Column: Foundation

By Ian Gold

Illinois’ hopes and dreams lie with one kid. His name is Isiah “Juice” Williams and he is a senior in high school.

His rivals subtitle accompanying his top-100 rating states “the strongest arm in the country, with athleticism to boot.”

He is a mobile quarterback who has uncanny arm strength and passing ability. The kind of quarterback that could assert himself among the nation’s best in our current offensive system. At the Elite 11 camp held for the best high school signal callers, Juice was named most ready to start as a freshman.

Writers have criticized Zook’s ability as an in-game coach, mockingly saying that any success he has had at Florida was directly attributed to all the talent in the universe.

Granted, Zook attracted much of that phenomenal cosmic power, but will he be able to make Champaign look as attractive as Gainesville? Because if he fails in his strong-suit, we might not see many years beyond his initial contract.

Sometimes, I feel marginally bad for Ron Zook. I do not think he quite understood the situation he was getting himself into.

From the rebuilding standpoint the cupboard looks bare. Juice has been an Illinois commitment from very early in the recruiting process, he has frequented the Illinois forums and has even persuaded other top-level athletes to join him in Champaign.

So why fret? It sounds like Zook has it made in the shade and that his recruiting efforts have paid early dividends.

Instead, Juice puts Illinois in a strange situation. We are either golden, or in trouble.

Juice has committed, but still intends on taking all of his official visits. He has said that he is 100 percent sure of his decision and that he is without a doubt coming to Illinois. But you’re taking official visits Juice. I don’t buy the 100 percent tag.

Former Illinois stud commitment Jerry Brown from Missouri is reportedly jumping ship, and after the season Illinois is having, it could become a trend for high-profile recruits to see the body of work needed in Champaign as too risky.

Juice has already taken a visit to Ohio State and is also looking into taking officials to Penn State, North Carolina, Iowa and Tennessee. If you are not threatened by these schools and their attractiveness, check your pulse.

Of course when you were a senior in high school, you would have used any excuse possible to go party and be treated as a demi-god at some of the nation’s most popular institutions.

But he could come down here if he is just looking for a good time. Why not save being hassled by airport security and take a friendly drive down I-57.

The rebuilding project has been put squarely on the shoulders of a kid. He has been the rock that has kept Illinois’ hope in tact, and he’s also been the glitter that has attracted other talented recruits our way.

When Penn State got their dynamite freshman class last year, it was five-star recruit Justin King who got on the phone and let talented athletes from around the country know football was back in Happy Valley.

Juice is our Justin King, what would have happened to those blue-chippers who committed to Penn State if their siren decided the grass was greener in Columbus?

So whatever angle Zook has decided to take with Juice, early playing time, satisfaction of being the leader of a new Illini, football’s Dee Brown … If it loses its appeal, take cover, because the sky is officially falling.

Ian Gold is a senior in Communications. He can be reached at [email protected]