Illinois Football: Top 10 states for Illini recruiting under Bret Bielema

LINCOLN, NE - OCTOBER 29: Head coach Bret Bielema of the Illinois Fighting Illini leads the team on the field before the game against the Nebraska Cornhuskers at Memorial Stadium on October 29, 2022 in Lincoln, Nebraska. (Photo by Steven Branscombe/Getty Images)
LINCOLN, NE - OCTOBER 29: Head coach Bret Bielema of the Illinois Fighting Illini leads the team on the field before the game against the Nebraska Cornhuskers at Memorial Stadium on October 29, 2022 in Lincoln, Nebraska. (Photo by Steven Branscombe/Getty Images) /
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Jan 2, 2023; Tampa, FL, USA; Illinois Fighting Illini head coach Bret Bielema against the Mississippi State Bulldogs during the first half in the 2023 ReliaQuest Bowl at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

Bret Bielema has brought a sense of pride to the Illinois football program when it comes to recruiting.

The previous Illini coaching staff couldn’t knock recruiting out of the park. They were able to land a few big-time players, but the quantity was not there and the quality overall was lacking.

Bielema steps in and instantly, Illinois recruiting has become solid. We are bringing in talented players from top to bottom, and there is enough talent to fill out the depth chart for multiple strings.

Some states have been better than others when it comes to recruiting, though.

Here are the top 10 states for Illinois football recruiting under Bret Bielema

10. California

Illinois football recruiting has been quite top-heavy with a couple of states dominating the recruiting scene. But California does check in with a couple of talented players who could help the Illini in the near future.

Highest Rated: Will Leys

Bielema and the Illinois coaching staff were able to land Leys a couple of weeks ago. He is a 6-foot-3, 285-pound offensive lineman coming from Saddleback College in California. He isn’t rated or ranked by 247Sports, but Leys did have roughly 11 scholarship offers coming out of the JUCO ranks.

I have Leys coming in this season and contributing right away. The starting five offensive linemen are pretty much set, but there is a lot of inexperience at the second level of the depth chart.

With Leys coming in from the JUCO ranks, this gives Illinois some type of post-high school experience as a primary backup. He should help the offensive line in 2023.

Additional Talent

Illinois was able to land one more player from the state of California from the last three recruiting classes.

Prince Ford is also coming in from the class of 2023. He is a 6-foot, 170-pound cornerback from Golden West College in California. He isn’t rated or ranked by 247Sports, but building depth in the secondary is crucial for the Illini.

We lost so much talent from the secondary in the 2023 NFL Draft, so having solid backups who have some type of post-high school experience is big for the program. I don’t see Ford starting, but I do see him getting snaps in 2023.