In case you missed it, the Big Ten shifted over the weekend.
The change was almost imperceptible to those who follow only the traditional powers, as Ohio State, Michigan, Wisconsin and even Nebraska were dormant (more on the Huskers later). Instead, it was Illinois that celebrated a breakthrough, a move which could change the program’s future, even if it was predictable because of the program’s newest coach.
In January, Illinois football coach Lovie Smith hired St. Louis (Mo.) Trinity Catholic coach Cory Patterson as an assistant coach in charge of tight ends. The move was made in part because of Patterson’s success as a prep coach, but also because of his access and influence on Trinity Catholic players.
That’s because Trinity Catholic has all the talent and track record to become an absolute pipeline. For the forthcoming recruiting class, Trinity’s brightest, shiniest penny is five-star quarterback Isaiah Williams, a do-everything superstar who has the potential to be a Michael Vick field general. Now, less than two months later, Washington is headed to the Illini. The quarterback/athlete commit made his announcement via a Twitter video, as you can see above, and he set the stage for what could be a huge class for Smith and the Illini.
“I liked the coaches,” Williams told 247 Sports of his commitment. “I love the fans; I feel like Illinois has the best fans in the country. It’s just a great place, not only because of playing on the field, but because of academics as well.”
Williams is now Illinois’ greatest, most important ambassador. He has three teammates at Trinity Catholic who qualify as legitimate targets for Illinois, including four-star WR Marcus Washington.
What Williams and Washington bring to Illinois is precisely what the program needs. Both are the kind of explosive athletes that have traditionally chosen the Michigans and Ohio States of the world. From the state of Missouri, some might have chosen Mizzou. Not Williams and Washington, whose ties to Patterson unquestionably played some role in the star athlete’s decision.
Whether it can provide turbo boosters to Illinois’ recruiting fortunes remains to be seen. For now, Lovie Smith’s college coaching career has new spry legs, with the potential for a breakthrough coming provided the Illini can weather another mediocre season before 2019’s Early Signing Period and National Signing Day.