Illinois took advantage of having official visitors in the double digits on campus this weekend, as the Illini earned verbal commitments from two West Coast junior college standouts: defensive tackle Abens Cajuste (Victorville, Calif./Victor Valley College) and safety Eric Finney (Santa Clarita, Calif./College of the Canyons).
The highly recruited Cajuste selected Illinois over Kansas State and Pittsburgh. Finney said his recruitment was picking up in recent weeks, but Illinois led from the beginning. It was the first trip to Illinois for both players and each said he committed for similar reasons.
"It's a great family atmosphere at Illinois," Finney said. "It's Big Ten football. There's a lot of talent there and I feel like I can make it a special place."
Said Cajuste: "I liked everything about Illinois. The players, the coaching staff, the family atmosphere and where they're trying to take the program to. The people around here and the fan base are great. I like the way the team is going, with everybody trying to win. Hopefully I can help take the program to where it's trying to go."
Both players will sign in December. Cajuste will have two years to play two, while Finney will have three years to play three.
Cajuste said he will work at defensive tackle and defensive end for defensive line coach Keith Gilmore.
"I like their scheme and I feel like I could pick up on it quickly," Cajuste said. "Coach Gilmore is a great coach. He has a great resume in sending guys off to the next level."
Finney said he'll play the Star position in Illinois' defense, which is a hybrid safety role. Illinois began recruiting him in September, and he said this weekend served as the perfect ending to his recruitment.
"I came in with the mindset that this could be my home," Finney said. "I had Illinois in the forefront from the beginning. I was familiar with them based on them being in the Rose Bowl. I know a lot about Big Ten football and I knew from the beginning that it was big time."
Cajuste and Finney give Illinois a total of 23 commitments in the 2013 recruiting class, including three junior college prospects from California.