Illinois Football: Illini class of 2023 is off to a hot start

After nearly a decade of suffering from watching subpar football, Illini Nation finally has reasons to be excited about the new era of Illinois football.

When Bret Bielema took the head coaching job for the Illini, he knew he was facing the difficult task of rebuilding a struggling program.

“I’m trying to get the best players so we can have the best team we can have this season. I’m not going to skip a step to where we want to be but I’m trying to be good now. I don’t want to wait three years from now,” Bielema said shortly after being hired.

Bielema is doing exactly what he set out to do.

When arriving in Champaign, Bielema did a nearly complete revamp of the entire Illini coaching staff, bringing aboard nine new assistants consisting of experienced veterans and young guys who know how to connect with potential recruits.

One of the primary reasons the Illinois football program has been so painful to watch for the last decade is the failure to recruit highly-touted athletes – especially in-state prospects.

Bret Bielema has Illinois football recruiting better than in years past.

From 2010 to 2019, Illinois only had two recruiting classes that ranked among the nation’s top 40.  Playing in a power-five conference, that will not win you many football games.

Going into their third season, Bielema and his new staff are making steady progress with the 2023 recruiting class, which currently ranks No. 44 in the nation.  This is a 23-spot improvement from former Illini head coach Lovie Smith’s final class.

The class totals 10 commitments so far, including one 4-star and six 3-star recruits. The class is headlined by in-state 4-star athlete Kaden Feagin from Arthur Senior High School.  As a prospect, Feagin ranks No. 256 in the country and No. 3 in the state of Illinois, making him the No. 24 highest recruit in program history, according to 247Sports.

Along with the 10 commits, the Orange and Blue are well in the mix for several other talented 2023 recruits, including two in-state 4-stars Malik Elzy and Jyaire Hill.

There is no timetable for a decision for either recruit.