The Smith Center is having a major impact in recruiting 

By Kedric Prince – Director of Recruiting

July 7, 2021

Courtesy Illinois Football

Build it and they will come!

And, in Illinois' case, they will be impressed too!

It's hard to believe that the $79 million Smith Football Center is just shy of two years old, but - because of the pandemic - it might as well be brand spanking new.  The crown jewel of the long-struggling football program was barely broken in when COVID-19 forced campuses to shut down - and prohibited recruits from making college visits.  But new head coach Bret Bielema and his staff are taking full advantage of their fantastic toy.

Illini coaches wasted no time getting recruits on campus and on tours of their state-of-the-art training facility as soon as restrictions were lifted June 1st.  And it has paid off with a number of commitments in the past month.

And there will be more to come.  Take Joshua Leff, for example. A 6-foot, 170-pound punter from the class of 2022 is considered to be one of the best in the country at his specialty.

Leff's recent trip to Illinois left him in awe and he loved his time on campus.

"The visit went awesome! Facilities are one of the best in the county and the coaching staff is unbelievable! They are building something very special there, and the culture there is amazing. It was awesome," Leff said.

Kickers win and lose games and most colleges hold off on offers, but Leff is pretty special.

"I don’t have any offers yet but have had 10 visits with P5 schools this past month and should be hearing back from them soon. I hope Illinois will be one of them; it's all so exciting," Leff said.

The list of schools Leff has visited are remarkable: UCLA, Iowa State, Wisconsin, NC State, Boston College, Syracuse, Northwestern and Virginia, among others.

Illinois Athletic Director Josh Whitman is fully aware that where kids play matters. He doesn't want to lose players because other programs can offer better facilities.

Leff immediately brought the Smith Center back up: "All of the schools I have visited have amazing facilities, but Illinois is on top!"

Leff said he would work out for Nevada at the end of July before sitting down to evaluate things, but did say, "If Illinois offered, they would be at the top for me because you get the whole package: big-time football and a great education."

Per Leff's Twitter account after working out with coaches (Greg) Froelich and (Ben) Miller:  “My first punt is a 5.0 hang 60 yards directional left outside the numbers punting from the 10-yard line landing on the other 15! The second punt is a 4.8 landing on the numbers.”

Please follow me on Twitter @KedPrince4.



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