Big Recruiting Official Visit Weekend for Illini Football

Matthew Stevens

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- Illinois is expected to have a very busy recruiting weekend just two weeks from the beginning of the football early signing period.

Illini coaches are anticipating to have nearly a dozen 2020 prospects on campus for their official visits this weekend including a pair of players who have previously verbally committed to other Power 5 Conference schools.

According to 247Sports.com, eight of the nine Illinois verbal commitments are scheduled to be in Champaign as early as Friday morning, including four-star wide receiver James Frenchie of Trinity Catholic in St. Louis and four-star wide receiver Jadon Thompson of Naperville.

During the program’s four-game winning streak in late October and early November against Wisconsin, Purdue, Rutgers and Michigan State, Illinois coaches have said the recruiting message hasn’t changed but what has been obviously different is the response.

“To be honest with you, it’s the same message of what it’s been. It’s the same message it’s been. It’s the same message we gave Isaiah Williams and Shammond Cooper and all those guys,” Illinois offensive coordinator Rod Smith said on Oct. 28. “What has changed is the level of excitement and response on the other end of the phone and the equation who have seen what we’ve accomplished and what we’re doing here.”

The list of visitors this weekend for Illinois also includes a pair of defensive end prospects committed to a high profile program but Illini coaches are trying to flip their allegiances before the end of the weekend. Jerzhan Newton, a 6-foot-3 and 255-pound pass rusher from Clearwater, Florida, will be on campus this weekend despite having committed to Maryland this past August. Newton, who is being primarily recruited by Illini defensive line coach Austin Clark, made a trip back to Maryland’s campus on Nov. 23 when the Terrapins lost 54-7 to Nebraska. Newton, who also has scholarship offers from Florida, Florida State and UCF, is ranked by 247Sports.com as the 56th-best strong-side defensive end in the country and would provide the Illini with much-needed depth at a position crippled by injuries throughout the 2019 season.

JaQuari Wiggles, a 263-pound defensive end prospect from Atlanta, will reportedly be on the Illinois campus despite having been committed to nearby Georgia Tech for nearly eight months. Wiggles, who hold scholarship offers from Maryland, is ranked by 247Sports.com as the 43rd-best strong-side defensive end in the nation. Wiggles posted on Twitter that he got an in-home visit from Illini head coach Lovie Smith, linebacker coach Miles Smith and running backs coach Mike Bellamy Thursday night just days before his scheduled official visit this weekend.

Illinois coaches are also expected to see junior college defensive end prospect DeVere Levelston on campus this weekend. The three-star prospect, who is 6-foot-4 and 255 pounds, visited SMU last weekend and is expected to visit Minnesota next weekend. However, Levelston posted on Twitter Thursday evening that “Big news coming soon.... Almost time for a commitment!”. Levelston, who would have three years of eligibility left, had 42 tackles and five sacks in eight games this season at Tyler Junior College in Tyler, Texas.

Illinois reportedly only has one official visit scheduled for next weekend: three-star defensive end Jalen Mayala of Lawrenceville, Ga.

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