WCIA — When Illinois football coach Lovie Smith was hired last March, he pledged to recruit in-state kids the hardest. Smith followed through on his word Wednesday, signing 10 Illinois kids to play for their state school next season. It’s the largest number of in-state recruits to come to Champaign since 2007.
“We are pretty pumped up about it and I think what a lot of the guys saw was an opportunity,” Smith said. “When you come in new, people want to be apart of building something and I think these guys feel like they’re going to have a big impact on what we do going forward and we think the same thing.”
Scout lists the Illinois class No. 32 nationally. 247 sports has the Illini at 44, Rivals at 46. The Illini added speed, athleticism and got bigger, with several lineman on both sides of the ball weighing more than 275 pounds.
“We always talk about where do you start building a team? It’s up front on both sides of the ball and we signed 10 lineman today and it has to start there,” added Smith. “The foundation starts from there and I think we touched on every position on our football team, adding guys. We have a couple of other spots still open so things pretty much went the way we wanted them to.”
The Illini got six 4-star players, including several from Illinois. Brother Rice receiver Ricky Smalling is expected to contribute immediately.