Tim Beckman and the Fighting Illini continue to look to the JUCO ranks to plug some holes on their roster. Illinois picked up a commitment from defensive end Joe Fotu from Laney College in Oakland (Calif.).
Beckman recently made a trip to visit the California JUCOs, and it paid off with Fotu pledging on Tuesday. Fotu is the third commitment for Illinois from the Cali junior college ranks, joining twin brother Tyree and Tyrin Stone-Davis of Pierce C.C.
The Illini will likely play Fotu (6-foot-3, 275 pounds) at strong side defensive end, a spot vacated by the graduating senior Tim Kynard. Fotu will battle junior to be Kenny Nelson and sophomore Jarrod Clements for playing time.
Fotu made his way to Laney College via San Leandro High School in the San Francisco area, where he was a unanimous all-conference selection at defensive end and tight end. Beckman and defensive line coach Greg Coby headed up his recruitment to Illinois.
Fotu is set to sign his letter of intent this week; mid-year junior college transfers can sign beginning Dec. 18. He plans to be at Illinois in January for the spring semester and will participate in spring drills.
Decisions on tap
Illini may not be done recruiting junior college players in the 2014 class. Still on the radar are defensive ends Jonathan Johnson and Dalyou Pierson, and defensive tackle Jihad Ward.
Ward and Jonathan are both expected to make their college decision this week. For Ward, it's coming down to South Florida, West Virginia, and Illinois. The 6-foot-7, 280 pound DT from Globe Tech (NY) raved about a recent visit to Champaign.
"I felt the love at Illinois," Ward said. "They treat everyone there like family. There's nothing selfish about them and it's not just playing football. I had a good time talking to the coaches, and they explained how I would fit on the team. I could see myself being an Illini."
The Illini are in the final three for Johnson, who plays at Pierce C.C, along with Cal and Arizona State. Johnson would play the hybrid "Leo" position at Illinois. He is currently committed to ASU.
"I like the defense that they run," Johnson said about Illinois. "I play defensive end at Pierce. It's about the same as the Leo position. My season went good. I won defensive player of the year for my conference and I had 15 sacks."
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