Texas 3-Star LB Dylan Hazen Selects Wake Forest over Illinois Among Others

Matthew Stevens

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- Eventually Dylan Hazen didn’t return find himself returning to the first Power Five Conference school to offer him a scholarship. 

The three-star 2021 linebacker prospect from The Woodlands, Texas, made his verbal pledge official Monday afternoon by picking Wake Forest, which June 2 instead of becoming the 14th verbal commitment of Illinois’ upcoming recruiting class. 

Hazen, a 6-foot-1, 220-pound middle linebacker prospect, got his offer from Illini linebackers coach Miles Smith, the son of Illinois head coach Lovie Smith, on March 27 when all he had was offers from Rice and Ivy League schools Yale, Pennsylvania and Columbia. 

Hazen would've become the fourth linebacker to commit to Illinois' 2021 recruiting class joining Dylan Rosiek, Trevor Moffitt and Kalen Villanueva. 

According to Maxpreps.com, Hazen had 73 tackles and seven sacks as a sophomore at College Park High School. Hazen, who boasts a 4.5 grade-point-average on a five-point scale, drew the scouting eye of Miles Smith since being selected as a first-team all-district selection as a sophomore in 2018. Lovie Smith is a Texas native and known for being personally involved in the development of the linebacker position on an Illini defense that made huge improvements in 2019 including making huge jumps in the national rankings from 2018 to 2019 in several key defensive categories (turnover margin, passing defense, tackles for loss, scoring defense, takeaways, total defense and defensive touchdowns).

After receiving the offer from Illinois, Hazen mentioned to Illini Now/Sports Illustrated that Lovie Smith’s NFL background and his experience in developing his position group has always been enticing to him as long with the University of Illinois being slotted No. 48 in the annual U.S. News & World Report rankings.

“When choosing a college, I’m looking for one of the best academic schools combined with an amazing football program,” Hazen said in March. “Definitely, having a coach with NFL experience means that I’m able to learn from one of the best out there, and develop to the best of my ability.”

However, Hazen’s recruitment began to catch the attention of more Power Five Conference programs after Illinois became the first large football program to extend an offer. In the last four months, Hazen received offers from Wake Forest, Washington State, Kansas State, Kansas and Arizona. 

During the all virtual recruiting era due to the coronavirus pandemic this spring and summer, Hazen told IlliniNow/SI he was hoping to not make a verbal pledge before official visits were restored by the NCAA recruiting calendar. 

“I’m looking forward to being able to view Illinois’ campus and their brand new facilities,” Hazen said in March. “As of right now, yes, Illinois would be a top contender for one of my official visits come this fall.”

However, now that the recruiting dead period has extended into the summer and close to when states are deciding on a reopening plan for schools, Hazen was compelled to make a verbal commitment before taking any visits.