ICYMI: Illinois lands four-star LB Shammond Cooper


Illinois head coach Lovie Smith sings “Hail to the Orange” with his team after the game against Minnesota at Memorial Stadium on Saturday. The Illini won 55-31.

By Miles Powers-Huang, Assistant Sports Editor

With joint-leading tackler Delshawn Phillips set to graduate, the Illinois football program was looking to land a replacement to complement rising junior Jake Hanson in its 2019 linebacking corps.

Head coach Lovie Smith found just that with a commitment from 2019 four-star linebacker Shammond Cooper.

Cooper announced his commitment to the Illini live on ESPN2 at the Under Armour All-American game, where he was selected to participate among other premier prospects in the class of 2019.

Hailing from St. Louis, Missouri, the 6-foot-2-inch Cooper is the latest product from the area to join the program, following in the footsteps of fellow 2019 Under Armour All-American athlete Isaiah Williams and University of Miami transfer wide receiver Jeff Thomas, a former All-American as well.

Cooper and Williams were teammates at St. Louis’ Trinity Catholic high school, and the duo’s close personal relationship may have aided Illinois’ chances in securing Cooper’s commitment.

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    “I’ve been trying to get him this whole time,” Williams said per 247 sports. “He’s a key piece and hopefully he chooses Illinois.”

    While landing Cooper is a positive step for a defense that surrendered over 500 yards per game on average in 2018, finding a coach to coordinate that defense in 2019 appears next on the list. With Hardy Nickerson resigning following the 63-33 loss at Maryland on Oct. 27, Smith had stepped in as the de facto defensive coordinator on an interim basis to close out the season.

    It should be noted that Cooper is only committed and not yet signed, therefore no one in the program can publicly comment on his status until signing day on Feb. 6.

    Although, the Illini football twitter account did tweet a picture of the St. Louis skyline in orange and blue along with retweeting Cooper’s Commitment tweet after the commitment happened.