Big Ten

Illini welcome in 2016 recruiting class

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Illini welcome in 2016 recruiting class

The Illini were light on the top talent in the Land of Lincoln, but the newest class of Illinois football players is signed up in Champaign.

Illinois announced its 2016 signing class Wednesday, a class that didn't earn much acclaim from those ranking such things but one that coach Bill Cubit is excited about nonetheless.

Cubit's job certainly wasn't an easy one, needing to attempt to keep commitments from before Tim Beckman was fired and to put together an entire class with a coaching staff in big-time transition. Plus, there was great attention paid to the fact that Cubit is under just a two-year contract, something that impacts recruiting.

"It is what it is, and I think we went out there and sold the good points," Cubit told Mike Hall in an interview on Big Ten Network. "We're an outstanding academic school. We're a program, we think, on the rise. We've got some kids that can come in and play early. But I think the biggest thing was getting our staff to evaluate, communicate. We spent four days from 7 to 7 in that timeframe when we got the new staff, understand what we needed to do, attacking the issues that could come up during recruiting. I brought them up first. I didn't want them to come out and ask. I brought them up. I know the commitment that our university has in us right now, and that's all it takes. College football right now, you better win quickly, we all know that. I didn't think it was that big of an issue at this point."

[MORE BIG TEN: Northwestern announces 2016 recruiting class]

But the Illini have a 25-member Class of 2016, one featuring eight three-star recruits headlining the group.

The highest-ranked recruits in the class came from outside Illinois, with Cubit bringing in a pair of talented defenders from Maryland in defensive end Izon Pulley and linebacker Dele Harding. Harding was ranked by Rivals as the No. 20 player in the Old Line State. Pulley, who decommitted from Miami, was the No. 40 weakside defensive end in the country, per Rivals, and the No. 21 player in Maryland. Two tight ends — Zarrian Holcombe from Texas and Andrew Trainer from Virginia — added to the Illini's out-of-state haul. Trainer was ranked as the No. 24 player in the state of Virginia.

Illinois' top in-state recruit was offensive lineman Kurt Gavin out of Lincoln-Way East. Gavin is ranked as the No. 35 prospect in the state. Right behind him is another Illinois signee, East St. Louis defensive back Stanley Green, the No. 36 player in the state.

The Illini did add one quarterback in this class: three-star recruit Eli Peters out of Jacksonville, Fla. And the last of Illinois' eight three-star recruits was offensive lineman Eddy Fish from Massachusetts.

Obviously with only four members of this year's class from Illinois, Cubit is looking to improve his in-state recruiting efforts moving forward.

"The biggest goal is recruiting the state," he told Hall. "To me, when you recruit the state, it's at least a 14-month process. We started in December, and a lot of times during recruiting (the Class of) 2016 I told the staff I wanted to go by myself, go up into Illinois and just go in there and attack that in December and January. We had a big junior day here, we had over 200 kids come to our junior day. Today we wanted to put the image and visualization of our in-state prospects, thinking of how they can sign with the Illini, having that orange and blue hat on signing day. And had a lot of kids call today. The process has started. We've just got to keep on building relationships. That to me is the major impact that we've got to get done in the next six months."

[SHOP BIG TEN: Get your Fighting Illini gear right here]

Here is the complete list of Illinois signees in the Class of 2016:

— Tre Nation, RB, Leeds, Ala.
— Tymir Oliver, DL, Sharon Hill, Pa.
— Stanley Green, DB, East St. Louis, Ill.
— M.J. McGriff, WR, Vero Beach, Fla.
— Dele Harding, LB, Elkton, Md.
— Brandon Jones, DL, Columbia, Mo.
— Harvey Clayton, DB, Miami, Fla.
— Kenyon Jackson, DL, Little Rock, Ark.
— Darta Lee, OL, Fresno, Texas
— Dom Thieman, WR, Wilton Manors, Fla.
— Andrew Trainer, TE, Alexandria, Va.
— Eddy Fish, OL, Groton, Mass.
— Zarrian Holcombe, TE, Houston, Texas
— Ayo Shogbonyo, LB, Arlington, Texas
— Griffin Palmer, TE, St. Charles, Mo.
— Kurt Gavin, OL, Mokena, Ill.
— Izon Pulley, DL, Olney, Md.
— Jake Cerny, OL, Traverse City, Mich.
— James McCourt, K, Parkland, Fla.
— Evan Jones, DB, Conyers, Ga.
— Jake Hansen, LB, Tarpon Springs, Fla.
— Christion Abercrombie, LB, Atlanta, Ga.
— Amhari Hayes, DB, Davis, Calif.
— Eli Peters, QB, Jacksonville, Fla.
— Trenard Davis, DB, Boynton Beach, Fla.

Northwestern running back Jeremy Larkin diagnosed with cervical stenosis, will retire immediately

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USA TODAY

Northwestern running back Jeremy Larkin diagnosed with cervical stenosis, will retire immediately

Tough news out of Evanston this morning: Northwestern announced that running back Jeremy Larkin will retire immediately after being diagnosed with cervical stenosis.

Cervical stenois is the narrowing of the spinal canal in one's neck, according to Mayo Clinic. Larkin's condition is thankfully not life-threatening, though it does prevent him from continuing to participate in the game of football. 

"Football has been a lifelong passion and it has been a process to reconcile the fact I won't be on that field again, given I've played this game since I was five years old," Larkin said.

"I'm extremely appreciative of the Northwestern sports medicine and athletic training staffs for uncovering this condition, and for my coaches and the medical staff for always putting my health first.

"I came to this University to engage at the absolute highest level on the field and in the classroom, and I'm grateful for the opportunity to continue one of those while supporting my teammates from the sideline." 

Head Coach Pat Fitzgerald called the news "heartbreaking."

"This is heartbreaking because I see every day how much Jeremy loves the game, loves his teammates, and loves to compete," Fitzgerald said in a statement. "But this is the absolute best possible outcome for him.

"The discovery of this condition allowed Jeremy and his family to make an informed decision for his long-term health and well-being. For those of us who have known Jeremy Larkin since his high school days, his future is exceptionally bright. I can't wait to see the impact he makes in our world."

Larkin is a sophomore from Cincinnati. He finishes his Northwestern career with 156 carries for 849 yards and 10 rushing touchdowns.

Former Illini champion Kevin Anderson upsets Roger Federer in Wimbledon quarterfinal

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USA TODAY

Former Illini champion Kevin Anderson upsets Roger Federer in Wimbledon quarterfinal

Former University of Illinois tennis star Kevin Anderson completed a marathon upset against an all-time great on the highest stage of professional tennis.

Anderson came back from two sets down to beat Roger Federer in Wimbledon’s quarterfinals 2-6, 6-7, 7-6, 6-4, 13-11 on Wednesday morning. He will play in the semifinals of the tournament for the first time in his career.

As a native of South Africa, Anderson played three seasons with the Fighting Illini and won the NCAA doubles championship during the 2005-06 season as a sophomore. The 32-year-old was a three-time All-American in singles at Illinois.

Now, as the eighth ranked singles player on the ATP World Tour, Anderson is a force to be reckoned with at the professional level. He made it all the way to the US Open final in 2017.

The former Illini star will look to keep his recent success going when he represents Illinois in the semifinals of Wimbledon this Friday.