When Providence Catholic wide receiver Miles Boykin passed over the Illini — as expected — and picked Notre Dame on Wednesday, it was another "here we go again" moment for Illinois football fans.
But Boykin's decision wasn't necessarily representative of the Class of 2015 as a whole.
After getting clobbered by Northwestern and other Big Ten teams last year, the Illini are making a good deal of progress in locking up in-state recruits for the Class of 2015. Boykin would have been a top prize, for sure. He's the No. 2 ranked prospect in the state, according to Rivals. But missing out on Boykin shouldn't overshadow the work Tim Beckman and the Illini have done at improving their in-state haul heading into 2015.
Already, the orange and blue have commitments from three of the top 10 recruits in the state of Illinois. That's infinitely better than the zero they got in the Class of 2014. Northwestern stole headlines on National Signing Day with their impressive class that included three of the state's top 10 prospects. It's still early, but the Illini are responding to that in-state walloping from several months ago.
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Jacksonville offensive lineman Gabe Megginson, DeKalb running back Dre Brown and Hales Franciscan defensive back Patrick Nelson are all committed. And, like Boykin before them, several other undecided recruits have the Illini on their list. Rivals has Illinois among the college choices of Richards wide receiver Spencer Tears, Gordon Tech defensive end Raequan Williams and the state's top prospect, East St. Louis defensive tackle Terry Beckner Jr.
In the Class of 2014, you had to travel all the way down to No. 19 on Rivals' state of Illinois rankings to find an Illini commit. That was offensive lineman Nick Allegretti. This year, in addition to the three top-10 commits, the Illini have a fourth top-20 recruit in Champaign Centennial quarterback Jimmy Fitzgerald.
It's still a fight for Beckman & Co., though, with other Midwestern schools. Notre Dame has already grabbed three of the top 14 Illinois recruits, and Big Ten rivals Northwestern and Indiana have two top-20 prospects apiece. Missouri and Wisconsin also have a top-20 Land of Lincoln prospect in their 2015 classes. Northwestern has a vastly better class overall, reaching outside the state to land themselves at No. 3 on Rivals' Big Ten recruiting rankings.
But despite Boykin's decision, Beckman is making some headway and some terrific improvement over last season when it comes to in-state recruiting.
Like Northwestern, the Illini also aren't stopping at the state line. They also count a pair of JUCO recruits among their Class of 2015: tight end Andrew Davis (the No. 43 JUCO recruit, per Rivals) and running back Henry Enyenihi (No. 91). All in all, the Illini have the seventh-ranked recruiting class in the Big Ten (as of Thursday, when Enyenihi committed). That's higher than Indiana, Iowa and defending conference champ Michigan State.
Excited about the 2015 Fighting Force recruiting class coming together! Go Fighting Illini! Have a great 4th of July weekend!— Tim Beckman (@coachbeckman) July 3, 2014