Five junior college players are at the top of the class, led by 4-star defensive lineman Jihad Ward. Beckman is hoping Ward and the rest of the JUCO group will be able to contribute immediately.
"We needed some immediate depth - some immediate impact," Beckman said. "I think that's why they chose Illinois. They know they can make an impact in our program quickly."
Beckman added ten defensive players, including four defensive lineman. That should help bolster a unit that was among the worst in the Big Ten last year. Illinois also added some skill position players on offense, including four receivers and a running back. Only five of the team's 18 recruits are from the state of Illinois. Beckman says he would like that number to be higher.
"That's our goal. We can't get them all," Beckman said. "Not all of them fit in our program. We understand that. But we also understand it is very, very important."
One of the in-state players who decided to stay home and play for Illinois is Springfield (SHG) wide receiver Malik Turner. The three-star recruit signed his National Letter of Intent on Wednesday, and he stressed the importance of playing for Illinois.
"It's great to stay here," Turner said. "Everybody that has watched me grow up as a player and as a man can come see me play. To have that support here is special."
Turner will be one of a number of freshmen hoping to contribute immediately. Turner, along with fellow wide receivers Geronimo Allison, Mike Dudek and Tyrin-Stone Davis could all compete for playing time on a unit depleted by graduation.
"One of the big reasons I went there is I know I have a better chance of getting involved in the offense early," Turner said. "So it's really what I make of it there, and how I progress in the offense and learn it."
As for how the class ranks, the experts say it is among the lowest in the new 14-team Big Ten. Rivals and 247 Sports rank the class as 13th out of 14 in the conference. Scout.com ranks the class at the bottom of the league. Some of that has to do with the fact that Illinois signed fewer players (18) than many of the other schools.
Here's the full list of signees, as provided by the University of Illinois.
|2014 University of Illinois Football Signees (18)|
|Name||Pos.||Ht.||Wt.||Hometown/High School/Last College|
|Nick Allegretti||OL||6-4||300||Frankfort, Ill. / Lincoln-Way East HS|
|Geronimo Allison *||WR||6-3||185||Tampa, Fla. / Spoto HS / Iowa Western CC|
|Chayce Crouch *||QB||6-4||225||Granville, Ohio / Newark Catholic HS|
|Peter Cvijanovic *||OL||6-6||280||Concord Township, Ohio / Benedictine HS / East Coast Prep|
|Matt Domer||RB||5-11||190||Hazel Crest, Ill. / Mount Carmel HS|
|Mike Dudek *||WR||5-11||180||Naperville, Ill. / Neuqua Valley HS|
|Joe Fotu *||DL||6-3||275||San Leandro, Calif. / San Leandro HS / Laney Community College|
|Julian Hylton||DB||6-0||190||Tinley Park, Ill. / Lincoln-Way North HS|
|Chris James||DB||5-11||185||Orange, Texas / West Orange-Stark HS|
|Paul James III *||DL||6-3||240||Miami, Fla. / Norland HS|
|Henry McGrew||LB||6-3||235||Overland Park, Kan. / Blue Valley HS|
|Tito Odenigbo||DL||6-3||275||Centerville, Ohio / Centerville HS|
|Carroll Phillips||LB||6-3||225||Miami, Fla. / Miami Central HS/Coiah Lincoln CC|
|Austin Roberts||LB||6-2||220||Rice Lake, Wis. / Rice Lake HS|
|Tyrin Stone-Davis||WR||6-3||195||Philadelphia, Pa. / Mastbaum Area VTS / Pierce College (Calif.)|
|Malik Turner||WR||6-3||205||Springfield, Ill. / Sacred Heart-Griffin HS|
|Jihad Ward||DL||6-6||285||Philadelphia, Pa. / Edward Bok Vo-Tech HS / Globe Tech (NY)|
|Tre Watson||LB||6-2||240||Tampa, Fla. / Tampa Catholic HS|
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