- Jared Shanker, ESPN Staff Writer
Illinois added to its class Monday when it gained a commitment from defensive tackle Merrick Jackson (Belleville, Ill./Althoff Catholic).
Jackson (6-foot-2, 340 pounds) said he could not pass up the opportunity to play close to his family.
"It's close to home so my family can come see me," he said. "It's only like two hours away, and I like the atmosphere of Illinois."
First-year coach Tim Beckman and his new staff were also key in landing Jackson. Jackson said he had an instant connection with the coaches at Illinois since they took over in December.
"The first time I was up there for a visit they treated me like family," he said.
Jackson is commit No. 6 for the Fighting Illini in the 2013 class, and he is the fourth commitment from the state of Illinois. He also had offers from Indiana and Missouri.