Illinois coach Lovie Smith happy with where 2019 class is, discusses challenges of in-state recruiting
The Illinois Fighting Illini haven’t showed much fight in recent years, going 0-9 in Big Ten play in 2017.
As coach Lovie Smith enters his third season at the helm of the program, though, he sees some positives, especially when it comes to the recruiting trail.
The Illini only have five commits so far for 2019, but two of those guys are 4-star players (ATH Isaiah Williams and ATH Marquez Beason). As the summer wears on, Smith said he’s happy with where things are right now, adding that there are several guys who aren’t going to commit early that the Illini have been in contact with (via 247Sports):
“What we’re working with is you have some guys that aren’t going to commit early,” Smith said. “You keep working them. Then you have some guys who are going to commit early. So for us, some of the ones we’re in hard, they want to go through the process, and we’re going to be there for them. We’re going to keep recruiting them until they think they can make a good decision. Recruiting is about where we want it to be right now.”
Of those five current 2019 commits, two of them are from St. Louis and two of them are in-state athletes. Smith said recruiting in-state players is hard sometimes, especially when you’ve struggled like the Illini have:
“There’s challenges (in-state),” Smith said. “There’s challenges always, but it seems like sometimes it’s harder right in your backyard. Our record is what our record is. We haven’t done well in the Big Ten lately. So if you look at what’s just happening right now, a lot of times it’s a little harder when you’re close. But what we’ve seen is there are enough players, good high school players, for all of us to get what we need and who we need. Sometimes you have to go a little bit farther for them, and what’s we’ll do.”
Per the 247Sports rankings, Illinois’ 2019 class currently ranks No. 12 in the Big Ten and No. 51 nationally. However, there’s certainly some quality (if not quantity) among the current commits.