Coach Ron Zook lived up to his reputation as a top-notch recruiter and worked some miracles with his first true recruiting class (last year he was merely wrapping up the Ron Turner regime). Scout.com rated the 2006 Illini recruiting class at #28 in the nation, Rivals.com put us at #30, while both agreed that we were #4 in the Big Ten behind the traditional heavyweights of Penn State, Ohio State, and Michigan.
Considering that Illinois had a 1-23 record in Big Ten games over the last three seasons, the fact that we’re getting a better recruiting class than Wisconsin, Iowa, and Michigan State this year is indicative of how good Zook is at the recruiting game. Particularly promising is Isiah Williams out of Chicago Vocational (the high school alma mater of Illini and Bears legend Dick Butkus) who is ranked as the #5 quarterback in the national class of 2006. He looks like a mobile quarterback in the mold of Michael Vick and Vince Young, which would be an incredible development for the Illinois offense.
I’ve always felt that with a high quality home recruiting base of Chicago and St. Louis, the Illinois football program ought to be able to field at least a top 25 team every year and compete for the Big Ten title on a consistent basis. However, we’ve been losing hometown players like Williams over the past five years to schools such as Iowa and Wisconsin, much less the monster programs of Notre Dame, Michigan, and Ohio State.
Hopefully, Zook’s success this year is a sign that the tide is turning on the recruiting front. I’d like to see some top 10 recruiting classes within the next few years. Of course, that will only happen if Zook excels at the other and much more important aspect of his job: winning football games.