Nebraska Recruiting: Illinois Has Turned Into 'Transfer U'
Photo Credit: Eric Francis

Nebraska Recruiting: Illinois Has Turned Into ‘Transfer U’

September 18, 2019

Recruiting never stops and it's easy to miss the top stories day-to-day. Recruiting analyst Greg Smith recaps all things Nebraska recruiting news, analysis and more so you never miss a thing.

Illinois football has bet big on transfers. 

Coach Lovie Smith entered this season with a 9-27 overall record while posting a 4-23 record in the Big Ten. Smith has been under constant scrutiny and could be found on quite a few hot seat lists. The Illini haven’t had a top 40 recruiting class or a winning season since 2011. That is startling when you realize that Illinois signed a trio of legitimate blue-chip players in 2019. 

Illinois signed 4-star athlete Marquez Beason (a one-time Nebraska commit), 4-star quarterback Isaiah Williams and 4-star inside linebacker Shammond Cooper last cycle. It helped the Illini that former Trinity Catholic High School coach Corey Patterson is on Smith’s staff. That gave them a great shot at Williams and Cooper. Give Smith some credit though, he did close the deal on those players.

Even with that talented trio, Illinois’ 2019 class ranked 53rd in the country and 13th in the Big Ten. 

Enter the transfers. 

This offseason there was likely not a team in the country that benefitted from incoming transfers more than Smith’s squad. Illinois has new players from Alabama, Georgia, USC and Michigan. Most of whom were eligible to play immediately and are making an impact on the field so far this fall.

Michigan transfer Brandon Peters is the team’s starting quarterback. He’s completing 63.2% of his passes with nine touchdowns and two interceptions. USC wide receiver transfers Josh Imatorbhebhe and Trevon Sidney have started hot. They have a combined 20 catches and four touchdowns. Oluwole Betiku has 16 total tackles, 6 sacks and 7.5 tackles for loss after transferring in from USC. The impact of the transfers has been a net positive. So far, the Illini have two wins which is already half of what they got last season. 

We have been talking about Illinois having a young football team the entire time Smith has been in Champaign. If he can continue to integrate a mixture of transfers that could move the Illini up another notch to get the program off the ground. 

I’ll be curious to see if Smith can turn his program into ‘Transfer U’ or if this success just is a blip on the radar. They are certainly trying everything possible to build momentum.

Recruit Watch

>> Millard South lineman Kohl Herbolsheimer committed to Wyoming on Wednesday. 

>> Nebraska running back commit isn’t satisfied with his record-breaking season yet which is probably one of the reasons the Huskers like him so much.

>> Recent unofficial visitor Ryan Keeler will be in Madison this weekend for their game. The 2021 defender will be busy this fall. 


>> Nebraska’s defense is salty and you can credit versatility for that, writes Jacob Padilla. (Premium)

>> Greg Austin thought Bryce Benhart did a ‘pretty damn good job’ stepping in (Premium) for the Huskers. 

>> Derek Peterson explains how harmony for Nebraska’s front seven (Premium) means chaos for opponents.

>> The Huskers got the ground game up and running against Northern Illinois. (Premium)

>> The Hail Varsity staff is back to answer the important questions in the mailbag, starting with ‘what’s up with Adrian Martinez?’

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