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Bielema is raising the bar with the Class of 2022

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Let’s recap National Signing Day.

NCAA Football: Illinois at Penn State Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Head coach Bret Bielema wanted to bring in a full recruiting class this cycle. For 2022, the NCAA granted up to seven additional scholarships to the standard 25 allotment, as long as seven or more players transferred out during the year. Illinois easily hit that number.

Due to four recruits from the 2021 class being “blueshirted” — meaning that those four recruits counted ahead towards the 2022 class — it left 28 scholarships to offer the 2022 class, instead of the max 32. Some numbers on the 2022 class are listed below:

28 signees total:

  • 24 high school recruits
  • 2 Junior College (JUCO) recruits
  • 2 Transfers

Rivals Team Ranking = 38th Overall

  • This year’s class is Illinois’ highest ranked since the 2009 class which had a team ranking of 35th overall.

Note: Rivals does not currently calculate incoming transfers in their team rankings.

  • 7th best class in the Big Ten trailing Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State, Penn State, Maryland, and Nebraska.

Star Power:

  • 24 recruits rated as 3-star

Note: College transfers Tommy DeVito and Terah Edwards high school rating included in this number.

  • 4 recruits rated as 2-star

By State:

Illinois = 11

  • Hank Beatty (WR)
  • Eian Pugh (WR)
  • Henry Boyer (TE)
  • Jordan Anderson (RB)
  • Aidan Laughery (RB)
  • Jared Badie (OLB)
  • Clayton Leonard (OL)
  • Malachi Hood (LB)
  • James Kreutz (LB)
  • Matthew Bailey (DB)
  • TJ Griffin (DB)

Florida = 4

  • Gabe Jacas (OLB)
  • Elijah Mc-Cantos (DB)
  • Xavier Scott (DB) (Blueshirt)
  • Naivyan Cargill (TE) (Blueshirt)

New Jersey = 4

  • Owen Anderson (TE)
  • Donovan Leary (QB)
  • Matt Fries (OL)
  • Tommy DeVito (QB) (Syracuse)

Mississippi = 2

  • Ashton Hollins (WR)
  • Zy Crisler (OL)

Georgia = 1

  • Tyson Rooks (WR)

Wisconsin = 1

  • Joey Okla (OL)

Indiana = 1

  • Hunter Whitenack (OL)

Ohio = 1

  • Terah Edwards (DL) (Northwestern)

Arizona (Florida Prep) = 1

  • Shawn Miller (WR)

Canada (Kansas JUCO) = 1

  • Isaiah Adams (OL)

Denmark = 1

  • Magnus Moller (OL)

It’s not a surprise the 2022 class is Illinois’ highest ranked in more than a decade. Compared to his predecessor, who ran the program more as a CEO and allowed his assistant coaches to do most of the recruiting, Coach Bielema prides himself on being involved with every player that is offered a scholarship. He gets to know the recruits and their families on a personal level and makes sure they are a good fit for the program he is meticulously building.

Upon accepting the job at Illinois, Bielema inherited a recruiting class of 14 players who he did not personally recruit. He then set out to fill needs through four blueshirt offers and brought in nine players from the transfer portal. The high school prospects in 2021 that Bielema offered have tremendous upside, as already witnessed in Josh McCray. The other recruits were DJ Johnson, Kionte Curry and Kenny Odeluga. The transfer portal, which Lovie Smith relied heavily on in his last two years, has been hit or miss so far for Coach Bielema.

A unique skill that Bielema also puts to use — and he may do this better than anyone in college football – is the preferred walk-on (PWO) option to get fringe Power 5 (ACC, Big Ten, Big Twelve, SEC, Pac 12) worthy players on campus. If the PWO develops, it is likely he’ll be offered a scholarship at some point in his college career. On the flip side, if the PWO does not develop, a scholarship has not been wasted.

The 2022 class is not the end goal, but the standard that has been set for the type of players and class ranking that Illinois fans should expect. Bielema understands the lifeblood of college football is recruiting and developing talent.

Illinois fans are witnessing something special as Bielema has raised the bar and will continue to push this program toward excellence.