CHAMPAIGN — Three-star recruit Keith Randolph Jr., a strong-side defensive end from Belleville West, on Wednesday signed with Illinois over his No. 2 choice, Michigan State.
The 6-foot-5, 250-pound Randolph had a final five of Big Ten combatants Illinois, Michigan State, Iowa, Indiana and Minnesota. His only two officials visits, however, were to Illinois last weekend and Michigan State the previous weekend.
Randolph resisted late offers from Florida State and Colorado, who entered the game after other prospects committed elsewhere.
"Florida State kind of made me ... I'm not going to say second-guess (my decision), but it made me think, 'If I was to wait until February (to sign), what kind of offers could I get?'" Randolph said after the signing ceremony Belleville West. "But then I realized they're only there because they didn't get the guy they wanted."
Randolph said Illinois' recruiting "never let up." The Illini were the first team from a power conference to make an offer.
"Illinois was on me since day one," Randolph said. "They love me there, and I want to be a hometown hero. (The others) were great programs, too, and I love them for recruiting me."
Illinois defensive line coach Austin Clark was the main recruiter of Smith, although Illini tight ends coach Cory Patterson also was heavily involved. Patterson was the head coach at Trinity Catholic High in St. Louis from 2015-17.
As a senior, Randolph recorded 56 tackles, nine for losses, seven sacks and two fumble recoveries as the Maroons finished 7-3 and reached the Class 7A playoffs. Randolph, who covers 40 yards in 4.9 seconds, is expected to make an immediate impact for the Illini.
"That' s the goal," Randolph said. "If I don't, I'm not going to cry about it. If I do, I'm going to have to step up and play ball."
More help on the defensive line
In his first year as the defensive line coach at Illinois, Austin Clark had strong stable of talent to utilize, led by defensive end Bobby Roundtree.
Last year, the Illini got commitments from Calvin Avery, who played this season, and Verdis Brown, who was an academic redshirt. Both were four-star recruits. Illinois added to that on Wednesday, landing two other defensive linemen, in addition to Randolph.
Three-star signees Seth Coleman, a 6-foot-5, 200-pounder from Melbourne, Fla., and Moses Okpala, who measures at 6-7, 250 pounds from Ladue Hortin Watkins in St. Louis, signed their National Letters of Intent.
Now Clark's defensive line, which returns Roundreee, Avery, Owen Carney Jr., Jamal Milan, Jamal Woods, Isaiah Gay and others, is strengthened.
“These guys are long guys and big athletes, but they can all run," Clark said of the three signees. "That’s the biggest thing. We just don’t want big, stiff, fat guys. We want guys on the edge who can mismatch the tackle and help us out in the pass rush game."
Coleman had 101 tackles, 28 tackles for loss and 13 sacks as a senior at Holy Trinity Episcopal Academy and chose the Illini over Baylor, Navy, Nebraska, Pittsburgh, Rutgers, South Florida, TCU, Utah and Virginia. He's ranked the No. 110 weakside defensive end in the nation by 247Sports.com.
“You know our numbers," Illinois head coach Lovie Smith said. "We felt like we had to add some good football players to that side of the football and we were able to do that."
Okpala is a three-star recruit by all the major recruiting services, and is ranked the No. 37 strong side defensive end in the nation by Rivals and No. 47 by 247Sports.
“We got the exact people we want," said Clark, who was a lead recruiter, said.
“You look at some of the teams we play, like Iowa and Wisconsin, those are big men you’re playing. We targeted size and athletic ability in terms of talent."
Speedy Cumby inks his name
Cumby sent in his signed National Letter of Intent just after 2 p.m. on Wednesday, and immediately brings speed to the Illini.
He has a personal best of 10.38 in the 100-meter dash. Cumby, who is 5-8, 175 pounds, is a three-star running back from Plano, Texas.
Cumby is the No. 16-ranked all-purpose back in the nation, according to 247Sports.com. He rushed for 897 yards on 119 carries with 17 touchdowns as a senior and had 523 receiving yards on 43 receptions and five touchdowns. Illinois held off a late push by Texas Tech to land Cumby.
“Kyron Cumby is one of the fastest guys around. Period," Smith said.
Illinois offensive coordinator Rod Smith said the team doesn't have anyone with 10.38 speed on the roster and could make an immediate impact.
"That’s the good thing about the skill positions is those guys have the ability to play a little quicker than what the other guys do," Rod Smith said.
Bloomington product headed to Champaign
Griffin Moore sent in his signed national letter of intent to the University of Illinois on Wednesday. Soon, possibly as early as Thursday, the Bloomington senior will receive something in return from the Illinois football coaching staff.
The contents will be a workout and weight training program the Illini have in place for Moore, a 6-foot-4, 225-pounder who is projected as a tight end.
“I’ve very excited for it. I’ve been wanting to get on that program for a while and get myself ready for next year,” Moore said following an afternoon signing ceremony at Bloomington. “It’s great to be official now. It’s a relief, but at the same time, now it’s really time to go to work. It’s go time.”
Purple Raiders’ coach Scott Godfrey said Moore has found time to run pass routes since Bloomington's 7-3 playoff season ended.
“He’s getting our guys out there and they’re throwing to him now,” Godfrey said. “I’ve seen him put a lot of time into catching the football. To see him running around and catching the ball, it’s something I can see him doing (at Illinois).”
Moore threw for 1,907 yards and 24 touchdowns this season, setting a school record with 132 completions. He had a 63 percent completion rate with eight interceptions and also ran for 256 yards and seven TDs.
Lovie Smith likes Moore’s athleticism, saying, “We look for good athletes. He played quarterback most of the time, he’s an excellent basketball player and a good student.”
“Griffin is also close by, a local guy, which adds a little bit different flavor to it,” Smith added. “We’re excited about having him join the team.”
Rod Smith, who called Moore “Big Griff,” predicted Moore is “naturally going to be able to morph into that position (tight end) and upgrade that position.”
Illinois tight ends coach Cory Patterson is eager to get started.
“I can’t wait to get Griffin in. He’s my guy," Patterson said. "He’s more physical than people think he is, but he’s cerebral. He knows the game. I think we’re going to be able to get a lot out of Griffin.”
Washington helps receiving group
When Rod Smith and Co. saw receiver Casey Washington, a three-star signee from Pflugerville, Texas, in camp against prospects who were rated higher, he never saw Washington back down.
That was an attractive trait.
“Not only did he not back down, he won most of the battles when he went against people," Rod Smith said. "We really like Casey. We think he’s going to be really good for our wide receiver group."
Washington had 42 receptions for 565 yards and five touchdowns last season, and verbally committed to Illinois in July 2018.
An emphasis on winning
Illinois is trying to foster a culture of winning in the program. It was an emphasis for Lovie Smith's staff to find players who have experience winning.
Quarterback Isaiah Williams and Okpala both won state championships as seniors and cornerback Marquez Beason will play in a Texas state championship game this weekend.
Running back Nick Fedanzo from Lombard Montini was a runner-up in November's Class 5A state championship. He rushed for 186 yards and three touchdowns in that game, and is ranked the No. 81 running back in the nation, and the No. 25 recruit in Illinois by 247Sports.
Offensive lineman Evan Kirts, a 6-5, 250-pounder from Chicago Brother Rice also led his team to the IHSA state championship at Memorial Stadium in November, finishing as a runner up in Class 8A.
“When you talk about our top athletes coming in right now, we want champions and guys who know how to win," Lovie Smith said.
Defensive back signee Joseph Thompson was on the 2017 Class 5A Chicago Phillips state championship team.
-David Wilhelm of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and Randy Kindred of the Bloomington Pantagraph contributed to this story.