Bret Bielema discusses recruiting strategy and putting a 'barrier' around the state of Illinois
New Illinois coach Bret Bielema said on Wednesday he plans to prioritize in-state recruiting moving forward.
Bielema joined the Big Ten Network on National Signing Day to discuss this year’s class and what he hopes to accomplish in future years.
“We got to start building here in the state of Illinois and put a barrier around us,” Bielema said, via 247Sports. “We have other schools in our state, but this has got to be a school that Illinois kids want to come to — the one to come win Big Ten Championships. It starts there and we’ll branch out from everywhere else.”
Bielema hasn’t been in charge for very long, so Illinois’ 2021 class doesn’t reflect those values. The Illini signed just three players from their home state in this class — equal to the number of recruits from Georgia (3) and less than Florida (6).
Illinois did not sign any of the top 25 recruits from its home state in this class, according to 247Sports Composite rankings. Instead, those prospects chose programs like Iowa, Minnesota, Northwestern, Missouri, TCU, Michigan, Wisconsin and others.
Bielema believes his background of working in the state will help him on the recruiting trail.
“It’s been an easy sell,” Bielema said on the Big Ten Network. “I’m from the state … I know the lay of this land. I’ve been in this conference as a player, assistant coach, coordinator and head coach. It’s been a really easy thing for me to tell them, ‘Listen, come here and be a part of the plan. Get yourself better every day, and you’ll be rewarded for a lifetime.'”
Overall, Illinois 2021 recruiting class ranks No. 74 in the nation according to 247Sports Composite rankings. Bielema and his staff will be looking to improve on that mark in 2022.