Illini make strides on the recruiting trail

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Illinois football coach Ron Zook, a bit silent since his Arrelious Benn/Martez Wilson recruiting class raised some thunder around the nation, is making some noise again. He just got an oral commitment from quarterback Jacob Charest of Matthews, N.C., and is one of three finalists for Lamaar Thomas of Fort Washington, Md., one of the top running backs in the nation.

Charest, a 6-3, 190-pounder, wasn't considering Illinois last June. His favorites were Louisville, Virginia Tech, North Carolina State and Wake Forest. But they didn't offer scholarships. Finally, after visiting the campus last weekend, he chose Illinois over Iowa, Boston College and Oregon.

He is a completely different quarterback than sophomore Juice Williams, Illinois' current starter. He is a pocket passer, not a runner, a pro-style quarterback, not a guy who will run for yardage. He has a good arm. He isn't a top 100 player but he is very good, better than many people think. He is very smart and was very productive as a junior, passing for 2,485 yards and 20 touchdowns. He played big against big teams.

I have him rated as the No. 18 pro-style quarterback in the nation. He doesn't fit into Illinois' offense at this time. He brings a different dimension. He'll be redshirted as a freshman. Two years on the bench will help him out. He will get into a weight program and add 20-30 pounds. Of course, with Charest at quarterback, Illinois will have to tweak its offense a bit.

I visited Charest's high school, Butler, in February to interview him and three defensive backs--Robert Blanton, who committed to Notre Dame; Eddie Whitley, who committed to Virginia Tech; and Spencer Adams, who is being recruited by Michigan, North Carolina, Clemson, Georgia and others.

Meanwhile, Zook is in the mix for Thomas, a 5-11, 175-pounder who also is considering Maryland and Ohio State. A top 100 player and the No. 8 tailback in the country, Thomas has been nominated to play in the U.S. Army All-America Game in San Antonio in January.

Credit for putting Illinois on his short list goes to Mike Locksley, Zook's top recruiter and the Illini's offensive coordinator. Thomas isn't as good as current Illini star Rashard Mendenhall but he is one of the most exciting players in the country, more creative in open space than former Illini star Pierre Thomas. He is very athletic and could play running back, wide receiver or wingback in college.

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This page contains a single entry by Second Season published on September 10, 2007 12:22 PM.

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