Posted May 01, 2012 on
The Fighting Illini football program is gaining recruiting momentum rapidly. The commitment of star quarterback Aaron Bailey last week appears to have opened the floodgates. Defensive tackle Merrick Jackson committed Monday, and now Ohio defensive lineman Jarrod Clements has pulled the trigger.
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Fighting Illini basketball players have benefitted from working with experienced coaches this spring. That appears especially true for the big men on the team. New assistant Dustin Ford has worked with the bigs for a number of years and has a passion for it. He is teaching things they need to learn to compete in the post next season.
Fighting Illini basketball coaches have been contacting numerous high school and AAU programs to develop relationships and enhance recruiting efforts. One recent stop was at the Normal University High School home of Keita Bates-Diop, a 2014 small forward who is continuing to grow and improve.
The Fighting Illini football team has enjoyed success with its defensive line in recent years, and that has been proven by popularity in the NFL draft. Whitney Mercilus was named the top defensive end in the country after the 2011 season, and upcoming senior Michael Buchanan has similar potential. Floridian Alvonte Bell has an Illini offer as a possible replacement.
The Fighting Illini football team added a new position to its staff this year. The Director of Player Personnel has an essential role to play, especially in recruiting. Paul Nichols followed head coach Tim Beckman to Illinois, and he's scarcely had time to take a breath since. He talks about his transition to a new position in the first of a three part interview.
After placing defensive linemen in the first round of the NFL draft the last two years, Fighting Illini football has begun to establish a tradition of defensive linemen. Perhaps that might be why Belleville defensive tackle Merrick Jackson decided on Illinois for his college home.