Six games into his senior season, three-star athlete Jalen Banks (Harvey, Ill./Thornton) is filling up the stat sheet.
Primarily playing defensive back, the No. 18 player in Illinois is racking up the tackles and has also blocked a punt and a field goal, forced and recovered a fumble and secured an interception. He’s mad he doesn’t have a touchdown, which might have come if not for muffing the recovery on the blocked punt preventing a scoop and score.
Fourteen programs have extended offers to the 5-foot-11, 190-pound Banks, but as of now he has two teams at the top for him among his favorites.
Wisconsin secured Banks’ first official visit Sept. 21 and Vanderbilt will host him for an official visit beginning Oct. 12. Those two teams have separated themselves from a top group that also consists of Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska and Oregon.
“The coaching staff they got there and being able to go to a top-tier academic school and also play football,” Banks said of what he likes about the Commodores. “It’s not a Georgia or Alabama but it’s still a chance to compete in the SEC. … They offer the best of both worlds.”
The Badgers led for Banks back in the spring but as more offers came the more Banks began to take a look at other programs. Banks visited Wisconsin several times but it was not until his official visit that he witnessed a Badgers game in Madison.
One of the major highlights of his visit was finally being able to hang out with some of the current Badgers.
“I had a lot of fun, got to be around the players. It was a fun game,” he said. “I got to see how the players interact with one another on the sideline. The coaches are very involved, so it was good.”
Even for an early game, the atmosphere also impressed him.
“It’s crazy,” he said. “It was an early game and they’re still into it. I can’t imagine a night game. It’s probably three times better.”
After those two, Banks’ list gets a little hazy as far as favorites go.
“It’s kind of shuffled from there,” he said. “Oregon is still in the picture. Illinois and Iowa always stick around.”
One team to really make a push for Banks is Nebraska. The Huskers offered Banks back in the winter, but he did not give much thought to Nebraska until recently.
The Huskers got a boost from Banks’ high school coach, who told him to take a closer look at the program.
“They produce NFL DBs,” Banks said. “I watched a game. They have great fan support out that way, top-notch facilities, a good engineering program and they got a lot of tradition.”
Banks’ top group and specifically his top two are very fluid. Vanderbilt and Wisconsin are at the top of his list because he already has seen both places extensively. He visited Oregon back in the summer, too.
“I’ve been there [to Vanderbilt and Wisconsin] before, kind of familiar with the guys. They both have a lot to offer,” he said. “But some schools I haven’t had a chance to go to. I’ve been out to Illinois but haven’t gotten to see the campus and hang with the players, and hopefully I’ll get out there to Nebraska.”