Illinois football is heading up to Bret Bielema’s old stomping grounds to try to find the next great tight end.
The tight end position hasn’t exactly been a main part of the Illini offense for much of time. We have had some decent pass catchers at the position, but there hasn’t been a tight end that was regarded as one of the best in the nation since the mid-1990s.
In 2023, Illinois is going to try to buck that nasty trend. We have solid returning talent like Tip Reiman, among others, and there are some new additions like Tanner Arkin and Nate Guinn.
Bielema and the Illinois coaching staff are also trying to build the tight end room for the future. Last Wednesday, the Illini coaching staff extended a scholarship offer to James Flanigan.
— James Flanigan (@Jamesflanigan88) May 18, 2023
Plucking James Flanigan from Wisconsin would be a great recruiting achievement for the Illinois football program
Flanigan is a 6-foot-5, 220-pound tight end from Notre Dame De La Baie Academy in Wisconsin. He is rated as a four-star recruit and ranked as the No. 166 player in the class of 2025. He is also the No. 9 tight end in the country and the No. 2 player coming out of Wisconsin.
I love that Flanigan is just entering his junior year in high school and he is already 6-foot-5. This kid is built well, and that will help him at the tight end position.
Flanigan is decently quick in space and a good route runner. What I love most about his game is that he is always looking for someone to hit. When he knows he isn’t getting the ball, he doesn’t just phone it in. He is always looking to make a block.
Obviously, the class of 2025 is a little bit down the road, so it is hard to tell what the tight end room will look like in a couple of years. I know that Reiman will be gone, and I believe he will be starting for Illinois in the next couple of seasons. Ben Schultz and Griffin Moore will also have departed by then.
I would imagine Arkin is one of the starting tight ends, and he will be a senior in 2025. I think Owen Anderson, Henry Boyer, and Guinn will all be vying for a starting job too.
Illinois landing a kid out of Wisconsin would also be significant for recruiting. The state of Wisconsin has not been easy to tap into. Illinois has only landed one recruit in the Bielema era from America’s Dairyland, and that was offensive lineman Joey Okla.
Getting in on the Flanigan recruitment is big for the Illini. Let’s put some serious resources into landing this kid. He is going to be a big-time player at the next level.