Three-Star 2021 Texas LB Considers Illinois “A Top Contender” After Offer

Matthew Stevens

Dylan Hazen is hoping to find the combination of a premier college football school with a challenging academic environment.

By all accounts from the Texas linebacker prospect, Illinois certainly checks both of those boxes.

The three-star 2021 linebacker prospect from The Woodlands, Texas, who held scholarship offers from Ivy League schools Yale, Pennsylvania and Columbia along with Rice, received his first offer from a Big Ten Conference school when Illinois linebacker coach Miles Smith called him Friday.

“(Friday) was my first time contacting Illinois by phone, however we have chatted before through Twitter,” Hazen said. “This offer is my first Big 10 offer that I have received so that’s really exciting.”

Hazen, who is a 6-foot-1, 220-pound middle linebacker prospect who (according to MaxPreps.com) 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, has drawn the scouting eye of Miles Smith and his father, Illinois fifth-year head coach Lovie 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).

Hazen mentioned 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. “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.”

Smith has repeatedly claimed his program plans to have close to the maximum-allowed 25-signee 2021 recruiting class due to a large senior class and the momentum being built off the Illini’s first bowl bid since 2014.

The stay-at-home mandate amid the on-going concerns over COVID-19 make it currently impossible for Hazen to schedule unofficial or official campus visits to any school. However, when or if schools are reopened and the 2020 college football season begins, Hazen has confidently said the Illini program will likely remain high on his list for future visits.

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

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