After a slow a start on the recruiting trail in the 2021 class, Lovie Smith and Illinois are beginning to pick up in that department.

This week, the Fighting Illini received a verbal commitment from three-star defensive back Daniel Edwards out of Winter Park, Florida. He is the fifth player of the 2021 recruiting cycle to pledge to Illinois.

 “I picked Illinois because of the great environment, the chance to be able to play early and the wonderful coaching staff and the head coach Lovie Smith,” Edwards told Illini Inquirer. “I like what he’s doing. The program right now is going to be a top contender coming up.”

Edwards received a dozen offers during the recruiting period, but chose Illinois over programs like Auburn, Louisville, Miami, Purdue.

Per 247Sports, Edwards is a 5-foot-11, 160-pound defensive back who ranks as the No. 91 cornerback in this year’s cycle and is listed as the No. 132 prospect out of Florida. Currently, he’s the highest-rated prospect to commit to the Illini.

While Illinois is still last in the B1G recruiting rankings, it has made a significant jump this week. The Illini have climbed from the low 80s nationally to No. 71 in a few days.