Illinois Football: Class of 2017 Wide Receivers One of the Best
Building the Illinois football team into a powerhouse is going to take a lot of work for Lovie Smith and his coaching staff.
When you peel back all the layers to what Lovie has to do with this program, his job really boils down to a split of recruiting and coaching.
Without good recruiting classes, coaching as a ceiling and without good coaching, the recruits won’t unleash their full potential.
Lovie’s first real recruiting class is 2017. He currently has 18 commitments and they are players that fill many needs on the team.
Wide receiver is one of the positions that Lovie focused on for 2017. We are quite possibly looking at one of the best wide receiver classes the Illini have pulled in since the Ron Zook era.
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Smalling is the leader in this class, according to Scout. He is the No. 48 wide receiver in the class of 2017 and is clocked in at running a 4.5-second 40-yard dash.
Green is listed as a three-star with Scout and the No. 98 wide receiver overall, but other recruiting outlets actually have him as a four-star. He enrolled early into Illinois and is going to be suiting up for spring practice in less than a month.
Smith is the final member of this great trio. He is the No. 118 wide receiver in the class of 2017 and a player that will make a huge impact on this offense early on.
Illinois might not be done with just these three great players either. They have their eyes set on some more recruits that will make an impact as well.
Louis Dorsey is someone to keep an eye on for Illini fans. He is listed by Scout as the No. 73 wide receiver in the class of 2017, but he can play tight end too.
Dorsey is a 6-foot-6, 220-pound monster that will be a red zone target for the next four years. His visit schedule is Illinois this weekend, Baylor on January 23, and UCF on January 27.
Another name the Illini can snag is Reggie Roberson.
Roberson is the No. 139 wide receiver in the class of 2017 and someone that Illinois has been pushing for the last few weeks, specifically.
If Illinois can get both of these talented wide receivers to join the other three they would make for one great class.
But, as of right now there are only three wide receivers committed. Is this still one of the best wide receiver classes the Illini have brought in?
Looking back at previous recruiting classes, there aren’t too many that actually rival the one that is being brought in for 2017.
The most recent decent class was 2014 when Mike Dudek and Malik Turner committed who were the No. 72 and No. 124 wide receivers in that class, respectively. Geronimo Allison also transferred in that year as well.
But, at face value, that class still wasn’t as good as the class coming in this year.
The next comparable class was in 2009 when Terry Hawthorne and Steve Hull committed to Illinois.
Hawthorne was the No. 11 wide receiver and the No. 123 player in the class of 2017. He ended up playing cornerback for the Illini and was actually really good on the defensive side of the ball.
Hull was the No. 79 wide receiver in that class. He ended up switching over to safety for the first three years of his career before moving back to wide receiver and having a great season his senior year.
At face value, this class of wide receivers was right there with the class coming in, but neither recruit made much of an impact at the position while with the Illini.
The best group of wide receivers to commit to Illinois was the class of 2008.
This class consisted of four of the top 80 wide receivers that year. Those wide receivers included Cordale Scott, AJ Jenkins, Russell Ellington, and Supo Sanni. This group also consisted of No. 176 wide receiver Fred Sykes.
Scott didn’t play much in his first two years at Illinois and later transferred to play under Tim Beckman at Toledo.
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Jenkins finished his career as a legend at Illinois. He was one of the best wide receivers to ever don the orange and blue.
Ellington didn’t do much with the Illini. He played some special teams and switched over to the defensive side of the ball as a linebacker.
Sanni was mainly special teams at the beginning of his career at Illinois. After an injury kept him out his junior season, he came back and made 11 starts on the defensive side of the ball.
Sykes stayed a wide receiver his entire career with the Illinois football program. He played in 48 games and finished with 32 receptions for 326 yards and 3 touchdowns.
This talented group of wide receivers from 2008 had potential but only one really panned out to be a special recruit.
The class of 2007 was also pretty talented as well. Arrelious Benn came in that year and was the No. 2 overall wide receiver and the No. 12 player in the nation.
Benn was the highest rated player the Illini had in the last decade and was also a key member in getting Illinois to a place where they were winning more often.
Illinois also received a commitment from the No. 52 wide receiver, Anthony Morris.
Morris didn’t have a chance to play for Illinois because of academics. He would later play at a junior college.
As of right now, the class of 2017 wide receivers has a leg to stand on when getting compared to some of the best wide receiver classes in the history of the program.
The group of Smalling, Smith, and Green will do wonders for this program and there is potential to add more.
I expect this Illinois offense to be a well-oiled machine here in the next few years and clearly, that is one of Lovie’s focuses. I can’t wait to see what the future holds because I think We Will Win.