Looks Like University Of Illinois - Coran Taylor
What's the phrase? Off the schneid? Lovie Smith is now off the schnied with the 2018 recruiting class. Penn State has 12 verbals, Northwestern has 10, Wisconsin and Minnesota have 8... Illinois now has 1.
Let's first talk about that before we talk about Coran Taylor. I think that most Illini fans thought that last spring was slow because Lovie was scrambling to put together a staff (and hire a recruiting department) after getting the job on March 7th. But I think we're now seeing that this might just be how he operates. Pat Fitzgerald wants a full recruiting class by July 1. Lovie, I think, would see it as a failure to be full in July. He wants to take the full year to evaluate, prioritize, and pursue.
I don't know that know that. This is only a guess. But after watching how Lovie operated with the 2017 class, and watching how he's (slowly) approaching the 2018 class, I see a trend. He's being Lovie Smith - looking kids in the eye, telling them he wants to get to know them over the next year, offering a parting handshake when they're expecting the hard sell. As I said elsewhere recently, I'm sure a visit to Minnesota is like one of those 90-minute timeshare presentations where the salesman starts to act personally offended if you say no (with PJ Fleck being the slightly-off guy who comes in at the end to close). A visit to Illinois seems to be the exact opposite. At least from what we've seen.
And we've also seen Lovie's desire to watch a kid through his senior year and then make a move. He offered Kendrick Green (who ended up a 4-star in some services) in mid-November. He discovered Alex Palczewski mid-season and won the three team race with Vandy and Syracuse in January. He got a visit from Bobby Roundtree in November, stayed in touch, withstood the late push from other Big Ten schools, and landed the verbal on Signing Day. He offered Del'Shawn Phillips late, got a December visit, got him to flip. He had Owen Carney in for a visit in August, watched him leave campus without verballing, watched him (unofficially) visit Miami, Maryland, and Florida State, landed his one official visit, and landed his verbal.
Perhaps most importantly, there was only one decommitment after years where we'd have 3, 4, 5 decommitments (in the Cubit class I believe there were 11). Lovie doesn't seem to cast a wide net in recruiting. He doesn't attempt to land 32 players so he can hang on to 25 of them. He wants to build a relationship, get to know you, see if you're a true fit, and then land a verbal commitment. One that will last.
There's no guarantee that will work, but I think that's the plan. That appears to be how it played out with Coran Taylor. He was offered in December right after leading Peoria HS to the state title. When he visited twice in February, many speculated that a verbal was imminent. But even Lovie's early, ready-to-commit verbals seemingly take more time than usual.
I should probably talk about Taylor. I'll be honest - I had Taylor #3 on my quarterback WANT list. My Guy was Quincy Patterson, who already selected Virginia Tech. My #2 is still out there - Kaleb Eleby from Pattonville HS here in St. Louis. And #3 was Taylor, mostly because he's the most raw QB of the group.
Now, I should say, quarterbacks are almost impossible to evaluate. I thought Matt Alviti would be a star at Northwestern; instead, Trevor Siemian is a starter in the NFL. I thought 5-star Shane Morris was the next big thing at Michigan; nope, it's 3-star Wilton Speight, who I believe only had one other offer (NC State). That's true of many college football positions, but it's especially true of quarterback. Which is why quarterbacks seem to verbal early without a lot of offers. Coaching staffs are attempting to hand-select the guy they want. Alviti was a 4-star but had less than 10 offers (while a 4-star WR might get 45 offers). Speight had only the two offers. It's just a different recruiting environment.
So... early verbal, hand-selected, trying to find a guy who fits what they want to do: that's Coran Taylor. This coaching staff wants a dual-threat quarterback doing dual-threat things, and that's Taylor's specialty. This coming fall, with Chayce Crouch, I think you'll see the offense that Garrick McGee wants to run here. And then you'll watch Coran Taylor's high school film and see why they specifically chased him.
I can't really go much further than that because quarterbacks are so difficult to evaluate. It's the old cliche' used by fans of the team with the 73rd best recruiting class who missed on all of their top targets but "if the coaching staff wants them, I want them" (team goes 2-10), but with quarterbacks, if the coaching staff wants them, I want them. Linebackers are easy to evaluate on film. Quarterbacks are impossible.
I do wish Taylor would have gathered more offers. He blew up during the state playoffs last fall but we were the only school to jump on board. That always suggests that schools might be waiting to see a transcript after his junior year (an awful thing to suggest, but it must be acknowledged). The good news: if that is the case, he basically has three full semesters to get everything cleaned up.
Because Taylor is the ATH QB type, I do think we will take one more QB in this class. If he doesn't work out at QB, Taylor could end up at other positions where he could use that plus athleticism. And given that we're thin at QB, and especially if Lawson doesn't make it to school in August, I think we'll chase one more.
Tom Cruises. This is another right-down-the-middle for me. 2.5.
Coran Taylor. Two and one half Tom Cruises.