The Lovie Effect? Well, it seems to be working for Illinois.
Smith announced his first recruiting class since taking over as the Fighting Illini head coach last spring, and it's nothing to shake a stick at, ranked 11th in the Big Ten and 47th in the country by Rivals.
No it's not the caliber of Michigan, Ohio State or Penn State — or Maryland's surprisingly fantastic haul — but for a program that's wallowed at the bottom of the Big Ten for years, Smith's first showing on the recruiting trail should have Illinois fans and observers handing out praise.
The headliners are a trio of four-star recruits: Brother Rice wide receiver Ricky Smalling and two Miami natives and high school teammates in wide receiver Carmoni Green and defensive end Owen Carney. Those four-star ratings per Rivals.
Smalling was ranked as a top-50 wideout in this year's class and the No. 6 player in the state of Illinois, while Green was the No. 53 wide receiver in the country and Carney was the 15th-ranked player at his position.
Three other players in Smith's class received four-star ratings from other services: Peoria defensive lineman Kendrick Green, St. Louis offensive lineman Larry Boyd and graduate transfer linebacker Del'Shawn Phillips.
One of the highest-profile names of this class, quarterback Dwayne Lawson, didn't sign on National Signing Day, causing some consternation on social media. Lawson, a former Virginia Tech Hokie and graduate transfer who announced his commitment to Smith and Illinois in early December, is "working through academic issues," according to a report from the Tribune's Shannon Ryan.
Lawson has a three-star rating from Rivals now, but he was a four-star recruit when he picked Virginia Tech back in 2015. His commitment was cause for celebration among Illinois faithful, not only because of his talent but because of the huge question mark at the quarterback position heading into the 2017 season. The graduation of Wes Lunt leaves Chayce Crouch and Jeff George Jr. as the holdover options, making Lawson a prime candidate for the starting job.
Including Smalling and Kendrick Green, Smith recruited 10 players from Illinois: St. Rita linebacker Mark Mondesir, Belleville defensive back Tony Adams, Rockford offensive lineman Vederian Lowe, Huntley defensive lineman Lere Oladipo, East St. Louis quarterback James Knight, Marion Catholic quarterback Cameron Thomas, Bolingbrook wide receiver Kendall Smith and Mount Prospect offensive lineman Alex Palczewski.
In the end, five of the top-20 players in the state and seven of the top 30 chose the Illini.