Football

Illini AD Josh Whitman Isn’t Sure NCAA Should Be Governing College Sports: “We have a credibility problem”

Illini AD Josh Whitman Isn’t Sure NCAA Should Be Governing College Sports: “We have a credibility problem”

Illinois athletics director Josh Whitman suggests that modern-day college athletics has a nationwide public credibility problem and needs massive innovation.

By Matt Stevens - IlliniGuys Football Writer/Analyst

June 28, 2022

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- Illinois’ athletics director isn’t committed to the idea of the NCAA being the national governing body going forward. 

“It’s going to be very different and there’s two parallel issues that we all know at some point will intersect,” Whitman said. “One, what is the future of the NCAA? What is the future of the Power Five Conferences? The second is what are the benefits? What are we providing to our student-athletes? We need to find more ways to financially benefit our student-athletes.” 

In his two-hour, annual roundtable session with local reporters Tuesday, Whitman echoed his support for the ideas stated directly from the Supreme Court in the recent 9-0 ruling against the NCAA as a governing body in the Alston case and the continually rising revenues from media deals. 

With the current era of college athletics including the legality of name, image and likeness deals along with player movement via the transfer portal, Whitman stated Tuesday he isn’t convinced his school’s athletics department should be governed by the NCAA office in Indianapolis any longer. 

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COLUMN: Whitman’s Evasive Answer on Divisions Creates Questions

COLUMN: Whitman’s Evasive Answer on Divisions Creates Questions

Illinois athletics director Josh Whitman clearly doesn’t want to currently lose the one thing that gives his football program a shot at national relevancy - being in the Western Division of the Big Ten.

By Matt Stevens - IlliniGuys Football Writer/Analyst

June 27, 2022

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- When asked if he had a stance on whether the Big Ten Conference eliminating football divisions, Josh Whitman chose six words and one line. 

“Not one I want to share,” the Illinois athletics director said on June 2 at the grand opening of Atkins Golf Club in Urbana.

The six-word comment was another sign of Whitman showing his strong talent of being strategically dismissive of a simple question. It was also a sign that Illinois is on losing side of a fight that will be stopped by technical knockout sooner than later. It was impossible to believe the Illinois athletics director doesn’t have an opinion, so “no” was off the table. He couldn’t have said “yes I do, no comment” because Whitman knew the reporters, including yours truly who asked the question, believed he’d just spent spring meetings in Arizona, less than two weeks prior, discussing such a topic. 

In case you have been living under a rock for several months, divisions in Power Five Conference college football are going into the extinct category along with ties, the triple option offense and coaches wearing suits on sidelines. 

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Breaking Recruiting News: 2023 TE Nathan Guinn Turns June Illini Camp Visit Into June Illini Verbal Commitment 

Breaking Recruiting News: 2023 TE Nathan Guinn Turns June Illini Camp Visit Into June Illini Verbal Commitment 

A few weeks after attending a showcase camp at Illinois and less than 48 hours from his official weekend weekend in Champaign, 2023 tight end prospect Nathan Guinn is committed to the Illini.

By Matt Stevens - IlliniGuys Football Writer/Analyst

June 27, 2022

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- One year ago, Nathan Guinn was an overlooked defensive edge rusher.  Fast forward to today and he's a prep athlete who parlayed a productive month of June to become a tight end committed to a Big Ten program.

Guinn, a 2023 prospect who stands 6-foot-6 and 220 pounds, elected to give a verbal commitment to Illinois just a few days removed from his official visit weekend in Champaign. 

The Vero Beach (Fla.) High School product traveled over 1,000 miles to attend the first Illini Showcase Camp on June 11 and it was fairly obvious from the first few minutes of drill work at the camp why Guinn was willing to make this gamble.

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Recruiting: 2023 Florida WR Lott Pledges To Illinois

Recruiting: 2023 Florida WR Lott Pledges To Illinois

By Kedric Prince - IlliniGuys.com Director of Recruiting

June 27th, 2022

(Cover photo courtesy Kedric Prince/IliniGuys)

The class of 2023 continues to be good to Illinois. Today they received a verbal commitment from speedster Teremun Lott, a 6-foot-0 170-pound wide receiver from West Palm Beach, Florida, who has decided the Midwest is where he wants to play college football.

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Football Recruiting Spotlight - David Olano

Football Recruiting Spotlight - David Olano

Steve Sturm, IlliniGuys Football Analyst

June 26, 2022

Are you a glass half full or a glass half empty type of person? 

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Football Recruiting Spotlight - Pat Farrell

Football Recruiting Spotlight - Pat Farrell

Steve Sturm, IlliniGuys Football Analyst

June 17, 2022

The second of four commitments in the big weekend recruiting bonanza was Edge player Pat Farrell.

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Where Does Illinois Stand In Football Recruiting?

Where Does Illinois Stand In Football Recruiting?

By Kedric Prince - IlliniGuys.com Director of Recruiting

June 25, 2022

(Cover photo courtesy Illinois Athletics)

Some may not want to admit it, but Illinois head football coach Bret Bielema is recruiting at a high-rate for Illinois standards.

The Fighting Illini always seemed to be behind the 8-ball in this category. They have yet to play a game in year two but Illinois is now being talked about with the other teams in the Big Ten's West Division.

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Vetted to Illinois: The Major Sell to Newest Illini 2023 Commit Calvin Smith? The Vet School

Vetted to Illinois: The Major Sell to Newest Illini 2023 Commit Calvin Smith? The Vet School

2023 three-star OLB/DE commit Calvin Smith detailed that beyond football, what made Illinois stand apart from his finalists was the College of Veterinary Medicine. 

By Matt Stevens - IlliniGuys Football Writer/Analyst

June 23, 2022

(Cover photo Calvin Smith's Twitter page)

Calvin Smith has a plan beyond sports and after today’s announcement, the newest verbal commitment to the Illinois football program began to put that plan into action. 

Smith, who is the 12th verbal pledge to the Illini’s 2023 recruiting class, announced his decision to attend Illinois by penning a special edition article to the USA Today Network detailing the factors involved in his recruitment. 

Last season, Smith had 62 total tackles and tied for his team’s lead with 29 solo tackles last season at Ocoee (Fla.) High School - which is approximately 13 miles east of Orlando. Smith, who has also been recorded with a 4.6-second time in the 40-yard-dash and a 35-inch vertical leap, was also second on his team with 10 sacks and 12 quarterback hurries. 

The 6-foot-4, 230-pound edge rusher will be expected to be a factor on the field for Illinois outside linebacker coach Kevin Kane, who was Smith’s primary recruiter along with defensive backs coach Aaron Henry and wide receivers coach George McDonald, as his speed, body type and athleticism all fit within what Illinois defensive coordinator Ryan Walters wants in his 3-4 scheme. 

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Throwback Thursday: Illinois Football rallies from 28-10 deficit to upend Northwestern

Throwback Thursday: Illinois Football rallies from 28-10 deficit to upend Northwestern

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Recruiting: 2023 Defensive End Calvin Smith Pledges To Illinois

Recruiting: 2023 Defensive End Calvin Smith Pledges To Illinois

By Kedric Prince - IlliniGuys.com Director of Recruiting 

June 23rd, 2022

(Cover photo courtesy Daytona Beach New-Journal)

They say you can’t win championships without playing defense, Illinois added another piece to the puzzle today with a commitment from Calvin Smith.

Smith is a 6-foot-4, 230-pound DE from Ocoee, Florida who picked the Illini over schools like Arkansas, Cincinnati, Indiana, Iowa State, Kansas, Nebraska, Penn State, Purdue, Rutgers, Tennessee and Virginia Tech.

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Donovan Leary Finds Spring Work With Nationally-Recognized QB Guru

Donovan Leary Finds Spring Work With Nationally-Recognized QB Guru

Leary is hopeful his spring workouts with ‘Quarterback University’ founder Donovan Dooley has him prepared for his first fall camp this coming August. 

By Matt Stevens - IlliniGuys Football Writer/Analyst

June 22, 2022

(Photos courtesy Chris LaChall/Cherry Hill Courier-Post)

The simple goal for Donovan Leary was to arrive on the Illinois campus this past weekend as physically prepared as possible to begin his quarterback development. 

Despite not being able to graduate early at Timber Creek High School in New Jersey after signing with Illinois during the early period this November, Leary spent the spring months working with private quarterback coach Donovan Dooley on the similar fundamentals that new Illinois offensive coordinator Barry Lunney Jr. will want to see when fall camp opens in early August.

“I’m not easy as Don because he deserves somebody who will coach him hard and get the best out of him,” Dooley said. “In the same line of thinking though, my wish is everybody gets to see how unbelievably physically gifted he actually is.” 

Leary arrived on the Illinois campus on the June 17th weekend and will immediately participate in summer workouts with the Illini football strength and conditioning staff led by Tenarius ‘Tank’ Wright. 

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Mason Muragin Jumps on Fighting Illini Football Commit Band Wagon - Michigan Prep Makes It Official - Pledges to the Illini

Mason Muragin Jumps on Fighting Illini Football Commit Band Wagon - Michigan Prep Makes It Official - Pledges to the Illini

Kedric Prince - IlliniGuys Director of Recruiting 

June 21st, 2022

Weeks ago, IlliniGuys caught up with Mason Muragin, a 6-4 235-pound DE from Warren, MI.

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Recruiting: Camden Hardy’s Scholarship Offer Symbolizes Bielema’s Illini Alumni Mission

Recruiting: Camden Hardy’s Scholarship Offer Symbolizes Bielema’s Illini Alumni Mission

Bret Bielema walked the tightrope of making sure the scholarship offer to Kevin Hardy’s son was on his merit while also making sure dad, the former Illini Hall of Famer, felt welcome. 

By Matt Stevens - IlliniGuys Football Writer/Analyst

June 21, 2022

(Cover photo courtesy Camden Hardy's Twitter page)

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- Following his performance in the second showcase camp, Bret Bielema walked Camden Hardy into his office to offer a scholarship to the 2024 pass rusher prospect knowing this wasn’t a normal conversation.

Bielema’s job on that Thursday afternoon was three-fold. 

The first task was already accomplished because the two-hour on-field work of the 2024 pass rusher prospect from Atlantic Coast High School in Jacksonville, Fla., was easily impressive enough to prove he could play as an outside linebacker in the current Illinois 3-4 system. Camden Hardy, who is 6-foot-2 and 210 pounds, proved the film of his sophomore season where he had 57 tackles, 12 tackles for loss and five sacks while leading Atlantic Coast High School to the Class 7A playoffs with his father, former Butkus Award winner Kevin Hardy as his the position coach, was not deceptive in any way. 

“Honestly, I was not expecting the offer,” Camden Hardy said. “We were first sitting in his office and you know that whole family motto he’s preaching at Illinois? You felt that presence because first of all, he has his office set up like a living room and not an office. Once the offer bomb came from Coach Bielema, a rush of emotion came over me but then, I immediately wondered if this was happening because of my dad.” 

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Football Recruiting Spotlight - TJ McMillen

Football Recruiting Spotlight - TJ McMillen

Steve Sturm, IlliniGuys Football Analyst

June 18, 2022

When I first saw McMillen's film, I wondered if I was really looking at a high school junior because he executes so well from so many positions.

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Recruiting: Illini’s Recent Run of Sunshine State Defensive Backs Continues With Jaheim Clarke’s Commitment

Recruiting: Illini’s Recent Run of Sunshine State Defensive Backs Continues With Jaheim Clarke’s Commitment

Three-star defensive back Jaheim Clarke became the 10th commitment of the Illini’s 2023 recruiting class and second verbal pledge coming out of this weekend. 

Matt Stevens, IlliniGuys Staff Writer and Kedric Prince, IlliniGuys Director of Recruiting

June 19, 2022

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- The Sunshine State of Florida has been very fruitful to the Illinois football program and the commitment of Jaheim Clarke simply adds to that total. 

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