Illinois football coach Ron Zook is universally regarded as an outstanding recruiter and he has hired a superb staff of recruiters to inject a needed dose of adrenaline in his program. The Illini have become more of a national recruiter. They are better organized. And they are in the mix for some of the leading prospects in the Midwest and around the country.
But Illinois won't succeed in recruiting until it starts winning on the field. They have put themselves in good position to have success in the second half of the recruiting season but first they must have success on the field. At the moment, top prospects are concerned about how Illinois will do in the 2010 season before they make a commitment.
It's the way it is for every program that has experienced a few bad years in a row. If Illinois demonstrates early in the season that the players are developing and the program is on the rise, that it is once again competitive in the Big 10, prospects will be encouraged to make a commitment.
It is the same thing that happened at Notre Dame. Players were reluctant to commit when former coach Charlie Weis was on the hot seat and the program was struggling. Under new coach Brian Kelly, however, Irish recruiting is back on track.
The same can be said for Illinois. Zook hired some outstanding recruiters in Vic Koenning, Paul Petrino, Greg Nord and Jeff Brohm. Koenning had great success at Kansas State while Petrino, Nord and Brohm had a lot to do with Louisville's recent success. Usually, head coaches don't come out ahead when they make staff changes. In this case, Zook did.
Zook is a great recruiter but there comes a time when you have to win or you lose your steam. He is hoping to regain that steam with a quick start this fall. He has offered all of the top players in Illinois and Indiana, Detroit and St. Louis and some of the leading prospects in western Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Ohio. Illinois' name is popping up in a lot of areas where it was rarely mentioned in the past.
Illinois has offered the No. 1 player in the state, 6-3, 230-pound running back Rodney Coe of Edwardsville, and the No. 1 player in Indiana, 6-5, 270-pound offensive lineman Kioro Holtz of Warren Central in Indianapolis.
The Illini also are in the mix for wide receiver DaVaris Daniels of Vernon Hills and offensive lineman Jordan Walsh of Glenbard West. They also have offered the No. 1 lineman in Ohio, 6-6, 330-pound Aundrey Walker of Cleveland Glenville, and the No. 2 player in Michigan, wide receiver DeAnthony Arnett of Saginaw.
Through expert recruiting, Illinois has put itself in position to be close to these difference-makers. They are offering the right players. Now they have to show results on the field in order to close the deal.