It was one of the best Friday’s the Illinois football team has seen in months this week.
The Friday started off with a commitment from the superstar athlete Tyler Strain. This kid is going to be a nightmare to contain on the football field. But Illinois wasn’t finished with just one commitment. The Illini also picked up a commitment from Zachary Barlev.
Barlev is a 6-foot-4, 292-pound guard from Plainfield East High School and resides in Plainfield, Illinois. He is rated as a three-star recruit who is the No. 1573 player in the class of 2021 and the No. 76 guard in the nation. He is also the No. 43 player in the state of Illinois.
— Zachary Barlev (@Barlev23) July 24, 2020
Barlev’s recruitment has been a roller coaster for the last few weeks. Back on July 4, Barlev decided to end his recruitment and commit to Bowling Green University. This came as a surprise to me considering in past conversations, it seemed Illinois was in the lead for the talented offensive lineman.
That commitment ended on Friday morning, though. In a simple tweet that said he has decided to decommit from Bowling Green, Barlev reopened his recruitment. It didn’t take long for that recruitment to shut back down. About seven hours later, Barlev committed to Illinois.
Where will Barlev fit in on the Illinois roster?
Barlev is coming into the Illinois football program as a guard. In a chat with Barlev back in April, he mentioned Illinois was recruiting him at guard but that he wanted to learn all five positions. This sounded like a player Lovie Smith and the Illini coaching staff would love.
Building the offensive line depth is extremely important right now. Illinois’ offensive line is going to be, essentially, gutted after the 2020 campaign as four of the five projected starters will depart the program. The only holdover will be Kendrick Green, but he might head to the NFL after the upcoming season.
I only feel fully comfortable with two offensive linemen heading into 2021 and those two are Green and Verdis Brown. I like Jordyn Slaughter and Julian Pearl, but they have something to prove this year. There is a ton of unproven talent behind those two, though.
Honestly, Barlev is going to get the chance to compete for at least a backup role in year one. We might need him as a primary backup. If he can cut it, I wouldn’t be shocked to see him start some games in the first two years in Champaign. He would then transition into a full-time starter role by his junior year.
I love the addition of Barlev. The offensive line is the most important grouping on the football field. Barlev is a good depth piece and should be an important cog in the future of the program.