Trying to build a winning program in college football is no easy feat. But that’s what Bret Bielema is trying to do at Illinois, and he’s not trying to back away from that goal.

Meeting with the media on Wednesday, the first-year Illinois head coach made it clear that he’s trying to win games as quickly as possible. He believes that the Illini can be a good program pretty early in his tenure, and can win as early as this season.

“I’m trying to get the best players so we can have the best team this year. I’m not gonna skip a step to get to where we wanna be, but I’m trying to be good now,” Bielema said. “I don’t want to wait three years from now. I think the way the rules are right now, you can kinda try and do that. But I also know we’ve got a lot of work to do.

“They’ve never done one practice where I’ve been at the helm deciding how practice is run. We’re gonna do things a little bit different. The physicality that we’ll practice with, the detail that we’ll practice with will probably be something they haven’t seen before. I don’t know that, because I didn’t look at any practice film from last year. I just kinda see the way they’re reacting to what we’re doing that these are things they’ve never been pushed or put in this position to do. So there will be a transitional phase we gotta work through.”

Bielema knows winning immediately isn’t going to come easy, but he’s not satisfied by allowing years to slip by. He wants to put a good product on the field quickly.

One thing is for sure, there’s certainly a lot more excitement building around the Illinois program than there has been in recent memory.