- Jared Shanker, ESPN Staff Writer
As many tried to handicap the field as to where exactly Bolingbrook (Ill.) four-star quarterback Aaron Bailey would end up, few expected Illinois to land him. Bailey says the Fighting Illini were always among the frontrunners, though, and first-year coach Tim Beckman landed the dual-threat prospect Thursday.
“They were always at the top,” said Bailey, who decided Monday he was going to commit. “Things got changed around as me and my dad visited schools, but they’ve always been at the top of the list.
“… Me and my dad were on a road trip because it was during my spring break and we hit up like four or five schools. Every time we compared each school, and Illinois always seemed to be up at the top at the end of the day.”
A key factor in Bailey’s recruitment is the Illini see the 6-foot-2, 215-pound prospect as a quarterback instead of a receiver. Bailey completed only 58 of 131 pass attempts for 1,039 yards last season but rushed for 1,983 yards and 30 touchdowns on 257 carries while leading his team to a state title.
Bolingbrook coach John Ivlow told ESPNChicago.com’s Scott Powers on Thursday that Bailey is definitely a quarterback despite his low passing stats.
“The whole fact they believe in me and trust me that I’m a quarterback, and that’s a place I want to go, where I’m a quarterback and nothing else,” Bailey said about what he liked most about Illinois.
For the last few seasons, Bailey has watched Illinois quarterbacks Juice Williams and current starter Nathan Scheelhaase operate as dual-threat quarterbacks under former coach Ron Zook’s system. Beckman will also bring the spread to Illinois, and Bailey liked what he saw of the new offense at a spring practice two weeks ago.
Beckman was hired in December, and Bailey said it did not take long for him to make a connection with the new staff.
“Toward the end of the winter I started building a relationship with them,” he said. “I got a chance to go up and visit and see how things are. Me and my dad got to see the campus and see the academic counselors, and it was just a great fit for us.”
Bailey is ranked as the 11th-best player in Illinois and 37th among athletes nationally in the 2013 class.
541dTom Luginbill and Craig Haubert