New Illinois football coach targets St. Louis talent as a priority

2011-12-14T22:25:00Z 2011-12-15T14:44:21Z New Illinois football coach targets St. Louis talent as a priorityBy Nate Latsch |
December 14, 2011 10:25 pm  • 

New Illinois football coach Tim Beckman can remember as a young boy when he accompanied his father, Dave, then an assistant coach at Iowa, to recruit a player out of East St. Louis.

Now, less than a week after being named the 23rd football coach at Illinois, that is a trip Beckman will have the opportunity to make as the head coach of the Illini.

"We draw a four-hour radius around the city of Champaign, and we consider that the Illini Nation, the area we're going to recruit first and foremost, and St. Louis happens to be in that area," Beckman said Wednesday. "It is going to be heavily recruited and a big priority for us."

Beckman said that is a strategy he used during three seasons as head coach at Toledo, where he won eight games in each of the past two seasons.

"As you'll see, we'll work extremely hard in recruiting," he said. "It's the lifeline of your program, and, of course, it's the most important part. It's about fit. It's not about just going out and PR'ing. It's about making sure you have a great fit with your program, and that's what you're looking for."

What is the right fit?

"A winner," Beckman said. "A guy that is going to come in and do all facets of being a student-athlete, academically strong, and a guy that knows how to win and a guy that wants to work to be the best he can be as a Division I football player."

Former Illinois coach Ron Zook nabbed some notable players out of St. Louis, including running back Jason Ford (Althoff) and defensive back Terry Hawthorne (East St. Louis), but those were the only scholarship players from the St. Louis area on the Illini roster this season.


Keith Jones will be busy in January.

The McCluer North senior defensive lineman is down to five schools -- Marshall, Kansas, Tennessee-Martin, Grambling State and Murray State -- and plans to take official visits to each of those schools in January.

"I'm excited about seeing what the schools are like," said Jones, who is 6 feet 2 and 281 pounds.

Jones, who played left tackle and defensive tackle for the Stars but is being recruited as a defensive lineman, said he has scholarship offers from all five schools.

Jones had a strong senior season. He finished with 50 tackles, including 19 for loss, and a team-high 13 sacks to go along with one interception, one fumble recovery and one touchdown.


Ladue wide receiver Jehu Chesson is expected to make a decision soon after recently narrowing his choices to Michigan, Iowa and Northwestern.

Chesson (6-3, 185) caught 53 passes for 757 yards, an average of 14.3 yards per reception, and six touchdowns as a senior. He also scored twice on returns.

Chesson is one of three uncommitted prospects among the top 10 players on the Post-Dispatch Super 30 list of senior prospects. The two others are Edwardsville defensive tackle Vincent Valentine and East St. Louis quarterback Lamontiez Ivy.


DeSmet sophomore offensive lineman Andy Bauer recently received a scholarship offer from Boston College.

A 6-5, 300-pounder who played right tackle this season, Bauer also has received offers from Missouri and Miami (Fla.). He recently took an unofficial visit to Wisconsin and watched the Badgers defeat Penn State.


Collinsville's J'Vaughn Williams committed to Western Illinois last week.

Williams (6-5, 195) completed 115 of 215 passes for 1,386 yards, with 10 touchdowns and eight interceptions. He added one rushing touchdown.

As a junior, he completed 45.7 percent of his passes for 556 yards, five touchdowns and two interceptions in part-time duty. He also caught eight passes for 168 yards.


St. Louis U. High senior Stefan Sansone recently picked up a scholarship offer from Southeast Missouri State.

Sansone (6-1, 180) was one of the area's more productive receivers the past two seasons. He caught 56 passes for 1,026 yards, an average of 18.3 per catch, and 16 touchdowns and scored three times on returns. As a junior he caught 68 passes for 1,010 yards and scored 11 touchdowns.

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