- Jared Shanker, ESPN Staff Writer
In wake of Illinois firing head coach Ron Zook today, Illini commitment Joseph Spencer (Mason, Ohio/William Mason) spent Sunday processing the news and will reevaluate his commitment over the next several weeks.
“It’s pretty disappointing,” Spencer told ESPN Sunday night. “I definitely had a connection with the staff and everything. Hopefully they get a good new head coach in, and I’ll reevaluate from there.”
Following the announcement of Zook’s firing, Spencer, ranked the 14th-best center and a three-star prospect, heard from his lead recruiter, assistant coach Jeff Brohm, who couldn’t offer much information but who will visit Spencer at school on Tuesday.
Spencer did get a message from the athletic administration, though, which told him that all commitments will have their scholarship honored by the new staff.
On Monday, Spencer will meet with his head coach to discuss his options. Spencer isn’t decommitting, but he will look at other schools. Cincinnati, Miami of Ohio, South Florida and Virginia Tech showed the most interest in Spencer before committing to Illinois in July.
When Spencer committed during the summer, he knew there was a possibility Zook and the staff could be forced out if the Illini had another poor season.
“It definitely crossed my mind, but I was pretty confident in the staff when I went in and saw them in the summer," he said. "They definitely have the athletes to compete; their start showed that. I was kind of prepared. I knew about it. I just felt the best with that coaching staff and that university.”
Spencer said multiple times he is excited about enrolling in Illinois’ business school and that he felt Illinois is the best fit for his education, which is very important to him. But he will take a wait-and-see approach until the administration names a new staff, which Spencer will have some questions for.
“I’ll sit down with the O-line coach, offensive coordinator and head coach and get a feeling for them, see how I feel about them and my bond with them” Spencer said. “The relationship, that’s the biggest thing.
“And where their going to take the direction of the program, what are their Xs and Os, how they’re going to bring Illinois back to the top of the Big Ten.”
Spencer said he will begin fielding phone calls from other schools and that South Florida has already contacted him. He is planning to wait until a new staff is named so he can make an official visit to Illinois to meet with the new coaches.
514dTom Luginbill and Craig Haubert