FCS All-American DT Roderick Perry Commits To Illini As Graduate Transfer

Matthew Stevens

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- Heading into the upcoming season, Illinois had serious questions about its defensive line. The Illini now hope they’ve found answers in the form of a graduate transfer who was selected as a preseason All-America candidate at the lower level Football Championship Subdivision.

Roderick Perry, a 300-pound defensive tackle from South Carolina State who is already drawing attention from NFL scouts, announced Thursday morning he’ll be arriving for the upcoming season as a graduate transfer.

South Carolina State Bulldogs defensive lineman Roderick Perry (91) trying to tackle UCF Knights running back Bentavious Thompson (24) runs between during the second half of a 2018 game at Spectrum Stadium in Orlando, Fla.Reinhold Matay/USA TODAY Sports

Perry, a native of Raleigh, N.C., has been looking to transfer to a FBS program since the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference suspended all fall sports on July 16 as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Perry had 34 tackles, 14.5 tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks and a forced fumble last season for a South Carolina State team which finished 8-3 overall and captured the school’s 17th league crown and seventh MEAC championship.

"Perry is a big and active defensive tackle who has been on some NFL scouts radars as a late pick or free agent to watch,” Rivals.com national football recruiting director Mike Farrell said. “The step up in competition will be a big one but he has the size and strength to compete at the FBS level. He’s more of a depth guy who could turn into a starter."

The Illini defensive line returns just 11 of the team’s 98 tackles for loss from last season due to losing both of its starting defensive tackles to graduation and was a unit that struggled in the 2019 campaign to get an acceptable pass rush without defensive end Oluwole Betiku Jr. After Betiku Jr., declared for the NFL draft and was signed as an undrafted free agent, Illinois will return only 4.5 sacks from the previous season.

In May, before fall sports were postponed and possibly cancelled by the MEAC officials, Perry was selected by Hero Sports to a second-team All-America honor. He’ll be expected to compete for playing time with California graduate transfer Chinedu Udeogu, junior college transfer Anthony Shipton, junior Calvin Avery and junior Deon Pate among Illinois’ interior defensive line, which have a new position coach in the form of Al Davis.

Davis was hired to Lovie Smith’s Illinois defensive staff in January following three seasons at Hutchinson Community College where he had been promoted to associate head coach and co-defensive coordinator. Before his tenure at HCC, Davis was a defensive graduate assistant coach at Arkansas for the 2014-16 seasons after lettering for the Razorbacks program from 2009-12.

Perry's announcement comes less than 12 hours after Southern California tight end Daniel Imatorbhebhe announced his intention to join his younger brother as a graduate transfer at Illinois. Perry is the 10th verbal commitment of the offseason from the transfer portal to pledge to the Illini program during this coronavirus pandemic. Illinois, which has become the Power Five Conference version of ‘Transfer Portal U’, has already taken the transfer commitments this offseason from wide receivers Brian Hightower (Miami-Fla.), Khamri Thompson (Missouri) and Desmond Dan (New Mexico State), offensive linemen Blake Jeresaty (Wofford) and Brevyn Jones (Mississippi State), safety TreSean Smith (Louisville) and defensive lineman Chinedu Udeogu (California). These nine players do not also include former Wisconsin defensive end/linebacker Christian Bell decided to rescind his verbal pledge to transfer to Illinois and will play his final year of college football near his hometown with South Alabama.