Illinois Football: Aaron Antoniou’s goals for his Illini visit

Nov 28, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; The Illinois Fighting Illini seniors salute the crowd prior to a game against the Northwestern Wildcats at Soldier Field. Northwestern won 24-14. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 28, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; The Illinois Fighting Illini seniors salute the crowd prior to a game against the Northwestern Wildcats at Soldier Field. Northwestern won 24-14. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports /

There are quite a few recruits visiting the Illinois football team this weekend. This is huge for the Illini so they can potentially land a big-time class for 2018 and beyond.

Developing a great relationship with these recruits is huge as well. They are coming up to get another look at the campus and to get a view of the Illini spring practice. There was a reason to Lovie’s madness of starting spring practice so early this year. Recruits are available to come and visit.

Illinois has practice No. 4 starting today at 11 AM central time and this is a great opportunity for the recruits to see what is being built up in Champaign. One of the recruits that has his eye on the Illini is Aaron Antoniou. He is a linebacker from the prestigious IMG Academy.

Antoniou is one of many recruits who is visiting the Illini this weekend in hopes of getting some of his questions answered. They need to develop that bond with the program so they know when they leave home they are going to a place that is the closest thing to it.

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None of the recruiting services have Antoniou ranked but that is likely because it is too early in the process and he hasn’t had a chance for exposure yet. He just recently transferred down to IMG this semester and will have an opportunity to break out this fall. I am thinking he might be a sleeper that Lovie and the coaching staff are eyeing and potentially jumping on early.

IMG will hopefully turn into a pipeline for the Illini in the coming years. They hired their defensive coordinator, Donnie Abraham, to be the new safeties coach so that should help recruiting somewhat. The Illini are also recruiting some solid talent from the program as well.

In addition to Antoniou visiting this weekend, he also told us that safety Houston Griffith is also coming up as well. These two would make for a dominating defense for the Illini and I hope we can snag them both. Developing a good relationship with IMG is important for the future and having these two come up and hiring their defensive coordinator is a huge step. I asked Antoniou about Coach Abraham and what his experience was with the coach.

"“I just recently transferred (to IMG) this semester so, unfortunately, I didn’t get to be under him for very long. But, Coach A is well respected by every person at my school, and all the players miss him already,” says Antoniou, “he ran our whole defense and was an unbelievable football player even at the professional level. His expertise is perfect for a Big Ten school like Illinois.”"

This is a raving review from a player who wasn’t lucky enough to get to spend much time with Abraham. I can’t imagine what his players and other coaches would say about this talented up-and-coming coach. The future is bright for the Illini. Antoniou is hoping his future is bright as well. He is really in the infancy stages of his recruitment and there is a lot of work left to do.

Antoniou is in Champaign right now visiting with Illinois for their spring practice. When asked about his goals for the visit this weekend he came back with a simple but effective plan.

"“My goals are to improve my relations with Coach Smith, as well as the other coaches I’m in contact with,” said Antoniou, “they are coming to watch me play this spring at IMG, so I want them to be well aware of me and hopefully, they will offer (a scholarship) soon.”"

The goal might be simple for Antoniou but it is important. Developing a great relationship with the coaching staff is half the battle and I think he can be a great asset to this team. He now needs to play well and I think he has the abilities from what I have watched on tape. He is also getting some attention from other programs as well, despite not being offered a scholarship yet.

Antoniou is going to be visiting Miami (OH), Toledo, Bowling Green, Colgate, Indiana, and several Florida programs as well. All of these visits are coming before his talents can be shown to the world at IMG. His recruitment is one to watch to see if it starts blowing up toward the summer.

Next: Lovie Smith is Building Bridge to IMG Academy

This weekend is important for the class of 2018 and beyond. These recruits need to see that Illinois is a great destination for football and school. Getting players like Antoniou and the others will be huge for this program because I honestly feel like the Illini are on the verge of being a perennial competitor again.