Illinois received a huge boost this week, something that will make Bret Bielema smile as he starts his new job in Champaign.

This week, veteran offensive linemen Alex Palczewski and Doug Kramer both decided to return to the Fighting Illini for the 2021 season. They’ll both provide serious stability along the front for Illinois next fall, in Bielema’s first year as the head coach.

Palczewski set a program record with 40 straight starts along the offensive line before sustaining an ACL injury that forced him to miss the final five weeks of the season. Kramer isn’t far behind, having recorded 37 career starts.

In the B1G, having that experience is a big deal. And Bielema couldn’t be happier to have both guys back.

“The REAL RECRUITING started in our own family,” Bielema wrote on Twitter. “More to come and set the tone for others to jump aboard.”

Illinois’ offensive line play wasn’t great under former head coach Lovie Smith. And while there may still be some concerns about depth up front, having two guys with nearly 80 starts between them back on the line will be a major advantage for the Fighting Illini when 2021 arrives.

The Fighting Illini ended the year with a 2-6 record.