From the time he was hired to make the jump from the MAC to the Big Ten in December of 2011, Illinois head football coach Tim Beckman has emphasized the need to land top recruits from the home state.
To that end, the Fighting Illini staff invited some of the top 2015 prospects in the state of Illinois to take an unofficial visit this weekend. NCAA compliance rules prevent the staff from talking about specific kids, but recruiting coordinator Alex Golesh was able to break down what visitors can expect during their weekend on campus in Champaign.
"This one Saturday is not like your typical junior day," Golesh said. "We're going to try to spend as much individual time as we can with them. We will have dinner - but with this being an unofficial event they will have to pay for it. They will meet with our sports performance team, our dietitians, and our coaches. They will see the campus, and go see the Illinois - Iowa basketball game. And then some of them are going to stay overnight with our players on campus. We try to give them as much as the atmosphere of family and togetherness as we can."
Orange and Blue News breaks down a list of in-state prospects who we verified have received an invite for this weekend's big event.
Illinois has made progress recruiting within the state boarders. The 2014 recruiting class, which is set to ink with the Illini on Feb. 5, includes five from Illinois including all-state wide receivers Malik Turner and Mike Dudek and U.S. Army All-American offensive lineman Nick Allegretti.
Subscribe Now! Don't miss our comprehensive coverage of National Signing Day. No one covers National Signing Day like Rivals.com.
The next step for the Illini is to start beating the power schools for the national recruits in the state. Two four-star players in 2015 have confirmed invites for the Illini junior day - players who are clearly among the top in-state priorities for Illinois.
Providence Catholic wide receiver Miles Boykin camped at Illinois last summer and immediately picked up an Illini offer. Boykin is a big and athletic receiver at 6-foot-4, 230 pounds. He now sports additional offers from Michigan State, Ole Miss, Toledo, Virginia Tech, and Western Michigan.
Everyone is after East St. Louis defensive end Terry Beckner Jr.. Suitors for the 6-foot-4, 270-pound Beckner Jr. include Florida, Florida St., Michigan, Ohio St., Nebraska, and many others. He ranks as the No. 4 strong-side defensive end in the nation, and the top player from Illinois.
Golesh talked about the importance of locking up the home state.
"We feel like we have to lock up our state to be successful," he said. "We have to get the best players in Illinois to represent their home state. We want to keep building so we can create a pipeline of sorts so that the high school coaches and parents don't have to go too far to watch their kids play. Obviously we want the stadium full and they want to see kids play who they know and who they have seen and are familiar with."
In the highly competitive environment of college football recruiting, the process begins sooner than ever for high school prospects. Golesh said the philosophy at Illinois revolves around building relationship early on and familiarizing kids on what the program has to offer. Current Illini players have a big role in the overall process.
"Obviously, you want to get kids on campus as early as possible," Golesh said. "We want to get them around our players as much as we can. I've always said that our players are our best recruiters. They will tell you the truth, not just what kids want to hear. So we want to get them around our players, our strength staff, and our academic staff as early as we can so as we start building relationships we have Illinois out in front."
Check back with Orange and Blue News after the weekend event for interviews with the prospects who attended.