Illinois football announces Class of 2018 signees


By Gavin Good, Assistant sports editor

On Wednesday, as thousands of recruits across the nation inked their letters of intent for National Signing Day, Illinois football announced its recruiting Class of 2018.

The class is headlined by four-star recruits Calvin Avery, a 310-pound defensive tackle from Dallas, Texas, and Chicago-native Verdis Brown, who will likely suit up on the defensive line.

The Illini also addressed issues at the quarterback position.

Inbound are three-star recruits Coran Taylor, a dual-threat out of Peoria, Illinois, Texas-native MJ Rivers, who had a superb senior season (2,955 passing yards, 29 touchdowns, six interceptions and 23 rushing touchdowns at Lone Star High School) and new offensive coordinator Rod Smith’s first recruit, Matthew Robinson, who has shown both the ability to connect with open receivers and to scramble for large gains when necessary.

Continuing to build depth along the offensive and defensive lines was a main focus for Lovie Smith and the Illinois coaching staff, and they have added several prospects along both fronts that can make an impact early on and over the next several years.

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Reuben Unije from the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida,  Jordyn Slaughter from Belleville, Illinois, Kievan Myers, who attended Bishop Dunne in Dallas with Avery and Julian Pearl from Danville, Illinois, all bring important size and strength to an offensive front that has to compete week in and week out with elite Big Ten defensive linemen.

At the safety spot, the Illini are bringing in more three-stars, all from Florida. Jartavius Martin, Sydney Brown and Ron Hardge III will all likely compete for some playing time after the transfer of Patrick Nelson.

Illinois added several other defensive backs in the 2018 class, including cornerbacks Delano Ware (El Cerrito, California), Kerby Joseph (Orlando, Florida) and Nick Walker (Cisco, Texas).

The squad will have more depth at running back after losing Kendrick Foster to graduation with the additions of Jakari Norwood and Kenyon Sims, and there are three new additions to the receiving corps in Fort Lauderdale, Florida-native Carlos Sandy, Jacksonville’s Edwin Carter and in tight end Daniel Barker, who also hails from Fort Lauderdale.

Highly rated Caleb Griffin, a kicker from Danville, Illinois, is also coming in but will blueshirt this season. This means he will be on scholarship for the 2018 season but will redshirt and technically count as part of the 2019 class.

One area where the Illini are certainly thin at is linebacker — Tré Watson and Julian Jones both started last season and have since transferred — and there are two new faces who are coming in to fight for playing time in three-star Khalan Tolson and Fresno, California-native Jacob Hollins. Also coming in to bolster the defensive line is Ezekiel Holmes,  a 6-foot-5, 210-pound end from Wichita Falls, Texas.

The Illinois recruiting class is currently ranked No. 52 in the country by 247sports, but that may change as National Signing Day’s later signees continue to roll in.


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