Illinois Football: Illini add big-time JUCO WR to class of 2024

Illinois football added to the family this week with a commitment from a big junior college recruit.

Entering Monday, the Illini had the No. 49 ranked class in the country with 17 commitments. That is a solid start to the class of 2024, but there has been a lot of recruiting movement lately.

Bret Bielema and the Illinois coaching staff know they need to add more young talent and pepper in multiple transfer portal players, whether via the JUCO ranks or from another FBS program.

On Tuesday night, Illinois was able to land another talented recruit for the class of 2024 in the form of Mario Sanders II.

Sanders is a 5-foot-10, 190-pound wide receiver from Iowa Central Community College. He is originally from Minnesota, though. Sanders is rated as a three-star recruit and ranked as the No. 26 JUCO player in the class of 2024. He is also the No. 5 JUCO wide receiver in the country and the No. 2 JUCO player coming out of Minnesota.

Plenty of teams were eyeing Sanders, but after an official visit this past weekend, the JUCO wide receiver decided to end his recruitment and make Champaign his new home.

Illinois football needed to secure more depth at the wide receiver position

Sanders is currently having a big year for Iowa Central CC. He currently has 70 receptions for 926 yards and 12 touchdowns in 10 games of action. His production has enabled Iowa Central CC to rattle off five wins in the past six games.

Landing a player like Sanders is going to help the Illinois offense tremendously. The Illini wide receiver corps is about to get thinner, and Sanders should get a chance to compete or even start from day one.

Casey Washington is the only Illinois wide receiver who will depart after the season, as he is a senior. With the way Isaiah Williams is playing, it wouldn’t shock me to see him head to the NFL after the 2023 season wraps up either.

Those would be two huge losses for the Illini. There is a chance Illinois loses a player or two to the transfer portal just purely based on the nature of college football.

Illinois does have some nice pieces moving forward, though. Malik Elzy is going to be a superstar. I like what Hank Beatty brings to the table. Pat Bryant was the highest-rated wide receiver in the country this past week by Pro Football Focus. There is talent on the roster.

The addition of Sanders adds depth to the Illinois wide receiver corps. We need play-makers from top to bottom, and Sanders gives that to the Illini.