Illinois Football: Top 10 Recruits the Illini Need to Snag for 2017

Illinois Football

Oct 22, 2016; Ann Arbor, MI, USA; Illinois Fighting Illini head coach Lovie Smith on the sideline in the first half against the Michigan Wolverines at Michigan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

The Illinois Football team continues to recruit a wide range of players for the class of 2017.

Building the Illini program up to where it needs to be will take time and getting highly rated recruits.

Illinois is currently after some decent players that would benefit the team in the future.  Here is a list of 10 recruits the Illini need to snag for the class of 2017.

1

Cartrell Thomas

Wide Receiver, National: No. 849, Texas: No. 110

Developing the Illinois football offense is clearly a priority for Lovie Smith and Garrick McGee. They are focusing on building the wide receiver core to where it needs to be.

A piece to that championship puzzle might be wide receiver, Cartrell Thomas.

Thomas is a 3-star wide receiver out of Lancaster, Texas.  He is listed as the No. 849 player in the class of 2017 and the No. 110 player in the state of Texas.

Getting Thomas would be a nice pickup for Lovie considering he had 15 scholarship offers from solid programs.

But, just a few months ago, Thomas took to Twitter to announce that he had cut his list down to just six programs.

Those six programs that are still alive in the recruitment for Thomas are Colorado, Texas Tech, Texas State, Utah, Boise State and Illinois.

All of these programs are still alive for Thomas’ commitment, but I did want to just point out that according to Scout, Illinois had the only camp that he attended.

I don’t know if that would matter to Thomas or his decision, but more exposure to the Illini program and coaches the better.

Illinois needs a player like Thomas.  He is clocked at running a 4.6-second 40-yard dash and I think he would be a perfect slot receiver in the future.

Illinois Sports

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

2

Calvin Tyler

Running Back, National: No. 1421, Texas: No. 190

The current Illinois running back situation is interesting to say the least.  There is a lot of potential there but there is also a lot of room for improvement.

Developing the offense is a huge priority for Lovie and that getting another talented running back in the backfield is a big step in the right direction.

Calvin Tyler would be a nice addition to the class of 2017 that would immediately boost the offense for the next three or four years.

Tyler is a 3-star recruit who is from Silsbee, Texas.  He is listed as the No. 1421 player in the class of 2017 and the No. 190 player in the state of Texas.

Right now, 247Sports has Illinois as the 100-percent landing spot for Tyler.  This would be huge for the Illini program.

At one time, Tyler was coming down to a decision and announced a decision date.   But, he decided to not make a commitment and now his recruiting looks to be wide open.

Illinois did recently get a visit from Tyler, though.  He took an official visit to Champaign on October 8 and loved every second of it.

Snagging a talented running back like Tyler would help build the class of 2017 and make the Illini a contender again.

Illinois Football

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

3

Jordan Hill

Wide Receiver, National: No. 1740, Texas: 226

Illinois currently has a lot of young talent at the wide receiver position, but there are not guarantees that any of those players will develop.

Having Lovie Smith bring in more wide receivers from the class of 2017 is important so there can be a competition to see who the best is.

Jordan Hill is an interesting wide receiver option for Lovie to recruit.  He is a nice player that would help add depth to the position.

Hill is listed as a 3-star wide receiver from Crosby, Texas.  He is the No. 1740 player in the class of 2017 and the No. 226 player in the state of Texas.

The Illini are one of the top teams after Hill right now.  He has 9 scholarship offers and the only other power five conference program I see is Kansas.

One of the big selling points to getting Hill is his size.  He stands at 6-foot-3 and weighs 180-pounds.  Having someone that big on the outside would be huge for the Illini.

Hill’s recruitment still hasn’t finished up and I am assuming that he will be signing in early February on National Signing Day.

Illinois Football

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

4

Leroy Henley

Wide Receiver, National: No. 525, Florida: No. 75

Another wide receiver that would be huge for the Illini to snag is Leroy Henley.  He would be a great addition to a program that needs depth at the position.

Henley is a 3-star wide receiver out of Deerfield Beach, Florida.  He is the No. 525 player in the class of 2017 and the No. 75 player in the state of Florida.

If Illinois could snag Henley it would be huge for the program.  While he is listed as a 3-star, he is still a borderline 4-star recruit who is being recruited by big programs.

Henley has 32 scholarship offers that include many power five programs.  But, somehow, Illinois made it into his top list.

Back on June 30, Henley decided to cut his list down to 11 programs.  UCF, Louisville, West Virginia, Kentucky, Maryland, Indiana, NC State, South Carolina, Pittsburgh, North Carolina and Illinois all made the list.

The recruitment for Henley still seems to be wide open, but 247Sports has West Virginia leading with Louisville right behind.

If Illinois can pull in Henley it would provide a huge boost for the program.  He would not only improve the offense, but the class of 2017 would rise as well.

Illinois Football

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

5

DJ Edwards

Wide Receiver, National: No. 895, Florida: No. 127

Lovie Smith and Garrick McGee clearly want to build the wide receiver core and adding a player like DJ Edwards would help reach that goal.

Edwards is a pretty good player that many people think will eventually end up at Illinois.  But, the recruitment is still wide open as of right now.

According to 247Sports, Edwards is a 3-star recruit from West Palm Beach, Florida.  He is listed as the No. 895 player in the class of 2017 and the No. 127 player in the state of Florida.

The scholarship offers have flown in for Edwards.  He currently has 27 total offers but has only been on two official visits.

These two visits were to Indiana on October 1 and to Illinois on September 10.  That is huge that Illinois received one of his five official visits.

If Illinois did receive a commitment from Edwards it would be a nice pickup for the program.  He brings a nice big frame to the table.  He stands at 6-foot-2 and weighs 180-pounds.

I am excited that Illinois is in the running for so many big-time wide receivers.  They all have potential and this Illini offense is going to be great within the next few years.

Illinois Football

Nov 28, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; A general shot of a Illinois Fighting Illini helmet during the second half against the Northwestern Wildcats at Soldier Field. Northwestern won 24-14. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

6

Howard Watkins

Defensive Tackle, National: No. 1203, Ohio: No. 49

The Illinois football team is known for having talented defensive linemen.  They have multiple in the NFL right now and there will be more entering after this season.

The class of 2017 also has a great defensive end in Olalere Oladipo coming in as well.  Now, the Illini are looking to add a defensive tackle.

Howard Watkins is listed as a 3-star defensive tackle from Cincinnati, Ohio.  He is the No. 1203 player in the class of 2017 and the No. 49 player in the state of Ohio.

Watkins has a nice, big, frame that will provide as a run stopper for years to come.  He stands at 6-foot-5 and weighs 280-pounds.

The recruitment of Watkins has been pretty heavy actually.  He has 12 scholarship offers and the only official visit he has been on is to Illinois on September 9.

Watkins used one of his five official visits to Champaign and that means Illinois is likely to be in his top five.

After this season Illinois will be losing all four starting defensive linemen.  That is going to kill the defense, but adding a player like Watkins will help fill those gaps.

Hopefully, Lovie can convince Watkins that Champaign is the place to be and continue building this defense for the future.

Illinois Football

Oct 25, 2014; Champaign, IL, USA; The press box and field during pregame between the Illinois Fighting Illini and the Minnesota Golden Gophers at Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

7

Jaylond Adams

Athlete, National: No. 810, Alabama: No. 42

There are a few key elements that the Illinois football team is missing right now.  One of those elements is playmaking ability.

Getting a player like Jaylond Adams would be huge for the Illini.

Adams is a 3-star recruit from Adamsville, Alabama.  He is listed as the No. 810 player in the class of 2017 and the No. 42 player in the state of Alabama.

The recruitment for this talented player was not as heavy as I thought it would be.  I really believe Adams is a diamond in the rough.

Just a few days ago, Adams actually cut his list down to just five programs he will be looking at.  Those five programs are Indiana, UAB, Western Kentucky, Southern Miss and Illinois.

If Illinois can snag this athlete, that would add speed and a dangerous dynamic to the offense.

Adams has the chance to be a great player at the college level.  Just in his senior year he has caught 50 passes for 1109 yards and 16 touchdowns.  He has also run 52 times for 560 yards and 12 touchdowns.

All of these numbers are great and Adams played at the 6A level, which is some of the best football in the state.

Illinois needs speed and talent and that is what they would get with a player like Adams.

Big Ten

Dec 5, 2015; Indianapolis, IN, USA; A Big Ten logo on the field before the Big Ten Conference football championship game between the Iowa Hawkeyes and the Michigan State Spartans at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

8

Bobby Roundtree

Defensive End, National: No. 1389, Florida: No. 197

Over the last decade, the Illinois football team has produced some great defensive ends.  There are a few in the NFL right now.

Illinois will also have a few defensive ends potentially getting drafted in this upcoming draft.

The next great defensive end in Illini history could be Bobby Roundtree.

Roundtree is listed as a 3-star defensive end from Largo, Florida.  He is the No. 1389 player in the class of 2017 and the No. 197 player in the state of Florida.

In the recruiting process, Roundtree has received a total of 20 scholarship offers from some big-time programs.

There is a reason Roundtree is getting these offers too.  He stands at 6-foot-5 and weighs 215-pounds.  He has potential that is through the roof.

But, despite all of these scholarship offers, Roundtree narrowed his list to just five teams on October 12.

Those five teams included Indiana, Louisville, Virginia Tech, Michigan State and Illinois.

Lovie and Hardy Nickerson have a lot of pitches they can use on Roundtree to commit to Illinois.  They are building a great defense is one of them.

Another pitch is past success of defensive ends at Illinois and the fact they both coached in the NFL.

I think Roundtree becomes a great defensive end wherever he ends up.  I just hope I get to watch him in orange and blue on Saturdays.

Illinois Football

Oct 26, 2013; Champaign, IL, USA; Illinois Fighting Illini helmet on the field before the game against the Michigan State Spartans at Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Pat Lovell-USA TODAY Sports

9

Owen Carney

Defensive End, National: No. 476, Florida: No. 68

Developing the defensive line is going to be important so the Illini can stop opposing teams from scoring.  This is needed with the Lovie Smith regime.

Getting a player like Owen Carney would benefit this Illinois defensive line greatly.

Carney is a high 3-star weak-side defensive end from Miami, Florida.  He is listed as the No. 476 player in the class of 2017 and the No. 68 player in the state of Florida.

One great thing about Carney is his size.  He stands at 6-foot-3 and weighs 232-pounds.  He is going to be a dominating force wherever he lands.

Right now, Carney has 26 scholarship offers and most of them are from big-time power five conference programs.

Carney’s list seems a little jumbled right now, but there are three programs that seem to be up there for his commitment.

On October 22 Carney took an official visit to Maryland.  He also has an official visit set up to Florida State on November 24 and he wants to set one up with Illinois sometime in the near future.

I feel like these three programs are out front for Carney and hopefully, Illinois ends up landing this talented defensive end.

If Illinois can snag Carney and the others on this list, the class of 2017 would go down as one of the best in the last decade.

Oct 25, 2014; Champaign, IL, USA; The Red Grange memorial rock at Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Oct 25, 2014; Champaign, IL, USA; The Red Grange memorial rock at Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

10

Devodrick Johnson

Outside Linebacker, National: No. 320, Texas: No. 43

The highest rated recruit the Illinois football team is pursuing right now is linebacker Devodrick Johnson.

Johnson is a 4-star outside linebacker from Dallas, Texas.  He is listed as the No. 320 player in the class of 2017 and the No. 43 player in the state of Texas.

Right now, recruiting sites are saying that Texas A&M has the lead for Johnson, but we will all find out on Friday, November 4 where he will decide to go.

Johnson would be an important piece for the Illini moving forward.  They need a dominant linebacker like Lovie Smith had with Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs with the Chicago Bears.

I imagine that had to be one of Lovie’s pitches when Johnson took his only official visit to Illinois on October 30, right?

It is quite simple what Johnson is looking for in a football program.  He wants a program that will help him develop on and off the field.

Johnson also wants a program that will help him be a man and graduate with his degree.

There is a reason Johnson is a 4-star recruit.  He has so much athletic talent that will translate to the college level.

If Lovie can beat out Texas A&M and Texas for this big-time recruit out of their home state, then I think that would be the biggest get for him to-date.

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