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2024 college football prospects can sign in 196 days.

Illinois has committed offensive lineman Brandon Hansen, defensive lineman Angelo McCullom, and quarterback Trey Petty. 247Sports rates the class 71st and Rivals 68th. Illinois supporters should panic? No way.

“I never think you need to worry about recruiting in June,” said 247Sports Midwest recruiting analyst Allen Trieu. However, three commits is tied for bottom in the Big Ten with Michigan State. You want that figure to rise by month’s end.”

So it seems.

Bret Bielema and his staff will host a dozen top recruits this weekend and in June.

Four-star edge rusher Dylan Stephenson (Miami), running back Darrion Dupree (Chicago Mount Carmel), and wide receiver Luke Williams (Naperville North) will visit Friday.

Austin Alexander (Marian Catholic) and Jacory Barney Jr. (Miami) will visit Bielema later.

Trieu said the list of recruits should reassure Illinois supporters. “Getting them to campus is just the beginning. If they can convert some of those people to committed, I believe you feel better leaving June. You want to see progress in 20 days.”

Stepping up

Trieu has evaluated candidates for over two decades. He sees Illinois progressing.

“They are doing one thing I think fans and recruiting analysts wanted the previous staff to do, which is recruit closer to home first and still branch out,” Trieu said. I suppose they’re recruiting Big Ten guys. They want local players. The greatest players in the state are coming to campus.

Local players are more likely to commit to Illinois.

“They understand Big Ten, Midwest football,” Trieu said.

Last Friday, Illinois signed four-star receiver Malik Elzy from Chicago Simeon to finish 2023 recruiting strong.

Trieu claimed he wouldn’t have gone to Illinois before. “Those guys can change the program. They’re targeting the correct kids.”

Trieu envisions Illinois connecting with Ohio, Florida, and the South. Petty will lead the 2024 class.

For the 12-3 Starkville (Miss.) Yellowjackets, the dual-threat quarterback threw for 2,737 yards, ran for 766 yards, and scored 47 touchdowns.

Players from different places help Illinois recruit. Devon Witherspoon, a Florida defensive back, went fifth overall to the Seattle Seahawks.

Trieu called it big. “Many defensive backs mention that. His effect is huge. Kids speak about being able to develop someone, especially someone who started off so little. We use development a lot while interviewing applicants. The staff values a youngster like Witherspoon on your resume.”

Change fast

Illinois’ third-year coach Bielema won eight games in 2022.

Expert recruiters assess Bielema.

“He’s always been known as a very honest, straight-shooter type of recruiter,” Trieu added. Illinois continues. He’s average. That helps recruiting.”

Bielema recruits non-blue chips.

Trieu said he ensures his staff extensively examines and discovers under-the-radar talents. “They slipped quite a few past the recruiting sites at Wisconsin and I think they will do it again at Illinois. They struck many Wisconsin and Arkansas sleepers.”

Bielema employed recruiters. Thad Ward, George McDonald, Barry Lunney Jr., and Aaron Henry were referenced by Trieu.

Trieu remarked, “Having your coordinators involved is very important.” “I think both Illinois recruiting coordinators are very hands-on.”

Bielema’s crew fixed Lovie Smith’s recruiting problem.

“The best thing I can say about this staff is they’ve made that seem much further in the past than it was,” Trieu added. “They’ve repaired a lot of in-state relationships in a short time. Coaches and players from Illinois felt ignored. Bret and his team rapidly eliminated it. Ship is on course.”

By Sanjh

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