Ask Aikens: Stars ‘don’t mean nothing’ in world of recruiting

It’s the age of recruiting Web sites and Web forums.

Even casual fans nowadays know about big-name high school seniors, juniors and sometimes even sophomores.

But with attention being thrown the way of recruits ranked in the top 100, good players often fall through the cracks.

“Some people look at stars to judge how they play,” freshman safety Walt Aikens said. “But I’m just like, ‘That’s what you think of me, but I’m going to show you how I play.’”

Aikens started at quarterback in high school but was recruited as a defensive back.

Rated at only two stars, much wasn’t expected out of him during his freshman season.

But Aikens stepped in at safety when Donsay Hardeman went down and has performed admirably.

“I chose Illinois because they saw my true potential. I thank them for that. I just want to show them that five stars don’t mean nothing,” Aikens said.

He draws inspiration from Jon Asamoah, who was originally a two-star recruit and now is being projected as a early-round NFL draft pick.

“Maybe he didn’t go to a camp or something to get all the stars,” Aikens said.

That type of exposure can be of ultimate importance to recruits.

Just ask Eric Block.

The starting center for the Illini went through what can be seen as a nightmare for a recruit.

Looking at only a few big schools, the Lousiana native was set to join Auburn — that was, until they pulled his offer in favor of the No. 2 center in the country on Rivals.com, Mike Harness.

“I was sitting there in January and I was in panic mode,” he said.

So he decided to talk to his high school coach to see what other schools were interested.

He was given bad news.

“I found out my high school coach didn’t send film anywhere,” Block said.

Block rushed to send out game films to any school that had open scholarships — Central Michigan, Louisiana-Lafayette, Louisiana-Monroe, Army and Navy to name a few.

Luckily for Block, Illinois was undergoing a coaching change as Ron Zook scrambled to put together a recruiting class.

So he sent his tapes to Champaign.

“They got tapes, we overnighted them. They called me the next day and said, ‘Hey, we’re offering you, coach Zook will be there tonight.’

“I came up here, loved it, and it was it,” he said.

Block played in a Rose Bowl and now is the starting center for the Illini. Harness never played a game for Auburn.