- Tom VanHaaren, ESPN Staff Writer
Illinois is set to host divisional foe Wisconsin on Saturday, and the Illini will get the chance to impress some top recruiting targets as well.
Both teams currently have one conference loss so the stakes are high to stay in the race with Ohio State atop the Leaders division. Illinois is trying to get a head-start with the 2015 class but also close out the remaining spots in 2014.
Here is a look at the prospects who will be watching this game closely:
Madre London (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla./St. Thomas Aquinas): The three-star running back is being targeted by a lot of Big Ten teams, including Illinois. London is a big target for the Illini as the coaching staff would love to add a running back like him to this class. He is taking his visit to Illinois this weekend and this could be the last opportunity for the coaching staff to try to land this coveted back. It seems as though Illinois is behind in the race, so this weekend will be crucial.
Chris Slayton (Crete, Ill./Crete-Monee): Much like London, Illinois might be behind for Slayton. The 2014 defensive end is an in-state prospect, so this would be a big get for Illinois to keep him home. He also happens to go to a school that has been producing top talent lately with his teammate Nyles Morgan and 2013 wide receiver Laquon Treadwell.
Vontae Diggs (Downers Grove, Ill./Downers Grove North): Diggs is an interesting prospect. He doesn’t currently hold an offer from Illinois but has seen Toledo and Ball State come through with offers. He will be in town this weekend and could be an option for Illinois down the line as extra defensive help.
Jack Beneventi (Lisle, Ill./Benet Academy): This is an ESPN Junior 300 quarterback and an in-state prospect, so this is a big visit for Illinois. If the coaching staff can get in front of Beneventi early and show him they are on the right track, it could be beneficial. With transfer Wes Lunt sitting out the season, this offense could look quite different once he takes over, but this is still a chance for Illinois to get in good graces with this outstanding prospect.
Miles Boykin (New Lenox, Ill./Providence Catholic): The 2015 wide receiver has already been offered by Illinois and looks to be one of the top targets for his position. Another in-state prospect who is showing interest in Illinois, it’s easy to see why this is a big weekend in terms of his recruitment. It can’t be expressed enough on how important it is for Illinois to keep top in-state targets home and Boykin fits that bill.
Darrin Kirkland Jr. (Indianapolis/Lawrence Central): An ESPN Junior 300 linebacker, Kirkland is starting to hear from a ton of programs. It’s a big deal for Illinois to get him on campus, since he will be recruited heavily by the Big Ten and other programs outside the conference. He is ranked No. 170 in the 2015 class and No. 4 at his position.
Anthony McKee (Columbus, Ohio/Walnut Ridge): McKee is yet another ESPN Junior 300 linebacker visiting this weekend, ranked No. 193 overall. He has already racked up some big offers, including Illinois. He isn’t close to narrowing things down just yet, but this visit is a great opportunity to see another top 2015 prospect from the Midwest.
David Edwards (Downers Grove, Ill./Downers Grove North): Edwards is an interesting prospect in the 2015 class. He is 6-foot-6, 215 pounds and plays a few positions. He is a quarterback for his team, but college programs have expressed interest in him at quarterback, tight end and a few other positions as well. He has already been offered by Illinois.
Dre Brown (DeKalb, Ill./DeKalb): Have you gotten the sense that in-state prospects are a priority yet? The 2015 running back already holds an offer from the Illini and would be a great addition to the next class. At 6-foot, 193 pounds he brings a lot to the table at his position. His recruitment is just getting started, but this weekend could help leave a good impression for the coaches.
Nick Conner (Dublin, Ohio/Dublin Scioto): Another 2015 linebacker visiting this weekend, Conner also has an offer from Illinois. The 6-3, 215-pound prospect also holds a Kentucky offer, but is likely to see his stock rise after this season.
544dTom Luginbill and Craig Haubert