The impact Bret Bielema has had on the Illinois football program is quite impressive.
Bielema got into a situation where the Illini weren’t recruiting in-state kids, we had a record of 2-6 the year before, and there wasn’t much national attention on the program in a positive way.
In just a year, Bielema has gone against those trends. Illinois is recruiting well as we just signed a top 50 class for 2022. We were 5-7 in 2021, four of which were Big Ten wins. And there is a lot of positive focus on our program after beating two top 25 teams on the road in three weeks.
I would argue that the next two steps in the Illinois Bielema trial are a bowl game and secure top-shelf talent. On Saturday, the Illini came a step closer to securing some of that high-level talent.
Jven Williams took to Twitter on Saturday to announce that he had narrowed his top list to seven teams. The seven programs that made the cut included Pittsburgh, Ole Miss, Rutgers, Michigan, Penn State, Michigan State and Illinois.
Thank you so much to everyone who helped me in my recruitment process! (Recruitment still 100% open)
*@recruitgfx @CoachSteveONeil @RossTuckerNFL @GarageStrength @SportsByBLinder @PaulRobertsCuse @RivalsFriedman @BrianDohn247 @WyoFootball pic.twitter.com/dRaYX53ZYu
— Jven Williams (@williams_jven) January 22, 2022
Players like Jven Williams can take Illinois football from good to great.
This is a huge top list for the Illini to make. Bielema is a great developer of offensive linemen and his reputation will help recruit Williams. Handling someone of this caliber could also put Illinois football on the map.
Williams is a 6-foot, 285-pound assault tackle from Wyomissing High School and lives in Reading, Pennsylvania. He is rated as a four-star recruit and ranked as the No. 69 player in the class of 2023. He is also the No. 6 offensive tackle in the nation and the best player to come out of Pennsylvania.
Getting Williams out of Pennsylvania is going to be extremely difficult. I’d assume Penn State has the edge here, but with Bielema’s past of offensive line development, I wouldn’t count the Illini.
It’s also a lot of fun to watch Williams play the game. Its run-blocking ability opens up holes for a semi to drive through. He’s just such a monster and can plow through the high school-level defensive line men. Williams is also fully committed in every game, even if the game doesn’t come to his side. That’s what I like to see.
The framework for Williams to be an American-caliber offensive lineman is there. If Illinois can secure its bet, there’s no telling how good we could be in the future.