By Matt Stevens - IlliniGuys Football Writer/Analyst
December 15, 2021
(Cover photo courtesy TC Palm)
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- Bret Bielema’s Illini football staff had a surprise ready for National Signing Day as they pulled off a commitment early in the morning.
Gabriel Jacas, a three-star pass rusher from Fort Pierce, Fla., officially flipped his verbal pledge on the first day of the early signing period from Tulane to Illinois. Jacas announced his decision at Fort Pierce Central High School Wednesday morning and officially signed his National Letter-of-Intent to become a member of the Illini’s 2022 signing class.
Jacas, a 246-pound edge rusher who will fit nicely as an outside linebacker in the Illini’s 3-4 defensive scheme, selected the Illini over offers from Tennessee, Mississippi State, South Florida, Florida International and Georgia Southern.
Jacas had 31 tackles, seven tackles for loss and three sacks for Fort Pierce Central High School this past fall. The primary recruiters on Jacas on the Illini staff were outside linebackers coach Kevin Kane and cornerbacks coach Aaron Henry.
Jacas took an official visit to Illinois two weeks ago and spent this past weekend at Tennessee but never ultimately decided to renounce the previous verbal pledge he made to Tulane back in July.
After losing out on pass-rushing specialist Brian Allen Jr. and Alabama defensive end Terrell Jones in this recruiting class, Jacas fills an immediate need as a ready-made pass rusher out of high school. Jacas is an acclaimed amateur and high school wrestler and clearly shows in his senior high film the ability to use his hand technique to get past offensive tackles and has the strength to be a disruptive force with the proper technique at the position.
The question in Jacas’ development is whether this staff sees him as an outside linebacker or possibly grow into a defensive lineman in a similar way to the work Keith Randolph did in the weight room to be 300 pounds by fall camp this past August on the way to being a productive edge rusher.
While Jacas never renounced his previous verbal commitment, the only three schools with hats on the table Wednesday morning for the pass rusher were Illinois, Tennessee and South Florida. After his visit to Tennessee, Jacas didn’t speak publicly to any media as he debated his college choice but ultimately provided a huge win for Bielema and his staff to pull a three-star pass rusher from the Sunshine State after having offered the prospect just two months ago.
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