By Matt Stevens - IlliniGuys Football Writer/Analyst
June 30, 2021
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- Ashton Hollins now has the opportunity to be an historical footnote in the history of football at the University of Illinois.
In the entire history of the Illini program, no player arriving to Champaign directly from a Mississippi high school has ever earned a letter with the orange and blue. Justin Sanders, a defensive back for Ron Zook’s Illini from 2006-07 who signed out of Northeast Mississippi Community College, is the only letterwinner in Illinois football history with ties to the Magnolia State.
Hollins, with his verbal pledge to Bret Bielema’s first full recruiting class at Illinois on Wednesday afternoon, has the chance to break through that barrier at Memorial Stadium. Hollins, a 6-foot-4 and 170-pound athlete from George County High School in Lucedale, Miss., became the 11th verbal commitment to the Illini’s 2022 recruiting class.
Hollins arrived in Champaign this past weekend for an official visit and left the campus with his first scholarship offer from a Division I football program. Just three days following the offer, Hollins announced his intention to play at Illinois.
Hollins spent last fall at Mary G. Montgomery High School in Azalea, Ala., but has already shown his athletic ability on the football field at his new school by accounting for a pair of touchdowns in George County’s spring game in May.
Hollins, who was primarily recruited by Illinois wide receiver coach George McDonald, is expected to be placed at outside receiver and joins the duo of three-star Illinois prospects Eian Pugh and Hank Beatty as pass-catching receiver threats already committed to the Illini.
McDonald, who was a four-year letterwinner at receiver for the Illini from 1995-98 and completed his Illinois football career with 57 receptions for 589 yards and four touchdowns, is looking to revamp the talent depletion at outside receiver as the Illini will open fall camp in August with just 23 receptions at wide receiver returning from the previous season and only 14 of those (Brian Hightower with 11 and Dalevon Campbell with three) came from an outside receiver.
(Cover photo courtesy al.com)
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