Illinois football adding great size, strength, and speed with Ohio edge rusher

The Illinois football team landed a nice surprise last week, as a three-star edge rusher announced he will be joining the Illini in 2025
Illinois v Iowa
Illinois v Iowa / Matthew Holst/GettyImages

Head coach Bret Bielema and the Illinois football program bolstered its future depth on the edge last week.

2025 three-star edge rusher Erik Gayle announced on social media that he was backing away from his commitment to the University of Cincinnati and was, instead, committing to the Illini.

Gayle is a 6-foot-3, 215-pound edge rusher, ranked the No. 51 prospect out of Ohio and No. 69 in the nation at his position. Aside from the Illini and Cincinnati, Gayle also held offers from Akron, Boston College, and Bowling Green.

Illinois football commit Erik Gayle shows no mercy on the football field

Two traits immediately stuck out to me when watching Gayle's tape; his ability to shrug off offensive linemen, and his impact on hits. The Ohio native shows no mercy – making the most out of every single hit. I should also note he is very quick in pursuit and has the ability to drop back into coverage.

All of these traits; his strength, size, and speed, will allow him to fit in just well in the Big Ten – which, by the way, will now include high-powered offenses such as Oregon, USC, UCLA, and Washington.

Gayle's commitment comes as a bit of a relief after what's been a rough offseason for the Illini – especially on the defensive side of the ball. The Orange and Blue losing some key names to the transfer portal, including former three-star outside linebacker, Trey Smith.

The Illini's 2025 class now ranks No. 55 in the nation and No. 16 in the Big Ten. The class is headlined by fellow three-star edge rusher Cameron Brooks.

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