Friday, February 9, 2007

Zook breathing life back into Illini

Quick, name the school with arguably the #1 recruiting class in the Big Ten!......
If you guessed: Ohio St., Michigan, Wisconsin, Penn St. or even my beloved Iowa Hawkeyes you are wrong. I myself am an avid college football fan and an advocate of the Big Ten Conference and I had to double check this one. The answer is the University of Illinois Fighting Illini. Yes, you heard me correctly the 2-10 Fighting Illini. Depending on where you visit you can find the Illini's class of 2007 ranked anywhere from 10th-17th in the nation; ranked right on par, at some sites even ahead of Michigan and Ohio St.! They have a top-10 recruiting class in the nation, yet they didn't even finish in the top 10 in the Big Ten.

Ron Zook, renoun as as a much better recruiter than coach, is hoping to prove otherwise this year. At Florida he produced wonderful recruiting classes but had 3 successive 5-loss seasons before being fired mid-season in 2002.

Zook landed four ESPN 150 prospects, including Martez Wilson, the nation's No. 1 defensive end (luring him away from the likes of: Florida, Miami, Michigan, Notre Dame and USC). Zook's recruiting class no doubt features a stockpile of defensive talent, however he went out and got some offense to compliment it. Headlining his offensive recruits is Arrelious Benn (featured right), ranked the No. 3 wide receiver in the country by Scouts Inc. He enrolled early at Illinois, after choosing the Illini over Florida State, Maryland, Miami and Notre Dame.

How does he do it? I mean sure, the Illini showed minute progress last year with a win over Michigan St., and close losses to Indiana, Ohio, Wisconsin, and Ohio St. (close is constituted by a TD or less). One possible reason is -one of my favorite names in the game- their explosive QB Juice Williams who will be just a Sophomore next year. Or is Zook passing $100 dollar bills under hats? There is speculation out there, and for good reason. What is Zook selling? It's not their record, history, facilities, and probably not his coaching.

For now what can you say? Until something materializes all you can say is "wow", "congrats", and "I can't wait to see what this team can do in the next 2-3". Hats off to Mr. Zook and it will be very interesting to see what he can do with these players once he gets them on campus.

"A coach once told me it's better to be a bad coach with good players than a good coach with bad players." - Ron Zook-

Fighting Illini recruiting class of 2007 stats and rankinkings compliments of:


kgh10 said...'d be right if you guessed OSU or Michigan, but nice try. Rivals reports Michigan at 12 and OSU at 15 with Illinois at 17. Scout has Michigan at 10, OSU at 16, and and Illinois at 21. ESPN has Michigan at 10, Illinois at 12, and OSU at 20. Hate to say it but it doesn't matter what kind of recruits the Zooker brings in, he still can't coach em!

;) just kidding, that's To Be Continued.

grittysquirrels said...

Yea, we'll see about that but its a fair guess. Sorry about the current innaccuracies but at the time i started writing this it was national signing day and as we were entering National Signing Day they were ranked 10th 12th and 17th so i apoligize. Can't help that additional signings have changed that. But still, pretty damn good for ILLINOIS!

kgh10 said...

Yeah it definetely doesn't take away from the Illini getting a top 20 recruit class, I was just correcting it.

twins15 said...

I'm not really sure why such a big deal was made about this... I mean, he's always sucked as a coach and been great as a recruiter. I'll just quote another thing I read on another blog:

"What is Zook selling? How about a chance to play immediately, in a prominent BCS conference, in which you're virtually guaranteed to get at least two or three of your games nationally televised each season? How about sitting on a potential gold mine of media exposure, playing just outside the #3 market? How about the head coach pointing to the current national champions, and telling a kid, "Hey, I built that team!"

grittysquirrels said...

I like that; great point.

Chris said...

Chris from freelancedogs here. Thanks for visiting our site.

Other coaches can sell playing time, and in much better programs than Illinois.

Did you hear the Martez Wilson interview on Chicago radio on Signing Day? He was asked what attracted him to Illinois, and his first answer was , "It wasn't the money." Interesting that that was the first thing that came to mind for him. Rumor is that they got Benn because they gave his mother a job at the school. Something's fishy.

ming01 said...

Personally I dont think Zook is recruiting illegally. He recruits year around, and works hard at it. Yes it is suspicious with the way the Illinois program is, but I believe he just does a stellar job at recruiting. He recruited this years senior class at Florida and look how they turned out...

field negro said...

Yeah Zook might be able to ahem, ahem recruit. But that alone ain't gonna get it in the Big 10. I think he will find that like the SEC, it takes more than just blue chippers to win in the Big 10. You better be able to coach a little bit as well.

keystroke-ga said...

"It's not their record, history, facilities..."

It just may be their history and facilities. Illinois has won four national titles and there's no reason they can't do it again. They've had some of the greatest players in history with Red Grange and Dick Butkus. They've won 15 Big Ten titles (more than Iowa, Wisconsin and many more than Penn State).

Their facilities are good enough for a pro team (the Bears) to play there for a season while Soldier Field was being revamped. They're a huge campus with tons to do, and with the best possible academics (ranked #25 in the world) if the players happen to care about that. People are acting like it's some no-name team we're talking about. This is a major football program, in the Big Ten. Games are nationally televised and right outside of Chicago, one of the biggest markets in the country, as a previous poster quoted. These kids will play next year, and most importantly of all, Zook isn't an "uptight white guy." There you have it.

Stop putting Illinois down. Teams are good, then better, then great, and it goes in cycles. I've often wondered why the Illini program haven't been able to attract better players with all they have to offer. Zook is the only coach that's been able to deliver what any of them should have done.