Illinois football caps offseason with two commitments

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Austin Yattoni

Lovie Smith coaches the Illini Football team in Memorial Stadium.

By Cole Henke, Staff writer

Lovie Smith’s first offseason as Illinois head football coach was punctuated by two commitments to his 2017 recruiting class last week.

Four-star wide receiver Carmoni Green out of Miami, Florida, and three-star defensive end Olalere Oladipo out of Huntley, Illinois, committed to the Illini within hours of each other Thursday, expanding Smith’s first full recruiting class to 11 players.

Smith can’t speak about the specifics of recruiting due to NCAA regulations, but he was confident about his class standing.

“Generally recruiting is going well,” Smith said. “The message is for sure getting out there. We are close, we didn’t necessarily want to have 25 guys committed before the season started. But right now, we have targeted some guys, and they are listening. So we are pretty excited.”

He is the only four-star in the 2017 class according to Rivals.com and is the 49th-best player in Florida.

Green will come to Illinois during a major change in the offense.

Not only will the Illini lose two of their top wide receivers in Justin Hardee and Zach Grant but also quarterback Wes Lunt.

Lunt has been the quarterback for the past three seasons, and when he leaves, a new face and offense will take over. Green will be a part of a new receiver corp for the next Illini quarterback.

Oladipo is ranked No. 13 in Illinois and No. 38 for his position nationally by 247Sports.

When Oladipo arrives on campus next year, there will be big shoes to fill in the defensive end position. Senior Dawuane Smoot is one current defensive end, and Smith expects that he will be drafted in the early rounds of next year’s NFL draft.

Oladipo began his high school career as a wide receiver and is relatively new to the defensive end position. In his last two seasons for Huntley High School, he recorded 45 tackles, 12 tackles for a loss, and six sacks.

Oladipo’s commitment shows signs of Smith’s recruiting power in Illinois.

Oladipo is the third top-20 in-state recruit for the Illini’s class of 2017. In the 2016 recruiting class, the Illini did not land a single top-25 player in the state.

Smith likes to reference circles when talking about the Illini’s recruiting strategies, and one of the circles is over Florida. He has circles drawn around all of the Illini’s best talent spots. He listed his major circles in Chicago, St. Louis and Florida.

Chicago and St. Louis are two of the closest talent mines to the University, and Smith’s last NFL coaching job in Tampa Bay has given him name recognition in the Sunshine State. Oladipo and

Green both fall into these circles and so do the rest of the players in Smith’s first full recruiting class.

All the players in the 2017 class are either from Illinois, Missouri or Florida.

“We are taking care of the circle right now,” Smith said. “We have talked about what we need to do in St. Louis, Chicago and the surrounding areas. We have done a pretty good job with all of it. We have also talked about how important Florida is. We are making progress.”

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