2014 Plainfield South (IL) Linebacker Clifton Garrett was originally expecting to visit Illinois for the game against Western Michigan back in September, but he had to reschedule. This time around, he made it and was excited to see Illinois.
"It's very exciting," he said. "It's the first game I've been able to come to this season. It's my home-state school. And I really like the gameday experience here."
Garrett had his eyes on the linebackers, specifically junior Jonathan Brown and true freshman Mason Monheim.
"I wanted to see how the linebackers attack and how they get downhill," he said. "Coach Ward is a great coach and he's been coaching them up pretty good. He has them pretty sharp and their footwork is down pat."
Though Garrett and his Plainfield South team didn't make the playoffs, he had a great season, averaging double-digit tackles per game on the season. A lot of that is the result of some hard work in the offseason.
"I've been hearing I had a great season," Garrett said. "If I was to grade myself, I'd give myself an A. I've been doing a lot of hard work during the offseason with all the camps and everything. It all paid off and I had a really good season this year."
This offseas, Garrett will assume a big responsibility in becoming a leader for the defensive unit. He's taking it upon himself to make sure all of his teammates are working hard to make sure that they're playing this time next year.
"I'm finally a team captain this year," he said, "so I'm leading the defense. Everyone's going to be in the gameplan this year. We know what we have to do. We just have to go out and do it now."
Things have been slow lately on the offer front for Garrett, but some bigtime offers could be on the horizon with some increased interest from some top-ranked schools.
Garrett had thought about taking a much longer trip this weekend, but he decided to stay a little closer to home.
"I don't have any recent offers," Garrett said, "but I've been talking to a lot of SEC schools lately. I've been talking to Auburn, Alabama, and Ole Miss a lot. I've also been talking to Oklahoma. I was supposed to be down at Oklahoma for the game against Notre Dame, but I decided to stay here and stay with the home-state school today."
Part of what convinced Garrett to stay close was friend, fellow Core 6 member, and Illinois commit Reggie Spearman.
"Reggie just told me we should go down to this game on Wednesday," he said, "so I said 'alright' and we came down."
The bulk of Garrett's interest from colleges has been from the Big Ten and the SEC. He feels both conferences fit his style of play.
"They're both smashmouth football" he said. "They're both hard-hitting football and that's what I like about them. The linebackers are great and they both send players to the NFL."
But with his season over, Garrett is already working on getting ready for next season.
"I want to get my footwork better, and of course get bigger, faster, and stronger," he said. "That and I want to work on my hips and cover receivers more to show that part of my game."