CHAMPAIGN, Illinois — Illinois on Wednesday added the highest-rated signing class since Tim Beckman became coach before the 2012 season, including a couple of big, late names that made it stronger.
Running back Ke'Shawn Vaughn of Nashville, Tennessee, and Chicago defensive lineman Jamal Milan chose Illinois this week. Vaughn had weighed interest from Purdue, West Virginia and Louisville.
"We had been talking to those young men last night. You had a good feeling that these young men were joining us today," Beckman said.
Beckman said the team's December trip to the Heart of Dallas Bowl helped strengthen the class. Illinois (6-7) hadn't been to a bowl game since the 2011 season.
"Kids came in, visited us in December, they're watching us practice," something teams not in bowls couldn't do at that point, he said. "I think also, everybody wants to be around winning. We all do."
After three years of fielding questions about his team's struggles Beckman also challenged news media to provide more positive coverage.
"I'm going to put it on you. What are you saying?" Beckman said to reporters gathered at Memorial Stadium. "How important is the University of Illinois to you? Because It's very, very important to us."
Illinois signed 25 players. The group includes six offensive linemen and four defensive backs. The Illini have been thin in both areas in recent seasons.
Top 25 Class: No. Rivals.com ranks Illinois' class 46th in the country and sixth in the 14-team Big Ten.
Best in class: Ke'Shawn Vaughn, RB from Nashville, Tennessee
Best of the rest: Gabe Megginson, OL, Jacksonville, Illinois; Jamal Milan, DL, Chicago; Patrick Nelson, DB, Chicago.
Late addition: Vaughn, Milan and DB Cameron Watkins of Madison, Tennessee
One that got away: Dominic Sheppard, LB, Miami, Florida, committed to Virginia.
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