Illinois is in good position to land three of the nation's top football prospects within the next 10 days, a Christmas present that would give coach Ron Zook one of the top 20 recruiting classes in the nation...
According to Chicago-based recruiting analyst Tom Lemming of CSTV, the Illini will obtain an oral commitment from 6-4, 260-pound defensive end D'Angelo McCray of Jacksonville, Fla., on Thursday. McCray, who originally committed to Florida, is rated as the No. 44 player in the country.
On Dec. 20, at a scheduled press conference at Simeon, Zook is expected to get commitments from Simeon's Martez Wilson and 6-3, 300-pound defensive lineman Josh Brent of Bloomington Central Catholic.
Wilson, a 6-4, 232-pound defensive end/wide receiver who is rated as the No. 15 player in the nation, canceled a trip to Ohio State last weekend to visit Illinois. He also cancelled a home visit with Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis on Monday and cancelled a trip to Michigan next weekend.
‘‘Recruiting is show business,��? Lemming said. “Illinois is trying to make a big splash, like Notre Dame did with Jimmy Clausen's (the nation's top-rated player) announcement on ESPN. Timing is everything in recruiting. And Illinois is trying to make a big impact.��?
The Illini already have a commitment from Arrelious Benn of Washington, D.C., the top-rated wide receiver in the country and the No. 9 player on Lemming's list.
They still are in the mix for defensive lineman Marvin Austin of Washington, D.C., who is rated as the No. 1 player in the nation by Scout.com and No. 2 by Lemming, and running back Robert Hughes of Hubbard, who also is considering Notre Dame.
Two others who are giving Illinois another look are offensive linemen Arthur Ray Jr., of Mount Carmel and Jack Cornell of Quincy Notre Dame. Ray originally committed to Boston College but began to reconsider when coach Tom O'Brien left for North Carolina State. Cornell, who had committed to Michigan State, reopened his recruiting when coach John L. Smith was fired.
‘‘By getting Wilson, McCray and Brent, Illinois' recruiting class will move to No. 3 in the Big 10 behind Michigan and Ohio State,��? Lemming said. ‘‘And they will move into the top 20 nationally.��?
But Lemming cautions not to take anything for granted in recruiting until the ink is dry and the athlete arrives on campus, especially with the wave of de-commitments in recent years.
‘‘Look at Martez Wilson, for example. He says he wants to be a linebacker one day, then a wide receiver the next. And the colleges recruiters try to tell him what he wants to hear,��? Lemming said. ‘‘You can never say never in this business because kids tend to change their minds every week.��?
On Monday Zook received a comitment from Hubbard defensive back Darius Purcell.