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2017 Illinois Recruiting: Can Lovie Smith Turn Things Around?

Can Lovie Smith convince talent to come play in Champaign?

NCAA Football: Illinois at Northwestern David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

This is a recurring feature leading up to National Signing Day where we will preview each teams recruiting class and who each team’s best recruit is and who can make an immediate impact. We’ll go in order from worst to first based on 2016 standings. All ratings come from the 247 composite rankings.

Where does the class stand?

Illinois currently ranks 45th in the nation and 10th in the Big Ten with 19 total commits. The class comes in at a respectable .8436 average, so the talent being recruited is about on par with a team like Michigan State but missing the high end talent.

How does the class breakdown?

Illinois has 19 total commitments, two of which are top JUCO recruits at their respective positions. 12 of the 19 commitments are on the offensive side of the ball as Illinois looks to revamp the weapons on offense and replace starter Wes Lunt. The positions breakdown as follows:

  • QB: 2
  • RB: 2
  • WR: 4
  • TE: 1
  • OL: 3
  • DL: 3
  • LB: 2
  • DB: 2 (and their two worst rated recruits)

Here is the full class, via 247 sports:

Is the talent any good?

The class is missing high end talent but there are a lot of quality recruits in the class who will contribute in a few years. They brought in a replacement QB to compete right away and retooled the skill positions on offense for the future.

What do they still need?

DBs, DBs, and more DBs. While it is not an immediate need in 2017, Illinois has a slew of seniors in the secondary that will be graduating and need to be replaced. It would be prudent for Illinois to bring in more than two DBs this class to replace the departing seniors and not need to rely on true freshmen all over the secondary in 2018.

Who is the most important recruit?

Illinois has two JUCO recruits who may be their most important recruits this class. With QB Wes Lunt graduating, Illinois brought in Dwayne Lawson, the #5 JUCO QB in the nation who measures in at 6-6, 230 or so. The other JUCO recruit is the #3 ILB in the nation, Delshawn Phillips. Phillips will provide immediate depth for the Illini while competing for a starter spot this fall.

Thumpsaurus: My view of this class is that we have a few guys who are immediate impact players but a lot of building blocks; terrific athletes that are a bit raw, especially linemen. Also lots of receivers. It is not especially flashy, but if this coaching staff is good at coaching kids, this will end up being a good class, because it’s still our best class since 2008.

Up next: Maryland

**Late update: Late last night OT Alex Palczewski committed to Illinois. Sites haven’t listed it yet so the charts won’t reflect it. Palczewski is a 6-6, 3 star tackle from Illinois.