The Tim Beckman era hasn’t gotten off to a roaring start for the Illinois Fighting Illini, but they continue to try and build a winner in Champaign on the recruiting trail. Their latest commitment to their 2014 class could prove to be a valuable asset on defense as three-star inside linebacker Austin Roberts quickly jumped on his offer from the Illini.
Up to now, Roberts had not gotten offers from any BCS programs, though he was still being heavily recruited by non-BCS, FCS and Ivy League schools. It looked like that was about to change, however, and Roberts’ recruitment was going to pick up after the linebacker camped with the Minnesota Golden Gophers and Wisconsin Badgers. The Iowa State Cyclones and Northwestern Wildcats had also started to express interest.
But it was the Illini who struck first and were rewarded for it with a quick verbal commitment. The 6-foot-3, 230-pound defender from Rice Lake, Wisconsin, is a tackling machine with very good top-end speed and recorded 152 tackles with seven sacks and an interception in his junior season. He plays downhill and is excellent against the run. He is able to take on blockers, shed them and chase down the play with regularity. When he gets a bead on a runner, he has excellent form when tackling and can lay a very mean hit.
He will have some work to do on his pass coverage skills, but that will come in time as he grows and learns the position. Even without the ability to drop back into coverage, Roberts is going to be an excellent addition to the Illini’s run defense in 2014.