Entering Saturday, the Illinois football team had 16 commitments for the class of 2024, but now we can add one more to that list.
The recruiting ability of Bret Bielema and his Illini coaching staff over the past three years has been impressive. Back-to-back top 50 recruiting classes in 2022 and 2023 was a good start, and now the program is on pace for another top 50 group in 2024.
Over the years, Bielema has been known to develop the offensive line and running backs. He has put numerous players into the NFL from both position groupings. This fact probably helps on the recruiting trail. I am sure it helped Illinois land Ca’Lil Valentine.
On Saturday, Valentine took to social media to announce that he was ending his recruitment and picking Illinois as his landing spot. He picked the Illini over the Utah Utes.
With the Ca’Lil Valentine commitment, the Illinois football team has one of the most talented running back rooms in program history
Valentine is a 6-foot, 180-pound running back from Chandler High School in Arizona. He is rated as a four-star recruit and ranked as the No. 350 player in the class of 2024. He is also the No. 30 running back in the country and the No. 8 player coming out of Arizona.
This was a tough recruitment for Illinois to win. For the longest time, “experts” were predicting that Utah would come out ahead. On Friday, those predictions changed, as three 247Sports people predicted Illinois would be the landing spot.
Illinois is getting a great running back, though. As a junior, Valentine helped his Chandler team to a 9-3 record. He would lead the team with 1,347 yards and 18 touchdowns on the ground. Valentine was also second on the team with 395 yards receiving and four touchdowns.
This is a huge commitment for Illinois. Bielema and his coaching staff just went into Arizona and pulled out one of the best players in the state. We have now done this with a handful of states.
Valentine is a really talented running back who is now going to join a solid running back room. It will be interesting to see what the running back depth chart will look like in 2024.
Illinois has talent, but there is a lot of unproven talent. Reggie Love III is the most experienced, and he will be a senior in 2024. My guess is that he starts the next two years or is at least in a rotation as one of the top two running backs.
Josh McCray has something to prove this season as well. He kind of dropped back in the shadows last season after some injuries. I am curious to see if he can earn a spot toward the top of the depth chart.
And then we get to the young talent. Jordan Anderson has a ton of talent and is a redshirt freshman. Both Aidan Laughery and Kaden Feagin are going to be fighting for depth chart positioning as well. They were both high-level recruits coming out of high school.
Valentine is going to get plenty of opportunities to be one of the top dogs when he comes into the program in 2024. With his dual-threat ability, look for him to be a big-time option in this Illinois offense for years to come. This was a great snag for the Illini.