Florida 2021 3-Star SI All-American Candidate QB Walter Simmons III Chooses East Carolina Over Illinois

Matthew Stevens

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- Illinois football don't yet have multiple quarterbacks committed to its 2021 recruiting class.

Three-star Florida quarterback Walter Simmons III announced Saturday he’s planning to turn down Illinois along with scholarship offers from LSU, West Virginia, Georgia Tech, Virginia, Virginia Tech, UCF, South Florida, Memphis to join the East Carolina program.

Simmons III would've joined previously committed three-star quarterback Samari Collier, who was the first verbal pledge to the Illini’s 2021 class back in Dec. 2019.

As a junior at Oakleaf High School in Orange Park, Fla., Simmons III threw for 1,895 yards and 19 touchdowns while rushing for 611 additional yards and three more scores for an Oakleaf squad that went 7-3 and barely missed the Class 8A state playoffs. In the 2018 season as a sophomore, Simmons III led Oakleaf to a Class 7A state playoff appearance following a campaign that included 2,187 passing yards, 18 passing touchdowns and four rushing touchdowns.

Simmons III was one of 1,000 candidates selected this past month to be considered for a spot on the Sports Illustrated All-America squad.

“Simmons is a fairly raw, but athletic dual-threat quarterback who can make plays,” said John Garcia, Sports Illustrated Director of Football Recruiting, of the East Carolina's newest verbal commitment. “He has almost running back-esque footwork when he tucks and runs, and can threaten a defense with his arm from anywhere on the field. Simmons projects best in a spread offense with half-field reads and RPOs in the passing game, and both zone-read and QB-power concepts in its rushing attack.”

The Illinois recruiting effort of Simmons III was led by offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Rod Smith as the program officially offered the Florida product in July 2019. However, despite attending Florida State’s 2019 summer camp and Florida’s junior day, East Carolina was able to fend off any late interest by Power Five Conference programs for the quarterback.

The last time Illinois signed multiple high school signal callers in a recruiting period was the 2018 class when Coran Taylor, MJ Rivers II and Matt Robinson all agreed to join Lovie Smith’s program. Rivers, who was a three-star prospect out of Lone Star High School in Frisco, Texas, completed 56 of 101 passes for 547 yards with three touchdowns and three interceptions in eight games during the 2018 season with the Illini, his only active year before deciding to transfer. Robinson started in two games last season (home losses to Michigan and Northwestern) in place of injured starter Brandon Peters and finished the 2019 season 42 of 77 passing for 475 yards and one touchdown. After being rated a three-star prospect out of Peoria by 247Sports.com, ESPN.com and Rivals.com, Taylor has barely seen any playing time in his first two years with the Illini.