The Oklahoma Sooners made a splash in St. Louis in the 2018 recruiting cycle, earning signatures from blue-chip defensive linemen Ronnie Perkins (Lutheran North) and Michael Thompson (Parkway North). That momentum appeared to be carrying over into the 2019 class in a big way, but OU may be facing a temporary roadblock in the form of an unlikely recruiting foe — the Illinois Fighting Illini. This became abundantly clear on Friday morning when five-star athlete and OU target Isaiah Williams released this video on Twitter:
Now, part of what came into play here is that he’ll apparently be getting a look at QB, but the biggest factor here is a man by the name of Cory Patterson. Patterson was named the tight ends coach at Illinois back in January after spending three successful seasons as the head coach at Trinity Catholic High School (which is the school Williams currently attends), and he’s well respected by players and coaches alike throughout the area. Illinois had already begun to make a small amount of noise on the trail with the last recruiting cycle, but this move is already shaping up to be a bit of a game-changer — or at least a noise-maker — as far as the current class is concerned in St. Louis and elsewhere. For more on Patterson, Williams and Illinois, check out this article from SB Nation’s Alex Kirshner.
If you follow recruiting on Twitter, you may have also seen the #Littyville hashtag that has been going around. It was inspired by a Meek Mill track and has become synonymous with the Illinois recruiting efforts as of late. In a way, it’s sort of a reflection of how hot they seem to be at the moment in the eyes of prospects. And that hype isn’t necessarily restricted to St. Louis, as blue-chip Dallas athlete and longtime OU target Marquez Beason is also on board with Lovie Smith’s program at the moment.
By no means is that anything that should cause Oklahoma’s staff or fan base panic, but it’ll be an interesting storyline on which to keep a close eye. Why? Well, because the Illini appear to be a threat — albeit a short-term threat — to the recent headway OU has made in the St. Louis area. Oklahoma has long been a major player for four-star linebacker Shammond Cooper (Trinity Catholic), four-star safety Jalani Williams (Parkway North) and three-star offensive lineman Jack Buford (Lutheran North) — all of whom have been received a sizable push from the Illinois staff. While the Illini didn’t make the most recent cut for Jalani Williams, they’re still on the radar of Cooper and Buford.
These two players happen to be some of Oklahoma’s most important targets at their respective positions. Cooper, an inside linebacker, was considered an OU lean for good period of time, and that was particularly true following the February Junior Day. However, the momentum seems to be shifting a bit, at least in the eyes of some recruiting experts. While OU will have every opportunity to do what it can to secure a signature (and I believe they will in the end), the Sooners appear to have some legitimate competition in a race that didn’t look particularly close a few weeks ago.
In the case of Buford, Missouri seems to be a slightly bigger threat than Illinois at the moment. However, you typically expect Missouri to be at least somewhat of a factor with a good chunk of St. Louis kids. Now that Illinois is sort of starting to gain traction in the city (which is located less than three hours away from the Urbana-Champaign campus) with the blue-chip guys, it makes things slightly more complicated for the big-time programs that regularly try to poach prospects from an area that has grown increasingly rich in high school football talent.
Anyway, it’ll be interesting to see if OU is able to match what it did during the last recruiting cycle in St. Louis. For a while it looked like almost a certainty, but time will tell if this Illinois buzz has any sort of staying power. Frankly, I’m not buying it. These guys will see what happens on the football field in 2018, which will likely serve as a bit of a rude awakening (we all remember what happened with Kansas and the New Orleans kids). Nonetheless, it’ll be interesting to see what happens as we gradually inch closer to the early signing period.