While driving through Florida and interviewing 150 players in the class of 2010, it became apparent that Illinois hasn't offered nearly as many prospects as a year ago and only a couple of players listed the Illini among the top 10 schools they are considering. A year ago, many Floridians listed Illinois among their favorites.
It is obvious, as I've said earlier, that Illinois coach Ron Zook has mapped out a different recruiting strategy for this year. It has been shaped in part because the Illini weren't too successful in Florida a year ago and because of the loss of their best recruiter, Mike Locksley, who became head coach at New Mexico.
The hiring of Mike Schultz signals a new chapter in Illini recruiting. Schultz has many contacts in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. Schultz was the offensive coordinator at Texas Christian for 11 years and will handle the same responsibility at Illinois.
Meanwhile, Illinois has offered 6-1, 160-pound wide receiver Kenny Shaw of Orlando, Fla., whose father played at Illinois. Shaw is very athletic and has been timed in 11 seconds for 100 meters. Last season, he caught 64 passes for 915 yards. He also is talking to Tennessee, South Florida, UCLA, Colorado, Miami, Boston College and Michigan.
The Illini also offered 5-11, 170-pound wide receiver James Louis of Delray Beach, Fla., who has 4.4 speed and averaged 21 yards per reception last season. Florida, LSU, Virginia Tech, South Florida, Miami and Auburn also are on his shopping list.
Illinois, Central Florida and Miami have offered 6-5, 330-pound defensive tackle Kelvin Smith of Hialeah, Fla. But he is waiting for Florida and Florida State to offer.
Illinois and Notre Dame have offered 6-5, 230-pound defensive end Corey Lemonier of Hialeah, Fla., one of the leading prospects in south Florida. He also has been offered by Miami, Florida State and Tennessee.
Notre Dame has offered four players from St. Thomas Aquinas in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., the defending national champion. They are 5-9, 195-pound Giovanni Bernard, the best running back in Florida, 6-6, 280-pound offensive lineman Brandon Linder, 5-9, 175-pound cornerback Cody Riggs and 5-9, 165-pound cornerback LaMarcus Joyner.
Bernard, who averaged 10 yards per carry last year, also has been offered by 15 schools, including Miami, Boston College and West Virginia. Linder also has been offered by Florida, Florida State, LSU, Tennessee and Miami. Riggs, whose father was a running back with the Atlanta Falcons, has 12 offers, including Maryland, Wake Forest, Miami and Boston College. Joyner, a transfer from Miami who already has been invited to participate in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl next January, has offers from more than 20 schools.
Notre Dame also is in the hunt for 6-1, 188-pound wide receiver/defensive back Kadron Boone of Ocala, Fla. But he is leaning to Florida. Texas Tech, Florida State, Ohio State, USC, Georgia and Michigan also have offered. He looked as good as anyone I saw on film in Florida.
Finally, Illinois and Notre Dame have offered 6-5, 300-pound Brent Benedict of Jacksonville, Fla., perhaps the leading offensive lineman in Florida.