Illinois football has a brighter outlook on the future with the hiring of Bret Bielema this offseason.
The talented Illini head coach is getting back in the college game after spending 12 seasons with both Wisconsin and Arkansas. During his time with those two programs, Coach Bielema has helped develop some great talent.
That ability to develop talent is why I am extremely excited about what is to come in Champaign. Here are six Illini players who will benefit the most from Bret Bielema.
1. DT Johnny Newton
Illinois had a great emerging freshman last season in Johnny Newton. The talented defensive tackle outplayed his No. 1058 class of 2020 ranking. He would finish his freshman campaign with 23 tackles and 1.5 sacks.
I believe Newton is going to be helped by the addition of Bret Bielema as head coach because of the history of great run-stopping defenses he has had during his 12 years as a head coach.
Coach Bielema has led Wisconsin and Arkansas to some pretty impressive years of rush defense. During his 12-year coaching career, he has had seven seasons where his teams ranked in the top five in rush defense in their conference. Four of those seven seasons were a top three rush defense. Coach Bielema even led the Big Ten in rush defense in 2009, giving up only 88.2 yards per game on the ground.
Defensive tackle Beau Allen spent three seasons under Coach Bielema. His best year was in 2012 where he had 37 tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks. He was drafted into the NFL and played six seasons, and he even won a Super Bowl.
Another player to look at is Nick Hayden. From his junior to senior year, the defensive tackle nearly doubled his numbers in every category. He would finish his senior year with 48 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks. Hayden was picked in the 2008 NFL Draft and had a seven-year NFL career.