According to a consensus of the major football recruiting services--Tom Lemming, Rivals, Scout and ESPN--Illinois coach Ron Zook and his staff are in the mix for 11 of the top 200 players in the nation who remain uncommitted.
"If they get lucky on five or six, they could have a very good recruiting year," Lemming said.
The Illini appear to be in good position on at least four.
They lead in the chase for Morgan Park defensive end Craig Drummond, a 6-5, 260-pounder who has met academic qualifications. Tennessee, USC, Florida, Miami, Alabama, Ohio State, Wisconsin and Minnesota also are in the mix.
East St. Louis' Kraig Appleton, one of the nation's leading wide receivers, reportedly has given a silent verbal commitment to Zook and will make an official announcement at the U.S. Army All-American Game in January. Appleton's teammate, wide receiver Terry Hawthorne, already has committed to Illinois.
But it isn't over until it's over. Even East St. Louis coach Darren Sunkett won't explain why the drama continues. Appleton still lists LSU, Arkansas, Michigan State, Nebraska, Ohio State, Michigan, Notre Dame, Texas Tech, Vanderbilt and Wisconsin among his suitors.
Running back/athlete Ronnie Wingo Jr. of St. Louis is expected to choose Illinois, Missouri or Alabama. But there is a wild card in the process. Wingo is waiting for an offer from Notre Dame. But he doesn't have the academics to qualify for Notre Dame.
Marcus Hall of Cleveland, Ohio, a 6-5, 290-pound offensive lineman, figures to commit to Ohio State. Most of the blue-chip players from his school do. But Illinois landed one last year so there is hope. Illinois likely would be Hall's second choice. But he also is considering USC, LSU, Miami and Michigan.
Here are the other prospects who are considering Illinois:
Jheranie Boyd, Gastonia, N.C., wide receiver: This is one of assistant coach Mike Locksley's projects. He also is considering Clemson, Florida,Missouri, Oklahoma, Oregon and North Carolina. He also is a big-time track performer.
Orson Charles, Tampa, Fla., tight end: The 6-3, 215-pound tight end hails from the same school as Aaron Murray, the No. 2 quarterback in the nation who has committed to Georgia. Look for Charles to choose Georgia or one of the Florida schools--Florida, Florida State or Miami.
Terdema Ussery, Dallas, Tex., wide receiver: The 6-4, 192-pounder is the son of the general manager of the Dallas Mavericks. If Texas doesn't want him, Illinois has as good a shot as Arizona, California, Notre Dame, Stanford and Louisville.
Petey Smith, Seffner, Fla., linebacker: One of the best linebackers in the nation, he figures to choose Alabama, Auburn, Tennessee, Florida, Louisville or North Carolina.
Hawatha Bell, Matthews, N.C., linebacker: North Carolina can get the 6-1, 227-pounder if the Tar Heels want him. Otherwise, Illinois will battle with Maryland, North Carolina State, South Carolina and Wake Forest.
Cornelius Carrodine, Cincinnati, Ohio, defensive end: The 6-4, 230-pounder wasn't offered by Ohio State so Illinois is in the mix with Cincinnati, Akron, Kentucky, Wisconsin and Michigan.
Jamar Howard, Visalia, Calif., wide receiver: The 6-2, 215-pound is a junior college product from College of the Sequoias. He also is considering Michigan State, Arizona, Florida State, Memphis, Purdue and Louisville.