There isn't enough money.
If Ron Zook is cheating his backside off, there isn't enough cash at Illinois to make his current recruiting class possible. Your average shifty booster would go broke bankrolling the top 10 class Illinois' coach has assembled.
|Sure, Ron Zook can recruit, but will he be around long enough for the reward? (US Presswire)|
Meanwhile, Zook has landed more five-star recruits than Ohio State, Oklahoma, Penn State and LSU -- combined.
Getting maybe one or two blue-chip guys, that would send up a red flare over the central Illinois cornfields. That would indicate they had taken the money. But Zook has gotten big-time commitments across the board, across the country. Everywhere from Virginia to Montreal to Ohio to Illinois.
He has recruited Chicago better than Bruce Webber.
And all he is offering, apparently, is playing time.
"I think he's just done a hell of a job," said Jeremy Crabtree, national recruiting editor for rivals.com. "I've yet to hear anyone in the Big Ten or elsewhere say he's cheating, and you hear those types of things."
The news is not that the man can recruit. It's that he can continue to do so away from Florida. Zook recruited core members of Florida's two national championship teams, in 1996 and 2006. Both times, he had left the program by the time his talent matured.
There is a lot of fermenting that will have to place in Champaign. Illinois is coming off a 2-10 season, which preceded 2-9 in Zook's first season.
He came riding back into Gainesville from the NFL after the best decade of Gator football in history. Four years later, he was run out of town because the decade's excellence was not extended. That momentum carried him to the top of the recruiting charts but not the SEC East.
Illinois at least has been tolerant. If he goes 23-14 in the next four years, Zook will be elected mayor or Champaign. At Florida, it got him fired.
The only constant is that he can pull talent.