The Illinois Football staff pulled off a trifecta this past weekend, securing 2022 pledges on Friday, Saturday AND Sunday.
Hunter Whitenack OL 6’7” 290 lbs
Protect the QB. Win the battle up front. Most successful Big Ten football programs excel in these two areas. Bret Bielema certainly understands this being a former Big Ten lineman himself. He has emphasized the importance of making the Illini a tougher, stronger, more physical football team.
Whitenack was the first commitment for the Illini on the weekend with the New Carlisle, Ind., native announcing his decision Friday afternoon:
Congratulations to Hunter Whitenack making his college selection!! Big man to the Big 10!! pic.twitter.com/xoAsjsQX4k— New Prairie Football (@NewPrairieFB) April 16, 2021
Whitenack had plenty of interest from programs including Cincinnati, UAB, Western Michigan, Central Michigan & Ball State, but Illinois was his only Power Five offer.
247Sports has Whitenack as the 130th-ranked offensive tackle in the 2022 class, and the 21st-ranked player in Indiana. He’ll have another season to boost his profile. Check out some highlights below:
Hank Beatty WR 5’11” 180 lbs
The first of two in-state commits, Beatty hails from Rochester, Ill. He did a little bit of everything en route to a state championship, catching over a dozen passes for 200+ yards and four scores (one of which he threw for).
He’s listed as a three-star recruit according to 247 and a fringe top-20 prospect in the state. Other offers included Iowa State, Central Michigan, Air Force and Northern Illinois.
Bret Bielema said he’d make recruiting in-state guys a priority, and Beatty serves as the first follow through on that promise.
Check out what he did as a sophomore.
Clayton Leonard OL 6’4” 265 lbs
Last, but certainly not least was Clayton Leonard, offering up his commitment to the Illini on Sunday.
After talking with my family and coaches I’ve decided to further my academic and athletic career at in-state University of Illinois. #famILLy22 @BretBielema @Coach_BMiller @IlliniFootball @IWHSFootball pic.twitter.com/0igNlEN358— Clayton Leonard (@ClaytonLeonar16) April 18, 2021
A fellow Iroquois County native (shoutout Danforth!), Leonard comes from a very small program in Iroquois West, but has legitimate Power Five size.
Bielema excelled at developing in-state linemen while at Wisconsin so we’ll be closely monitoring Leonard’s progress during his time with the Illini.
Leonard is listed as a three-star recruit who held offers from Toledo, Illinois State and Central Michigan.
The trio joins QB Donovan Leary and offensive lineman Joey Okla in the class of 2022.