Chicago provides Illinois football with a large metropolitan city close to home. The Illini can take advantage of the large population in mining prospects on the recruiting trail.
First-year coach Lovie Smith isn’t limiting himself to the Windy City, however. He holds verbal commitments in this 2017 class from Cincinnati, Miami and St. Louis.
Smith headed west for a recent scholarship offer. Los Angeles Bishop Mora Salesian wide receiver/cornerback Dallas Branch was the recipient. It came as a bit of the surprise for the senior.
“I haven’t really talked with the coaches from Illinois that much. They just sent me mail and emails,” he said.
Branch (5-11, 170) also claims offers from Hawaii and Sacramento State. Ball State is showing him interest as his recruitment picks up during a strong final season as a prep.
Branch said he hopes to visit Illinois soon. He’s also looking forward to building a relationship with the coaches in Champaign.
“I haven’t got the chance yet to talk to all the coaches. The coach I talked to was (assistant) coach (Hardy) Nickerson. He seems like a real cool guy to talk to,” Branch said.
Allowing the relationship to grow fits into Branch’s approach to recruiting. He’s taking things slowly.
“I don’t have a time period for when I want to make my decision. I just want to go through the process and not rush anything,” the said.
Branch knows what’s important to him.
“I want to pick a school where I have a good relationship with the coaches and a place that makes me feel at home,” he said.
Branch, who is considering college majors in Communications and Business, believes another school could be coming forward soon with an opportunity.
“I feel like my next offer might be from Washington State,” he said.
Illinois currently has four wide receivers – Carmoni Green, Ricky Smalling, Kendall Smith and Tony Adams – verbally committed in its ’17 class. Antwan Collier is the lone cornerback and that could be where Branch fits in.
Rivals and 247 have yet to rank the under-the-radar Branch. Scout currently shows him as a two-star recruit.
Bishop Mora Salesian can be an overlooked outfit on the football recruiting trail. The all-male school with an enrollment of around 525 students from 9th-12th grades plays in small conference.
In watching Branch’s junior year highlights, which you can view here, you see a talented playmaker with a knack for making opponents miss. The opening clip shows him streaking down the field with a kickoff for a touchdown.
One the second clip, Branch grabs a tunnel screen and glides into the end zone untouched. In the third highlight, he takes a shovel pass to the house. Then he lines up at tailback and runs across the goal line.
On defense, Branch shows that he can stick with receivers or come up in run support. He’s physical as well.
All tolled, Branch offers colleges a versatile athlete capable of making plays all over the field. Don’t be surprised to see his recruitment continue to rise.