Illinois Football: Illini continue building on strong Florida pipeline

The Illinois football class of 2021 is shaping up to be a solid group of players who will help the team continue to improve.

Building this class was a huge priority for the Illinois coaching staff. They could only sign 13 players for the class of 2020 due to the number of scholarships available, but there will be a lot of players departing the program after the upcoming campaign. So, the class of 2021 needed to be a full haul of talented young recruits.

As we sit right now, the Illini have 14 players committed for 2021. This has them ranked No. 57 in the nation in recruiting ranking and No. 11 in the Big Ten. That isn’t a bad start to what should end up being a top 50 class nationally. There also seems to be a trend forming.

Illinois is developing a pipeline to the state of Florida.

I know there has always kind of been a pipeline to Florida. It really ramped up when Ron Zook took over the program and was able to land players like Corey Liuget, AJ Jenkins and Akeem Spence, among others.

But the Lovie Smith era of Illinois football has taken the pipeline that was being built by Zook and increased it greatly.

Lovie’s first recruiting class was in 2017. He landed a total of 26 recruits in that class and seven of them were from the state of Florida. That comes out to 27-percent of the class. Illinois followed that class up with the class of 2018 which had 11 out of 27 players from the state of Florida, also known as 41-percent.

The class of 2019 was lower, sitting at 13-percent, but the class of 2020 and 2021 both ramped up the Florida connection. In 2020, the Illini ended up with 46-percent of their commitments being from the state of Florida.

Illinois’ current class of 2021 is taking the cake, though. With 14 players already committed, half or 50-percent, of the recruits are from the state of Florida. That is an astronomical number.

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When you look back, neither Zook nor Tim Beckman was anywhere near that percentage when it comes to recruiting the state of Florida. This is a pipeline that Lovie and his staff have been able to open up and it seems to be paying off.