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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Clewiston defender Kenari Wilcher (#7) intercepts a pass intended for Lemon Bay wide receiver Aaron Pasick (#17). The Lemon Bay Manta Rays hosted the Clewiston Tigers in the Class 4A-Region 3 semi-final on Friday evening.Sar 112021 Lbhs V Clewiston 003
Clewiston defender Kenari Wilcher (#7) intercepts a pass intended for Lemon Bay wide receiver Aaron Pasick (#17). The Lemon Bay Manta Rays hosted the Clewiston Tigers in the Class 4A-Region 3 semi-final on Friday evening.Sar 112021 Lbhs V Clewiston 003 /

No. 2 Florida

The No. 2 state that has been the best to the Illini when it comes to recruiting is Florida. Illinois has pulled 17 recruits from the state of Florida over the last three recruiting classes.

Highest Rated Player: Kenari Wilcher

There are so many talented players coming out of Florida, but Wilcher takes the cake as the highest-rated recruit from the Sunshine State.

Wilcher is a 5-foot-11, 165-pound athlete from Moore Haven High School. He is rated as a three-star recruit and ranked as the No. 715 player in the class of 2023. He is also the No. 50 athlete in the country and the No. 111 player coming out of Florida.

It was great that Wilcher enrolled at Illinois early. He is coming into the program as a wide receiver, which will give us more depth at a crucial position. I think Wilcher will have a chance to see snaps this season, but look for him to really break out in 2024.

Additional Talent

There are 16 other players from the state of Florida, so I will only name a few here in the additional talent section.

Wide receiver Pay Bryant is a gem from Florida. He is one of our best wide receivers but was a sub-1000 recruit. Tyler Strain was also overlooked by many from the class of 2021, as he should be a key contributor in the Illinois secondary this season.

From the class of 2022, I am excited to see what Elijah Mc-Cantos can do at cornerback this season. He was a top 700 recruit. Shawn Miller is healthy and ready to make an impact at wide receiver. He was a top 800 recruit. I haven’t even mentioned Gabe Jacas. He was the No. 1254 player in the class of 2022 and ended up being a Freshman All-American.

Illinois also has some special talent joining Wilcher in the class of 2023. Calvin Smith is going to be a great impact player on defense. I am also intrigued to see Zachary Tobe in the secondary. Both players are top 1000 recruits.

For just about every team in the country, the state of Florida is a great place to recruit. With all of those programs vying for the same talent, it is impressive that Illinois can pull in high-level players. Florida is a big-time recruiting hub for the Illini.