RECRUITING: Zook announces recruits for 2012 class

Illinois football coach Ron Zook is interviewed in the Squad Room at Memorial Stadium during a signing day press conference, Wednesday. Erica Magda

By Mike Theodore

Ron Zook finally surrendered his cell phone before addressing the media Wednesday afternoon to announce his fourth recruiting class at Illinois.

After a busy morning of phone calls, Zook’s cell left his side as he officially unveiled the 2012 recruiting class.

The Illini landed 29 players in all, including six four-star recruits, according to Scout.com.

“This class may be as good as I’ve ever been around,” Zook said.

Defensive lineman Corey Liuget, receiver Cordale Scott, receiver A.J. Jenkins, offensive lineman Graham Pocic and defensive lineman Reggie Ellis highlighted the field.

“If you look at our needs as a football team, I think we’ve hit a grand slam,” Zook said. “They’re good players, more importantly they’re good people and they’re going to blend with the group of guys here.”

Zook and Illini fans were hoping to sign highly touted running back Jamie Harper from Jacksonville, Fla. But Harper announced his decision to sign with Clemson, giving the Tigers one of the best classes in the nation.

“Did we get them all? No,” Zook said. “You’re never going to get them all, but we got more than our share – we got everybody. That’s a feat in itself today.”

Zook’s newest class follows a year in which he posted his first winning season at Illinois and earned a trip to the Rose Bowl. Scout.com ranks this year’s group as 18th in the nation, and third in the Big Ten behind Ohio State and Michigan.

“I know it gets old, but we have a lot of great things going on here,” Zook said. “It really shouldn’t come as a surprise that we had a great recruiting year.”

Offensive coordinator Mike Locksley went back to Washington, D.C. to land two more Dunbar High School players. After signing current Illini Vontae Davis, Nate Bussey and Arrelious Benn in previous classes, Locksley helped reel in Ellis and lineman Ugochukwu Uzodinma.

Illinois went to North Carolina to find Jacob Charest, the lone quarterback in the class. Zook refused to label Charest as more of a passer than runner.

“He was the guy we targeted as the number one guy, and we were fortunate to get him,” Zook said. “He can do it all.

“He’s a tough guy,” Zook added. “(He’s a) very, very athletic guy, he can throw ball extremely well, he’s extremely accurate.”

Last season Illinois’ highly regarded recruiting class came under fire from critics, including former Michigan State head coach John L. Smith.

“We’ve felt good about the last two classes in particularly,” Zook said. “But this is a class that not only had to be great class but it needed to be a solid class. We went far beyond our expectations there.”