NCF On The Trail: Illinois Fighting Illini

Midterm junior college signing day winners are headlined by Ole Miss and Oklahoma, but they weren’t the only programs that improved Wednesday.

Midyear additions:  Illinois

December, 17, 2014
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Illinois has signed six junior college players to national letters of intent and two high school recruits to financial aid agreements, according to the program's official twitter account @IlliniFootball. The additions include:

Connor Brennan, OG
HT: 6-4 WT: 300
Positional Rank: #6 OG (JC)
Stars: 3

Dre Brown, RB
HT: 6-0 WT: 198
Positional Rank: #127 RB
Stars: 3

Andrew Davis, TE-Y
HT: 6-6 WT: 220
Positional Rank: #2 TE-Y (JC)
Stars: 3

Henry Enyenihi, RB
HT: 6-0 WT: 200
Positional Rank: #10 RB (JC)
Stars: 3

Jordan Fagan, OT
HT: 6-5 WT: 275
Positional Rank: #12 OT (JC)
Stars: 3

Jimmy Fitzgerald, QB-PP
HT: 6-3 WT: 205
Positional Rank: #27 QB-PP
Stars: 3

Zach Heath, OC
HT: 6-4 WT: 285
Positional Rank: #1 OC (JC)
Stars: 3

Ainslie Johnson, TE-H
HT: 6-2 WT: 230
Positional Rank: #2 TE-H (JC)
Stars: 3

 

Top sleeper commits: Big Ten 

December, 17, 2014
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Five-star and ESPN 300 prospects create the most buzz, but with more than a hundred FBS programs competing for talent it takes more than just those top-rated prospects to have success. Rosters are built largely with prospects who enter college with little fanfare, but their development and contributions are key. Every year we see prospects who flew under the radar but developed into some of their conference's top players.

Throughout our evaluations we come across many players who show promise and are great additions based on their upside for development and/or scheme fit.

Here are five commitments in the Big Ten who we feel are unheralded but additions worth keeping an eye on:


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Weekend recruiting wrap: Big Ten 

December, 16, 2014
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We are almost in the home stretch on our way to signing day, so coaches are pushing it into overdrive to finish out their recruiting classes.

Here is a look at the latest news on the recruiting trail within the Big Ten.


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Weekend recruiting wrap: Big Ten 

November, 11, 2014
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Another week has gone by and plenty of news happened throughout the Big Ten. Here is a look at the most important recruiting news that occurred.

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Duke now has the ability to sell a winning program and new facilities to recruits, and prospects like what they're seeing. Plus, the nation's top 2016 quarterback was slated to be at Florida State for the Notre Dame game, but he wasn't able to make it and now is looking for a return date.

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With a few weeks of senior film to evaluate, ESPN’s scouts have updated the ESPN 300. We are around the midpoint of the season as well, so teams are looking to finish off their classes and fill any remaining needs.

There is plenty to discuss at this point in the Big Ten. Here are five things to know within the conference:


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Tim Beckman is 1-17 in Big Ten games and questions about his future has hindered the Illini's recruiting efforts. Plus, Georgia Tech has surprised both on the field and on the recruiting trial.


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Juco recruits to watch: Big Ten 

October, 6, 2014
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Junior college prospects can be an excellent way for programs to fix immediate roster needs. Because the players already have experience outside of college, they typically come to campus well prepared to hit the field early.

RecruitingNation has put together the Juco Watch List for 2015 and there are a few Big Ten targets within the list.

With plenty of holes still out there to fill, Big Ten coaches are hoping to reel in some of these big targets. Below are just a few of the most important JUCO prospects within the conference.


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Big Ten's top recruiting visits 

September, 19, 2014
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There aren’t many big, exciting home games for the Big Ten this week, but the few that are playing at home are making the most of it. Nebraska, Illinois and Michigan will all have big recruiting visitors for their game.

Here is a look at who is visiting and why they’re important.


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FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- It was just two years ago that current Ohio State star freshman Joey Bosa was a top national prospect coming out of St. Thomas Aquinas in Fort Lauderdale.

Now there is another budding star at the high school that produced three 2014 NFL draft picks, and the last name remains the same.

Class of 2016 defensive lineman Nick Bosa has been a standout the past two years for the Raiders, and like many who have come before him at the talent-rich school, he will be a national recruit with a quickly growing offer list.


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The state of Florida has always been known for producing some of the top athletes in the country. The term "athlete" is sometimes looked at as a negative term, but it really means our scouts believe these talented prospects could play more than one position in college. Here is a closer look at some of the top athletes from the Sunshine State in the 2015 class.

ESPN 300 athletes from Florida

No. 8 Torrance Gibson: Gibson is a skilled athlete who can make plays on offense. The five-star athlete led his high school, Plantation American Heritage, to the state championship game. In the game, he had a touchdown run of 80 yards and also a long touchdown pass that was among the "SportsCenter" Top 10 plays. He wants to play quarterback on the next level, but he’s the most talented wide receiver on his South Florida Express 7-on-7 team. Whatever position he chooses, Gibson has a bright future ahead of him.


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The Big Ten is rich and getting richer in the coming years. So how is the investment translating with football programs?

Not surprisingly, recruiting expenses are on the rise throughout the league. The (Cedar Rapids) Gazette's Scott Dochterman recently outlined Big Ten recruiting costs for the last three fiscal years, which shows that the league's 11 publics schools spent $6.47 million in recruiting in FY 2013, up from $4.1 million in FY 2011. Northwestern, a private institution, does not have to publicly report its expenses.

What stands out about these numbers?
  • Nebraska has spent more on recruiting than any Big Ten team in the past two seasons: $818,509 in 2013 and $752,681 in 2012. Bo Pelini's program is trying to boost its presence in Big Ten territory, maintain a presence in Texas and California, and scoop up prospects from the fertile Southeast. That costs money, and Nebraska's geography doesn't help.
  • Illinois is second in recruiting expenses for the second consecutive year, devoting $791,972 in FY 2013. I'll say this for Illinois: It invests enough in football. The program shelled out for former coordinators Paul Petrino and Vic Koenning. Tim Beckman shouldn't complain about his recruiting budget. But the investment needs to start showing returns very soon.
  • If asked which Big Ten school spends the least on recruiting, few folks likely would select Wisconsin. Like Nebraska, Wisconsin faces geographical challenges in recruiting and, under former coach Bret Bielema, ramped up its efforts in Florida for players such as James White and Aaron Henry. But these numbers show Wisconsin spent by far the least on recruiting in FY 2013 ($256,967) and, unlike other Big Ten programs, hasn't had dramatic increases the past two years. Assistant salaries were an issue for Bielema, who lost quite a few top aides in his final two seasons. I wonder how the recruiting budget impacted his decision to leave for Arkansas, and how the investment could change for coach Gary Andersen.
  • Penn State has had the biggest increases in recruiting investment, going from $258,800 in FY 2011 -- the second-lowest total in the league -- to $443,022 in FY 2012 and then to $736,739 in FY 2013, the third-highest total in the league. The program spent much more under Bill O'Brien than it did during the end of the Joe Paterno era, and the investment should continue to increase under James Franklin, one of the more aggressive recruiters in the country.
  • Although Ohio State spent about $200,000 more on recruiting in FY 2013 than FY 2012, the Buckeyes are in the bottom half of the league in expenses. Geography is a big reason, as they don't have to travel nearly as far as other league programs to scout some of the top players in the Big Ten region.
  • It's interesting that Michigan's recruiting costs actually went down from FY 2011 to FY 2012 before going up to $664,492 in FY 2013. The Wolverines signed top-10 recruiting classes in 2012 and 2013.

A lot of interesting numbers here. Recruiting costs will continue to rise around the FBS, and it will be interesting to see which Big Ten teams invest more in non-coaching, recruiting-specific staff. Programs in other leagues -- cough, SEC, cough -- have been on hiring sprees, causing a lot of national discussion about limiting staff size.
CLIFTON, Va. -- Five-star defensive tackle Tim Settle, No. 10 in the ESPN 300, will not be making an early commitment, that much has been known from the start. What is also known about Settle is that he intends to go through the entire process and take all five of his official visits.

What wasn’t known is that Settle has started to think about what schools will make the cut.

“I’m going to trim it down in August to 14,” said Settle, who earned an invitation to The Opening Saturday after a stellar performance at the Nike Football Training Camp at Centreville High School in Clifton, Va. “The reason I’m going to trim it down in August is two-a-days and getting ready for the season. I don’t want a lot of pressure on me. I just want to play and have fun my senior season.


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SUGAR HILL, Ga. -- With the world’s busiest airport down the road, quarterbacks from across the country flocked to the Atlanta Elite 11 regional camp on Friday at Gary Pirkle Park, including several highly regarded passers from outside the Southeast.

Part of that group was Indianapolis Decatur Central’s Tommy Stevens. The 6-foot-4, 190-pound Stevens traveled more than 500 miles, but it was worth every mile because he proved he has the tools to compete with the best of the best.


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