Lovie Smith, Illinois land five-star quarterback in 2019 recruiting class

Considering Illinois has gone 5-19 in Lovie Smith's two seasons in Champaign, it's hard to believe the idea that things are trending in the right direction with the Illini, but a quick glance at the team's 2019 recruiting class could change your mind.

On Friday morning, Isaiah Williams, a five-star athlete out of St. Louis' Trinity Catholic High School committed to Illinois. Williams is listed as the No. 28 player nationally in 247Sports' composite rankings, and the No. 1 player in the state of Missouri.

He chose Illinois over offers from schools like Alabama, Auburn, Clemson, Florida State, LSU, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oklahoma and a whole bunch of others. The point is just about everybody in the country wanted Williams, and he chose Illinois.

Which, on the surface, seems like an odd decision, but it's one that's more easily explained if we take a closer look.

First of all, Williams is listed as an athlete, but plays quarterback in high school. He wants to continue playing QB in college, but a lot of the schools that were offering him a scholarship planned on using him as a slot receiver, or possibly on defense. Illinois is planning to play him at QB. Lovie Smith let offensive coordinator Garrick McGee go following the 2017 season and replaced him with Arizona's Rod Smith. Smith was the co-offensive coordinator at Arizona last season with Khalil Tate. Smith was also the QB coach at Michigan and West Virginia as part of Rich Rodriguez's staff where he coached the likes of Denard Robinson and Pat White.

Illinois is hoping Smith can have that same kind of success with Williams in Champaign.

Also, at the time Illinois hired Rod Smith, it made another hire in bringing Cory Patterson on board to coach tight ends. Patterson came to Illinois from Trinity Catholic High School, where he coached Williams and a number of other Power Five prospects. In fact, Patterson has been coaching Williams since he was a kid, so that bond played a factor in luring Williams to Illinois as well.

And landing Williams might not be it for Illinois' recruiting class in 2019. A couple of weeks ago, Marquez Beason, a four-star athlete ranked No. 54 nationally out of Dallas, Texas committed to Illinois over schools like Florida, Florida State, LSU, Michigan, Ohio State, Texas A&M and a host of others.

All of which means Illinois and Lovie Smith seem to be on their way to landing the best recruiting class in Champaign since the Ron Zook era, and Smith is no doubt hoping for similar results.

After all, when Zook recruited a QB named Isiah Williams to Champaign, he ended up taking the Illini to a Rose Bowl. Could history repeat itself?

CBS Sports Writer

Tom Fornelli has been a college football writer at CBS Sports since 2010. During his time at CBS, Tom has proven time and again that he hates your favorite team and thinks your rival is a paragon of football... Full Bio

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