believes in and wants to mold for the next four or five years.
I think Callendar could be a player that comes in and he quickly picks up what Lovie wants. He has the physical abilities and I can’t wait to see what this coaching staff can do with that.
The main competition for Callendar coming in is Sean Adesanya and Brandon Jones. But, these two are question marks because they didn’t get much playing time in 2016.
Getting Callendar would be a nice step in building the depth on this team. Depth is something we have been missing for quite some time.
Oct 15, 2016; Piscataway, NJ, USA; Illinois Fighting Illini head coach Lovie Smith looks on during the first half against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights at High Points Solutions Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports
DE Owen Carney
Lovie and the defensive coaches continue to push to build up the defensive line with the potential of snagging Owen Carney from Miami, Florida.
Carney is a 3-star recruit who is rated as the No. 482 player in the class of 2017 ad the No. 67 player in the state of Florida.
The recruitment of Carney is tight right now. He has 26 scholarship offers with Florida State and Illinois as the two potential landing spots.
If Illinois can win this recruiting battle it would show two things that are changing about this program.
The first thing it would show is that Illinois is starting to win recruits against the big boy programs.
Florida State won the National Championship not too long ago and that program continues to get big-time recruits year in and year out.
The fact that the Seminoles are going after Carney means they know he has a lot of talent. If Illinois can snag him then it would be a huge victory for Lovie.
The other thing it would show if Illinois wins the battle for Carney is that Lovie can go into homes and convince young athletes that Champaign is the place to be.
Tim Beckman and Bill Cubit did not have the ability to get big-time recruits on a consistent basis and the result is what we see on the field today.
Illinois doesn’t have depth and they are lacking talent at the skill positions, among others. Getting a player like Carney would help change all of that and would continue to build the program.
Sep 3, 2016; Champaign, IL, USA; Illinois Fighting Illini wide receiver Samuel Harlib (82) and Illinois Fighting Illini offensive lineman Joe Spencer (71) celebrate with head coach Lovie Smith after the game against the Murray State Racers at Memorial Stadium. Illinois defeated Murray State 52 to 3. Mandatory Credit: Mike Granse-USA TODAY Sports
OL Joshua Fedd-Jackson
Illinois has a nice stable of running backs heading into the 2017 season.
Kendrick Foster is going to be back for his senior campaign and I think he is a dark horse for Player of the Year in the Big Ten.
Behind Foster will be Reggie Corbin who I could see being the third down running back and then there is Ke’Shawn Vaughn.
Vaughn might be around come 2017, but he lost his starting job and was relegated to third string for most of the season. He is a question mark in my eyes.
Behind all of these guys is Tre Nation. He saw some playing time this season but he was only a true freshman so I wasn’t expecting much.
All of these running backs are going to need blocking in the future and that is why Joshua Fedd-Jackson is so important for the class of 2017.
Fedd-Jackson is a highly recruited 3-star offensive lineman that is wanted by some high profile programs. He currently has 11 scholarship offers from the likes of Michigan and North Carolina.
This would be a huge get for Lovie if Fedd-Jackson decides to come to Champaign. Not only would he steal a big recruit from the big boys, but he would also stabilize the offensive line.
Illinois is losing a few offensive linemen heading into 2017.
Joe Spencer, Connor Brennan, and Austin Schmidt are all going to be missing from the offensive line next season and Illinois needs to fill those snaps.
Having someone with Fedd-Jackson’s size and talent will be nice so Lovie can mold him into an All-Big Ten type of player.
Fedd-Jackson has a lot of talent and you can tell by the scholarship offers. He would be a huge get for the Illini.
Nov 28, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; The Illinois Fighting Illini seniors salute the crowd prior to a game against the Northwestern Wildcats at Soldier Field. Northwestern won 24-14. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports
WR Carmoni Green
The only player visiting this weekend that has already committed to the Illinois football program is wide receiver Carmoni Green.
Green committed to the Illini back on August 25 and was the first big-time recruit to sign up for 2017.
247Sports has Green as a high 3-star recruit, but there are other sites where he is a 4-star talent. He is also the No. 358 player in the class of 2017 and the No. 46 player in the state of Florida.
This could be a great weekend for Illinois. They have Green coming in and that should help stabilize his commitment so there is no flip-flopping on National Signing Day.
There are programs still after Green despite the commitment in August.
Green took an official visit to Utah back on November 18 and then to North Carolina on December 2. He was also offered a scholarship by the Tar Heels that day.
Getting Green to stay strong with his commitment is huge, and using another recruit to help with that might be the way to go.
Owen Carney, who is also visiting this weekend, is actually on the same high school team as Green.
Hopefully, this helps in the recruitment of both players and they are a package deal that helps the Illini for the next four years.
Having Green committed is huge as well. He will have a great shot at getting some early playing time on this Illinois football team.
Malik Turner is the No. 1 heading into 2017, but beyond that there are a lot of question marks.
Desmond Cain announced he will transfer and Zach Grant, Man Berg, Justin Hardee and DJ Taylor all graduated as well.
There is plenty of room for Green on this team and I can’t wait to see both him and Carney play on Saturdays.
Nov 14, 2015; Champaign, IL, USA; A general view of Memorial Stadium before the game between the Ohio State Buckeyes and the Illinois Fighting Illini at Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 14, 2015; Champaign, IL, USA; A detailed view of the Illinois Fighting Illini helmet before the game against the Ohio State Buckeyes at Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports
LB Delshawn Phillips
An interesting recruit that is visiting this weekend is linebacker, Delshawn Phillips.
Phillips is a 6-foot-1, 215-pound, inside linebacker out of Detroit, Michigan where he attended the football powerhouse Cass Technical.
Coming out of high school Phillips wasn’t a highly regarded player. He was a 2-star recruit who was the No. 2157 player in the class of 2014 and the No. 35 player in the state of Michigan.
Phillips would sign on with the Western Michigan Broncos and then later transfer out of the program. He attended Garden City Community College this past season.
Now, Phillips looks to have a fresh start with a big-time program. He has already been offered and committed to Arizona, but he is still keeping his options open.
This weekend is huge for the Illini to snag such a talented linebacker. He is the No. 20 JUCO in the class of 2017 and the No. 2 JUCO in the state of Michigan.
Illinois only offered Phillips on December 4 and he is already taking a visit to Champaign. This would be great to get him because he would help bolster the linebacker position.
Illinois is losing Hardy Nickerson Jr heading into 2017. He led the team in tackles and interceptions last season.
The Illini are also losing Mike Svetina who was a solid backup as well.
Beyond Nickerson, there are a few other good linebackers that I liked in 2016. Tre Watson and Julian Jones really showed why they should be starters next season.