I interviewed 150 players in Florida, 30 in Georgia and 50 in South and North Carolina on my most recent trip through the Southeast and it is apparent that Illinois coach Ron Zook has changed his recruiting strategy for 2010.
A year ago, Illinois offered almost 200 scholarships to prospects all over the country, several in Florida. Zook's program was mentioned by dozens of kids wherever I went. Not this year. Illinois' name didn't pop up on questionnaires in Florida as much as it did a year ago.
Zook didn't have much success in the Southeast last year so he apparently has changed his recruiting tactics and is redirecting his efforts to Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, St. Louis and Dallas/Fort Worth. He is playing to the strengths of his assistant coaches, which is smart.
Illini assistant Kurt Beathard, son of the former general manager of the Redskins and Chargers, offered three players from the same school--5-10, 170-pound wide receiver Jaquan Brantly, 6-3, 210-pound linebacker Lateek Townsend and 6-3, 310-pound two-way lineman Tommy Teal of Bennettsville, South Carolina. It is the only offer they have received to date.
Illinois and Notre Dame have offered the best offensive lineman in Florida, 6-5, 330-pound Brent Benedict of Jacksonville.
The best player in Florida could be wide receiver/defensive back Kadron Boone of Ocala, who is leaning to Florida, or quarterback Brion Carnes of Bradenton, who has committed to South Florida but plans to take more visits.
Notre Dame also has offered defensive back Spencer Boyd of Cape Coral, defensive end Corey Lemonier of Hialeah and defensive back/kick returner Lorenzo Wood of Apopka.
South Florida is loaded with talent, better than last year. Michigan, Michigan State and Purdue are all over the area, Illinois not as much, another indication that the Illini are looking elsewhere.
There are more transfers in Florida than oranges and grapefruit. LaMarcus Joyner, a 5-9, 170-pound cornerback, has moved from Miami Southwest to Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas, the 2008 national champion. Joyner, who has been invited to the U.S. Army All-American Bowl next January, will join Cody Riggs to give St. Thomas Aquinas two of the leading cornerbacks in the South.