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Bret Bielema can make Littyville a reality

How can the current head man finish what his predecessor started?

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: JUL 26 Big Ten Conference Media Days Photo by James Black/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

In 2018, a modicum of optimism surrounded Illinois football’s unknown future. The success under Lovie Smith had yet to materialize, but there was a movement. There was a feeling that something was brewing.

Many of us remember where we were when we discovered that Isaiah Williams and Marquez Beason committed. Those were the program changers. Those would be the young men who picked Illinois over the best programs in the country and subsequently ushered in a renaissance of blue-chip talent.

There was a movement. A youthful exuberance was pervasive in the program’s culture.

Cory Patterson was wearing gear that said HuSTLe to represent his hometown. Illinois was building its next revolution largely with Patterson’s Trinity “kids” and other young men he mentored and coached in St. Louis.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 17 Iowa at Illinois Photo by Michael Allio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

But it was Thad Ward who captured the moment in one word.


The word, based on the Meek Mill song Litty, referred to the environment that should always exist in Champaign-Urbana.

Ward had some pretty strong words to describe Littyville in 2018.

“I think it’s a huge deal,” Ward said. “We’re having fun with it. The fans are involved with it. The recruits are involved with it. We’ve kind of taken ownership of it.”

“Lit is saying we’re on fire. It’s a fun place to be.”

So why didn’t the movement come to fruition?

What about Lovie Smith screams youthful or exuberant? When did the previous head coach show public confidence or unquestionable bravado? When has Lovie Smith ever given a damn about somewhere being a fun place to be?

Sure, perhaps that’s not in his nature. Lovie Smith has been known as a more soft-spoken, devout, dignified figure with a paternal jib. Perhaps that was a square peg round hole situation for the world of college football. So the culture never really took the Thad Ward/Cory Patterson direction.

But do you know who does exude exuberance? Bret Bielema.

He’s not above swinging back at players/programs who he feels have wronged the Illini.

He loves tweeting “cryptic” messages right before prospects commit to join the FamILLy.

He looks like he’s having fun.

And the program is definitely leaps and bounds better than it was when the demure Coach Smith roamed the sidelines in virtual silence.

At its core, Littyville is about passion. Passion from the staff and the players and passion in the community.

Really, Illinois Land (h/t Brandt Dolce), Littyville is about you.

Take joy and revel in the rebuild. Make no mistake about it, it’s time to get a little chesty. The toughest gut rebuild in the Power Five reached eight wins in season two. That’s lit.

Do you know what else will be lit?

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: JAN 02 ReliaQuest Bowl Photo by Chris Leduc/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Somebody with the last name Kreutz getting their first unsportsmanlike conduct penalty against a hated rival. And their fans crying about it.

Luke Altmyer outdueling Big Ten opponents and national media expectations and becoming the Dixie gunslinger who will captivate the fanbase.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 22 Chattanooga at Illinois Photo by James Black/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Gabe Jacas evolving from freshman stud to full-on mutant freak quarterback hunter. Oluwole Betiku with multiple years of eligibility.

Malik Elzy “Mossing” Cooper DeJean in a big moment.

The Law Firm shutting down Tanner Mordecai on fourth down to lock up a successful Illini Homecoming.

The Barge Formation. Seriously, more of that, please.

No, I’m not predicting nor am I promising these things will happen. But admit it, you didn’t even think twice or blink at any of those possibilities. And that’s a massive change from prior seasons.

It’s okay, Illini fanbase. Get hyped and stay hyped!

Last year’s 8-5 season captured the essence of what Littyville was supposed to mean. It re-energized a fanbase with an exciting, turnover-heavy defense and efficient, powerful ground-and-pound offense.

And it happened thanks in large part to players who were recruited and signed by the previous regime.

But it was Coach Bielema and his passion for his home state that brought the best out of them. Oh, and his borderline scholarly player development outlook. And having a pro like that in charge of the program… is as lit as it gets.