CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- In his February signing day media conference, Bret Bielema said it would take a special occurrence for him to add a player to his 2021 recruiting class.
The Illinois head coach and his staff found that unique case in the form of Florida three-star defensive back prospect Kionte Curry.
Until earlier this week, Curry was destined to spend this next fall at Dodge City (Kan.) Community College but changed his college destination Monday afternoon with a social media announcement that “my next move is my best move."
On Feb. 3, Curry signed a National Letter-of-Intent with the junior college program but NCAA rules allow for a prospect to withdraw from his NLI signed to a two-year program if he elects to attend a four-year university.
Curry, who had scholarship offers from Kentucky, Iowa State, West Virginia, UCF, Georgia Tech, Nebraska, Rutgers and Washington State, is a 6-foot-1, 190-pound defensive back prospect that will likely slot at one of the safety positions in the makeshift Illini defense coordinated by Bielema’s new defensive boss Ryan Walters.
Most of Curry’s Division I offers came in mid-August but Bielema’s program came in with a late scholarship offer to the Florida prospect and it is unclear what changed either Curry’s status or mind about attending junior college for at least one season.
Curry recorded 32 tackles, one interception and 10 pass deflections in his senior season at Cocoa (Fla.) High School. Curry joins running back Joshua McCray and linebacker Dwayne Johnson as late signees to the 2021 recruiting class by Bielema’s staff.
The verbal pledge of Curry would give the Illini 29 scholarship freshmen projected to be on the 2021 roster and 88 total scholarship players. With the NCAA ruling of the 2020 season not counting toward eligibility of a player and seniors being allowed to return to the roster for the following season, Division I programs are allowed to be over the 85-scholarship player limit for the 2021 season.
Curry will join a full defensive back player room that will likely have returning senior Tony Adams, Georgia graduate transfer Prather Hudson, returning senior Kendall Smith, junior Derrick Smith, junior Jartavius Martin, junior Sydney Brown, sophomore Devon Witherspoon, third-year freshman Marquez Beason and signees from the Lovie Smith administrations including Tahveon Nicholson, Daniel Edwards, Prince Green, DD Snyder, Tyler Strain and Joriell Washington.