Jacksonville veteran head coach Mark Grounds takes a few minutes and talks about his standout junior offensive tackle Gabe Megginson (6-foot-5, 290 pounds) who pledged to the University of Illinois today. So what type of player did the Fighting Illini land in Megginson?
"Gabe is a self motivated kid," Jacksonville head coach Mark Grounds said. "Illinois is getting a kid who's been tested in our conference and a kid who will strive to keep getting better and better."
Grounds, who will send a Crimsons player to the Big Ten for the second straight year (2014 OL Blake Hance/Northwestern) in Megginson discussed Megginson's transformation and development.
"Gabe is a polished player who really has been a self motivated kid. He's allowed one sack in two seasons and you could even argue that one sack was more of the quarterback holding onto the ball too long. After his sophomore year I remember him downloading video of some of the top ranked linemen like (Ethan Pocic/LSU) and he really studied what they did well and what areas Gabe needed to improve upon. Gabe has been on a mission after his sophomore year. He played as a sophomore around 320 pounds and he's been a diet and workout fiend. He's always taking his workouts to the next level and he's a lean 285 pounds now. He does a monster amount of cardio and agility work along with his lifting. He's a kid who when was told how to get to the next level listened. He has the drive to make it happen and he is harder on himself than anyone. He doesn't eat junk food anymore and has just bought into his routine. He's made it happen for himself."
So was Grounds surprised at Megginson's decision to stay at home and commit to the Fighting Illini?
"I was a bit surprised at first just because he had so many offers from so many great schools besides Illinois. I give Tim Beckman and his staff a ton of credit. They made Gabe a top priority and recruited him hard but they also didn't push it. They knew he was going to get a lot of offers and interest. I think the message that Illinois wants to keep the top kids at home really stuck with Gabe. Gabe and his family was able to build a strong relationship with the Illinois coaches and players. Gabe is also his own person and he's also not a star struck kind of kid. He's a great teammate and someone who's a jokester. He is also a very intelligent kid who knows when to turn it on and off. He's focused, highly motivated and I've been blessed to get a chance to coach him."
Yet will Megginson's verbal commitment stick with Illinois?
'Gabe is a very loyal kid. Unless something drastic happens he'll stand by his word. He knows and we know that other schools will still try to recruit him. That's a given now in recruiting and several other schools were not happy about his choice. I just know that Gabe took his time in making this decision. He looked at all of his options and feels great about his decision and I support him 100 percent and so does the rest of us here in Jacksonville"