WCIA — Eleven players signed their national letter of intent to play football at the University of Illinois on Wednesday on the opening day of the early signing period. The group ranks 13th in the Big Ten and 66th nationally, according to 247Sports, but head coach Lovie Smith likes the players coming to Champaign.
“This is our third class,” Smith said. “Third class should be your best class and we really feel good about it but the class is incomplete right now. We have some other additions that will be coming. And I just feel like this class is will kind of change Illinois football and that’s exactly what type of class we needed to bring in.”
Smith and his staff signed six offensive players and five on defense. Only four states are represented, with five guys coming from Illinois. That includes Belleville West’s Keith Randolph, who announced and signed his NLI late Wednesday morning, picking Illinois ahead of several other Power 5 programs including Michigan State.
“They’re in the rebuilding stage and I want to be a big part of that,” the 3-star defensive lineman said. “Illinois finished 127th out of 129 teams defensively last year and I want to come and help change that. They were my first Power 5 and they never let up. Like everyday was a text message or a phone call, everyday up until this point.”
The Metro East and St. Louis area have been a big focus for the Illini staff. Trinity Catholic (Mo.) quarterback Isaiah Williams headlines that group. The 4-star recruit was one of the first 2019 players to commit and played a big part in getting other players to jump on board.
“It feels relief,” Williams said. “I’m happy to be a part of the Illini family. Great class. This is the class that could change a lot of things and that’s what we’re coming in to do. We’re coming in to work and change the program around.”
The other Missouri player to sign with Illinois on Wednesday is Moses Okpala. The 6-foot-7, 250 pound defensive lineman committed last month ahead of more than a dozen other Power 5 programs, including other Big Ten programs like Nebraska, Michigan State and Purdue.
“Illinois was different from all other programs that were recruiting me,” Okpala said. “The coaching staff, the way they welcomed me to the university and I’ve kind of wanted this day to come and it’s finally here and I’m signed and I’m ready to get this next chapter of my life going.”
Duncanville (TX) cornerback Marquez Beason is the class headliner. The 4-star prospect is the highest rated recruit for the Illini since 2009. The 5-foot-11 standout was the first guy to pledge to play for the orange and blue in the 2019 class and provides instant playmaking ability on defense.
5-10 / 160
6-0 / 200
6-5 / 250
Evergreen Park, Ill.
5-10 / 170
St. Louis, Mo.
6-5 / 200
Holy Trinity Episcopal Academy
5-8 / 175
6-7 / 250
St. Louis, Mo.
Ladue Horton Watkins
6-4 / 225
5-11 / 175
6-2 / 175
6-5 / 270