Illinois is struggling under first-year coach Tim Beckman, but at least one top in-state junior is not too worried.
Nile Sykes (Oak Park, Ill./Oak Park-River Forest) made another visit to the Illinois campus, for the loss to Minnesota on Saturday. Despite the result, it was another great trip south to Champaign.
“I loved it even though a loss hurts. It didn’t change my perspective on anything,” Sykes said. “The coaching staff is still great. I know they’re working hard and I like it down there. I get along with the coaches real well. I get a good feel with them down there.”
Linebackers coach Mike Ward talked extensively with Sykes, and the 6-foot-1, 215-pound defensive end could end up moving to linebacker as a senior and play the position in college. Assistant Steve Clinkscale as well Beckman also spoke with Sykes, who has an offer from the Illini.
Beckman explained to Sykes there will be some growing pains as the new staff implements its offense and defense and tries to change the culture at Illinois, a Big Ten bottom-feeder for much of the last decade.
“He was just going through how things have been going down and what they’re trying to do,” Sykes said.
Beckman told Sykes he is the kind of player -- one from within the state, too -- that Illinois needs to turn the program around.
“He really likes the way I play and I’m the type of guy they’re looking for to bring down there,” Sykes said. “He said [to] stay in touch and hopefully by the time I’ll make a decision they’ll be one of my choices because they’d love to have me and coach me.”
Sykes will visit Wisconsin next weekend and Ohio State for the Nov. 24 game against Michigan. After those visits, Sykes will have a clearer picture of who his favorites are among the schools interested and the ones to offer, which consists of Illinois, Northern Illinois, Purdue and Toledo.
The Illini will definitely be up there, however.
“Right now I would say Illinois,” he said. “I really like them.”