Illinois Football: Bret Bielema building depth at kicker for the Illini

The Illinois football team had a pretty good weekend, and it all kicked off with a special teams commitment.

Bret Bielema and the Illini coaching staff continue to focus on building the program, but that doesn’t mean just securing commitments for the offense and defense. This coaching staff has a macro view of how to succeed on the football field.

This is why Illinois is also recruiting special teams players. Bielema brought in Will McManus from the class of 2022 last year. He was a preferred walk-on for the program, but look for McManus to compete for the starting job at kicker in the near future.

On Sunday, Illinois added another kicker to the mix. While on his official visit to Champaign, David Olano decided to end his recruitment and commit to the Illini. This doesn’t come as too big of a surprise considering 247Sports put in a Crystal Ball Prediction in favor of Illinois just days ago.

Illinois football has a kicker competition with the addition of David Olano.

Over the past decade, the Illinois football team had good players on the roster. Just look at how many players have or are currently donning an NFL uniform. There was talent on the team regardless of the record.

But I think one of the biggest issues with the Orange and Blue was lack of depth. We didn’t have enough competition. Bielema seems to be fixing that issue.

In the kicking department, Illinois is going to have depth. In 2023, Olano is going to join Caleb Griffin, who will be a senior, and McManus, who will be a sophomore. I would imagine that Griffin is going to be the starter the next couple of seasons, but that isn’t a guarantee.

Illinois hasn’t been a bad kicking team lately, but they could be better at the craft. Just last season, the Illini only hit 78.26% of their field goals, which ranked No. 51 in the country. These numbers are from James McCourt, who has since departed the program.

Griffin might be next in line, but he has only kicked one field goal in his career, and that was back in 2020. I think he will likely get the start come the first game of the 2022 campaign, but the kicker position is by no means set. If Griffin struggles, we have the depth to keep the position strong.

I love the commitment from Olano. Special teams are an important piece of football. The fact Illinois is going to be three kickers strong in 2023 is exciting. This was a big commitment on Sunday.