Illinois rolled out the red carpet for two talented recruits last weekend--running back Lamaar Thomas of Fort Washington, Md., and 6-3, 280-pound defensive lineman Reggie Ellis of Dunbar High School in Washington, D.C. Credit offensive coordinator Mike Locksley and freshman sensation Arrelious Benn for luring them to the campus.
Both are being heavily recruited. Ellis was a teammate of Benn's at Dunbar, which could be a very good sign for Illinois. One of the top 120 prospects in the nation, Ellis will play in the U.S. Army All-America Game in January in San Antonio. They aren't as good as Benn and Simeon's Martez Wilson, this year's prize recruits, but they boost the talent level of next year's class.
Elsewhere, Michigan got a commitment from 6-1, 226-pound linebacker Kenny Demens of Detroit. He chose Michigan over Nebraska and Michigan State.
Of major significance to Michigan fans, defensive back Brendan Smith of New Brunswick, N.J., my choice as the No. 45 player in the nation, visited Michigan and said he obtained a promise from coach Lloyd Carr that he will be back next year. Smith said he wanted to be sure that Carr would still be at Michigan if he committed.
Quarterback Aramis Hillary, a 6-2, 205-pounder from Johnston, S.C., committed to South Carolina.
Boise State got a major commitment from 6-3, 225-pound tight end Chandler Koch of Flower Mound, Texas.
Tennessee landed 6-1, 195-pound wide receiver Rod Wilks of Smyrna, Tenn., wooing the homegrown product away from Alabama and South Carolina.
Marc Anthony, a 5-11, 185-pound defensive back from Chandler, Ariz., committed to California.
The best junior in Indiana, 6-5, 210-pound quarterback Morgan Newton of Carmel, whose father played at Grambling, has attracted interest from Notre Dame, Illinois, Northwestern, Michigan and Iowa. Newton is an honor student.
In the next few weeks, I plan to see some of the top-rated juniors in Illinois. On Friday, I'm looking forward to seeing the matchup of two of the state's top linemen, Montini's Ohio State-bound Garrett Goebel and Marian Central's Notre Dame-bound Sean Cwynar, in Woodstock. I also want to evaluate Marian Central junior Cody O'Neil, a 6-4, 270-pound offensive lineman.
Two other juniors are 6-7, 285-pound lineman Patrick Ward of Providence, whose father Brian played at Hinsdale South and Illinois, and 6-5, 320-pound offensive lineman Ben Sampson of Stevenson.