It’s not a big secret among fans of Illinois football that former Illini head coach Lovie Smith struggled with recruiting.

Enter Bret Bielema.

When Illinois brought Bielema on board as their head coach, they knew they were getting a much better fit for the long-term future of the Illini program. The former B1G coach better understands what it takes to successfully build and recruit a college roster.

The in-state recruiting efforts have vastly improved under Bielema, making it tougher for the neighboring programs to pilfer the talent pool from the Illini’s home state.

Bielema has solid connections in the college game. The coaching staff he’s assembled is one of the best that have been on the Champaign sidelines in some time. While the on-field record hasn’t shown it yet, they have added a host of talent on the offensive side for the future.

The Illini have been more and more competitive as this season has progressed, only having been blown out twice against Virginia and Wisconsin. Otherwise, Bielema’s squad has had a chance to tie or win in all of its other four losses.

While the record has been disappointing and the hopes of a bowl bid are gone, the recruiting efforts will hopefully pay off with the loss of the multitude of super seniors who are in their last season in blue and orange.