Drew Pastorek, writing for The Champaign Room, noticed something significant.
It’s only been about 18 months since Bret Bielema replaced Lovie Smith as Illinois’ head football coach. I must admit I was initially not a fan of the hire. But I was optimistic after a promising debut season. And after the offseason Illinois has had so far, I have no doubts that Bielema is the right guy to stabilize the program.
The Illini have 8 commitments thus far for 2023 (Farrell, Harkless, Jackson, Swanson, Zachary Aamland, Kaden Feagin, Antwon Hayden and TJ McMillen) and the 33rd-ranked class nationally according to 247Sports — ahead of Iowa State, Oklahoma, Wisconsin, Florida, Miami, UCLA, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Missouri, Indiana & Purdue. In fact, Illinois is currently just behind Michigan (30), Texas A&M (31) and Alabama (32).
Yes…it’s REALLY early. But to even be flirting with a top-30 recruiting ranking was unfathomable at this time two years ago.
The Illini are recruiting like a Power Five football program, not a mid-level MAC school. It may take a little time, but I think Bielema will have Illinois Football rolling sooner than later.