The names from the incoming Illinois football recruits might not be known yet, but the high schools are found on any recruiter's map. Cleveland Glenville. Chicago Mount Carmel. Miami Norland. St. Thomas Aquinas in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
CHAMPAIGN -- The names from the incoming Illinois football recruits might not be known yet, but the high schools are found on any recruiter's map.
Cleveland Glenville. Chicago Mount Carmel. Miami Norland. St. Thomas Aquinas in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
It's a who's who of powerhouse high school football programs, and Illinois coach Tim Beckman evidently concentrated on building relationships with prep strongholds in his first 19-man class signed Wednesday, less than two months after his hiring.
If he's going to build a pipeline, it might as well be to established programs. Seven of the incoming Illini recruits played in state title games and combined for 163 playoff games.
Although the Illini didn't land a four- or five-star recruit, Beckman loaded up at running back, defensive back and defensive line, three positions of need.
The group will be judged "on how well they perform two, three, four years from now,'' he said. "I'm excited about joining with this group and coaching staff in recruiting winners.''
Rivals ranked the class 10th in the Big Ten while Scout had the Illini 12th in the league. Beckman faced a difficult task, after former coach Ron Zook's staff couldn't get much recruiting traction after battling negative recruiting early and a late-season slide.
Beckman did most of his work in what he calls Illini Nation, a five-hour radius of Champaign, where landed 13 players.
The Illini signed three running backs to give the Illini six on the roster, the desired number of Beckman.
Dami Ayoola of St. Thomas Aquinas visited one day after Beckman was hired, and he's a "bigger guy who can run physically with enough wiggle to make himself harder to get after,'' Beckman said.
Devin Church of Southfield (Mich.) Brother Rice may line up as a wide receiver and motion into the backfield, and Lakeith Walls from Cleveland Rhodes is a 6-foot-3, 210-pounder who ran a 10.8 in the 100-meter dash, Beckman said.
"He's like Eric Dickerson with longer legs,'' Beckman said. "He's one of the top sprinters in Ohio.''
The Illini signed six defensive backs.
"Coming into the situation, I wasn't impressed with the numbers (already on the roster),'' Beckman said. "The players were very good, but we just didn't have the numbers. A couple of those players could also be wide receivers.''
V'Angelo Bentley and Justin Hardee may double as returners along with Church.
Defensive tackle Teko Powell comes to Illinois from Norland, a Florida state champ last season.
Powell wanted to be the next star from Miami, following former Illini Corey Liuget. Defensive tackle Vontrell Williams is a Chicago Mount Carmel star who helped the Illini in recruiting over the last couple months, Beckman said.
Tight end Daniel Rhodes, who committed last season but didn't enroll, and defensive back TaJarvis Fuller enrolled for the spring semester. The Illini have three more scholarships available, but Beckman may roll them over to next season, when the senior class is small.
The Illini didn't recruit a quarterback after former walk-on Chase Haslett was given a scholarship late last season by the previous coaching staff, Beckman said. Kicker Ryan Fain could handle the job as a freshman. Three-year kicker Derek Dimke completed his senior season last fall.
The Illini also added preferred walk-on long snapper Michael Martin of Champaign Centennial.
While Illinois performed well in a limited amount of time, national recruiting analyst Tom Lemming said, "there's no impact players in this class. Ayoola is the closest to it.''
Illinois is busy working the 2013 class, rated above average in the state, Lemming said.
John Supinie can be reached at Johnsupinie@aol.com. Follow him on Twitter at @JohnSupinie.
Illinois commitment list
Players who signed letters of intent with the Illinois football Wednesday.
Dami Ayoola/RB/5-10/210/Ft. Lauderdale (Fla.) St. Thomas Aquinas
Taylor Barton/DB/6-1/200/Orlando (Fla.) Lake Highland
B.J. Bello/LB/6-2/205/New Lenox Lincoln-Way West
V'Angelo Bentley/DB/5-10/180/Cleveland Glenville
Devin Church/RB/5-8/175/Southfield (Mich.) Brother Rice
Ryan Fain/PK/6-1/210/Indianapolis Scecina
TaJarvis Fuller/DB/6-1/190/Fort Myers (Fla.) Dunbar
Justin Hardee/DB/6-1/185/Cleveland Glenville
Jevaris Little/DB/6-1/180/St. Petersburg (Fla.) Lakewood
Mason Monheim/LB/6-1/215/Orrville (Ohio)
T.J. Neal/LB/6-1/225/McKeesport (Pa.)
Teko Powell/DT/6-3/290/Miami Norland
Daniel Rhodes/TE/6-3/250/Charlotte (N.C.) Independence
Jason Robertson/WR/6-1/185/Mokena Lincoln-Way East
Joe Spencer/OL/6-4/270/Mason (Ohio)
Mike Svetina/LB/6-2/220/Brunswick (Ohio) St. Ignatius
Lakeith Walls/RB/6-3/195/Cleveland Rhodes
Vontrell Williams/6-2/275/Chicago Mount Carmel
NOTE: Fuller, Rhodes enrolled for spring semester.