The Illinois football recruiting methodology has been a little confusing at times when it comes to in-state talent.
Let me first start off by saying, I have been pleased with the talent that the Lovie Smith regime has brought into the program. From what Lovie inherited, he has been able to scoop up solid talent. The first full class was in 2017 when he signed the No. 47 ranked class in the country.
Lovie hasn’t had a sub-55 ranked class since he has started, excluding last year when he couldn’t sign a full class due to lack of scholarship availability. Illinois has started the class of 2021 of well too. They rank No. 56 in the nation with just 13 commitments so far. This class has the potential to finish in the top 40.
With all of that being said, it doesn’t prevent me from scratching my head and wondering what the heck is going on with in-state recruiting?
In 2017, the Illini only signed two of the top 10 players in the state of Illinois, granted they were two really good players in Kendrick Green and Ricky Smalling. In 2018, we failed to sign one top 10 player coming out of Illinois. Yes, we did end up getting the best player in Luke Ford, but that had to come with some sad news and a transfer.
The class of 2019 was much of the same, as Illinois didn’t sign a single top 10 in-state recruit. Nick Broeker being the most painful one in my book considering his brother played for the Orange and Blue at one time. And, finally, the small class of 2020 didn’t land a single top 10 in-state recruit.
Will in-state recruiting change for the better in the near future, though?
Nothing is going to change in the class of 2021. Illinois didn’t snag a single top 10 in-state recruit, in fact, the first Illinois commitment is No. 30 in Josh Kreutz. But I am not looking at the class of 2021 for in-state recruits. I think the next chance the Illini have of taking the state back over is 2022.
There are plenty of talented recruits coming out of the state of Illinois from the class of 2022. The biggest fish out of this bunch is Kaleb Brown.
I know 247Sports has Brown going toward Michigan, but Illinois has been right there the entire way of his recruitment. They were the first power-five program to offer him a scholarship. He took a visit to Champaign last year. Brown was even spotted in May catching passes wearing Illini gloves.
Brown is the No. 38 player in the class of 2022 and the No. 6 wide receiver in the nation. He would be a gigantic get for Lovie and the Illini. You can eye a few other in-state players too.
Illinois is in on wide receiver Reggie Fleurima, who is the No. 4 player in the state. These talented pass-catchers will need a quarterback to throw them the ball. Someone like Rashad Rochelle would be a great option. He is the No. 5 player in the state.
I am not even sure we need to win the state of Illinois when it comes to recruiting, but I feel like the classes would be even better if we started to make up some ground. The class of 2022 would be a nice starting point for accomplishing this goal.