Illinois football in the hunt for elite 4-star class of 2025 defensive lineman

Bret Bielema continues to impress with his recruiting, but he now has a tough challenge of landing a huge in-state defensive lineman.
Nebraska v Illinois
Nebraska v Illinois / Michael Reaves/GettyImages

The Illinois football team is building, and Bret Bielema has the program on the right track.

Bielema’s first three recruiting classes as the head coach of the Illini were ranked No. 46, No. 38, and No. 49 in the country. That is three straight top-50 classes, which hasn’t happened in over a decade.

Illinois is on the right path to having another top-50 recruiting class for 2025. But I actually believe we could achieve greater heights than that. I think this class could end up in the top 40 when it is all said and done.

Adding a player like Nathaniel Marshall would go a long way in securing that top-40 recruiting class. Marshall is a 6-foot-4, 265-pound defensive lineman from Fenwick High School in Illinois. He is rated as a four-star recruit and ranked as the No. 73 player in the class of 2025. He is also the No. 11 defensive lineman in the country and the No. 2 player coming out of the state of Illinois.

On Monday, Illinois came one step closer to landing Marshall. The talented lineman cut his top list down to just 12 teams and included Miami (FL), Alabama, Oregon, Michigan, Texas, Ohio State, Penn State, USC, Auburn, Florida, Tennessee, and Illinois.

Illinois football seems to be squarely in the mix for top recruit Nathaniel Marshall

When most people read the teams Illinois is competing with, they probably think we don’t have a shot. That doesn’t seem to be the case, though.

Right now, has Miami (FL) as the predicted landing spot for Marshall. That makes sense, as the Hurricanes are recruiting the state of Illinois well and landed top in-state recruit Marquise Lightfoot from the 2024 class.

Marshall is starting to schedule official visits, though. Which program is the first to get an official visit from the top 100 recruit? That would be Illinois.

Illinois is getting the first official visit on June 7. It is important that the Illini can show that Champaign is the place to be. The rest of the top 12 is going to bring a lot of firepower too, which is a bit scary. But at least we have our foot in the door to potentially land this elite athlete.

You better bet there are a ton of snaps waiting for Marshall from day one too. He would see a starting job as a freshman without a doubt.

I like what Illinois has on the defensive line coming into the 2024 campaign. Anthony Johnson and Dennis Briggs Jr. were great additions. TeRah Edwards should see a ton of snaps too. But all three players are seniors. They will depart after this season.

That leaves a lot of young guys to fill those voids. I think Eddie Tuerk is going to be a great piece of the puzzle. I am also curious how Angelo McCullom and Demetrius John develop.

Marshall could come into the program in 2025 and snag a starting job considering there is so much uncertainty. He would get a chance to develop early on in his career, and that is huge if you want to make the NFL. Illinois is also doing a great job of developing defensive linemen. Those are two big selling points in what is going to be a tough recruitment to win.

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