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July 10, 2006

Depth dominates Illinois

Depth and quality are two words that local observers use to describe the class of 2007 in the state of Illinois.

With elite players like five-star defensive end Martez Wilson and four-star running back Robert Hughes, the Rivals.com Illinois top 30 is packed with some good top-level talent but also plenty of good players that should make college coaches happy.

"This class overall is deeper this year compared to last year, but then again last year might have been one of the worst from a depth standpoint in many, many years," Rivals.com Illinois analyst Tim O'Halloran of EdgyTim.com.

"I think this is a kind of a MAC year for the state. Obviously we have a handful of top notch kids like Hughes and Wilson, but the overall depth in this year's class should keep the rosters of teams in the MAC and the Big 10 filled with good quality talent. Overall when it shakes in February, we're going to find out that it's going to be a better year than most people expected early on."

The Rivals.com Illinois top 30 starts at the top with Wilson, the five-star defensive end from Chicago. Wilson was always going to be a highly-thought of player and a heavily recruited prospect. But he attended the NIKE Camp and several other events during the spring evaluation period that put his name on the national map.

In a short amount of time, he went from a national recruit to a five-star national recruit.

"Wilson was originally the No. 3 player in my rankings, but now he's No. 1," O'Halloran said. "That's the case because he went out and earned it. He went to NIKE and other camps and he was not afraid to show what he's capable of doing.

"He exploded after NIKE. If you're a top-level kid you should not be afraid to prove it, and he did that this spring."

At No. 2 on the list is Iowa offensive line commitment Bryan Bulaga. He's followed by Hughes at No. 3, running back Dale Martin at No. 4 and defensive tackle Josh Brent at No. 5. All of those players are ranked as four-star players.

"I think Hughes is going to have a huge season," O'Halloran said. "He's going to play on a great team with plenty of talent around him. He's going to open even more eyes with early senior tape. You're going to see a different player and he could shoot up the charts even more."

Purdue has done a nice job in Illinois so far this season, snagging two solid commitments. Defensive end Nick Mondek is the No. 20 player and he's heading to Purdue. He'll be joined by the No. 22 player, running back Dan Dierking. Both are three-star prospects.

Illinois has snagged one commitment from the list - offensive tackle Mike Garrity at No. 15 - but expect the Illini to continue to mine their own backyard. Northwestern has two pledges on the list - offensive tackle Colin Armstrong at No. 17 and defensive end Kevin Watt at No. 21.

The Rivals.com Illinois top 30


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