CHAMPAIGN, Illinois — Illinois might have had the strangest recruiting season of any major school in the country, and coach Bill Cubit and his staff had to scramble to fill out a class.
A half-dozen players decommitted after the school removed the interim tag from Cubit's title and gave him only a two-year contract.
Cubit and his staff wound up filling most of those open spots and bringing in a class of 25 players that is light on home-state players (just two, compared to five from Florida) but is still ranked higher than Big Ten rivals Indiana, Rutgers and Purdue. He said the team still has "a couple" of scholarships available.
The departure of linebackers Mason Monheim to graduation and T.J. Neal to a transfer left the Illini bare at the position, but 6-1, 230-pound Dele Harding should help fill that need.
Illinois could also address what for several years has been sometimes painfully inconsistent place-kicking with the addition of James McCourt, one of the top kickers in the country despite a background in rugby.
Other things to know:
Top 25 Class: No
Best in class: Dele Harding, LB, Elkton, Maryland.
Best of the rest: Zarrian Holcombe, TE, Houston; Eli Peters, QB, Jacksonville, Florida, already enrolled; James McCourt, K, Parkland, Florida.
Late addition: Izon Pulley, DL, Olney, Maryland. Cubit expects he will be a defensive end and could play soon.
One that got away: Several players recently decommitted amid the turmoil in the program, among them Tre Johnson, OL, Orlando, Florida, who chose Miami.
How they'll fit in: After playing essentially without tight ends last fall, Illinois signed three players at the position, including Holcombe, one of the top 40 or so in the country. If he can play right away, that could be a big help to the Illini attack. Also important will be the 13 defensive players and whether they can add much-needed depth.
For the full list: http://www.fightingillini.com/