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Bielema hits recruiting trail during Illinois' bye week

Bielema hits recruiting trail during Illinois' bye week

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Wisconsin uses running game to roll over Illinois 24-0

Illinois head coach Bret Bielema looks at the scoreboard during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Wisconsin Saturday, Oct. 9, 2021, in Champaign, Ill. Wisconsin won 24-0. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Bret Bielema has been on the move. The first-year Illinois coach is utilizing his team’s bye week to hit the recruiting trail.

The Illini, who are coming off a 24-0 homecoming loss to Wisconsin on Saturday, don’t play again until facing Penn State on the road Oct. 23. Bielema said his team has started to take a peak at the Nittany Lions, but it won’t dive too deep into its opponent until next week.

Right now, he’s simply trying to keep his travel log straight.

“I was in four different states (Monday),” Bielema said. “I was with coach Bart Miller. We spent basically a 36-hour window to focus mainly on (the) offensive line. I kept all of my (other) coaches back in the office here so that they could do a little bit of self scout on what we’ve done and where we’re at. The majority of all my coaches, at least most of coaches other than the two coordinators (offensive coordinator Tony Petersen and defensive coordinator Ryan Walters), will help me run practice on Thursday. For the most part all of our (assistant) coaches will be out in the state and across the country.”

Bielema said he’s given his assistant coaches a 48-hour window on Thursday and Friday to evaluate several high school prospects who they think would be great fits for the program.

Illinois has received 15 verbal commitments from players in the Class of 2022, according to 247Sports. Eight of those athletes are in-state recruits, and all of them are rated as three-star prospects.

Bielema isn’t just looking for high schoolers, though. He shared a photo via Twitter on Monday of what appeared to be four military helicopters while on a recruiting visit in Garden City, Kansas. Garden City Community College is one of the premier junior colleges in the country.

“In recruiting, sometimes you don’t mind people knowing where you’re at, but a lot of times you don’t want to tell people where you are at,” Bielema said. “So there’s a little bit of both.”

He added that this week isn’t solely about recruiting new players, but building strong relationships with current ones, too.

“One of the things that the NCAA does allow us to do is as I’m going out on the road now and recruiting, I can actually go out and visit the homes of kids of our current roster,” Bielema said.

“This week I’m gonna work my way south a little bit, so I’m gonna try to see a few parents of kids on our roster that I’ve never met before or I haven’t been in their home. I just think as a head coach it really helps me understand young men and what they go through if I know their families and I know their homes a little bit more.”

Second thoughts

As Bielema travels around the country this week trying to reel in recruits, one that he already had is rethinking his decision.

Brian Allen, who began his high school career at Marian Central Catholic in Woodstock before transferring to St. Thomas More in Connecticut, verbally committed to Illinois on Aug. 23.

On Tuesday, he announced via Twitter that he has decommitted from the Illini.

“With a lot of thought and consideration I have decided that it would be best for me to reopen my recruitment process and make the decision that is best for me,” Allen wrote.

Allen originally chose Illinois over Iowa. The Illini are 2-5 this season while the Hawkeyes are 6-0 and ranked No. 2 in the country.

The 6-foot-3, 260-pound defensive lineman is a three-star prospect, per 247Sports. He also has scholarship offers from Purdue, Kansas and Virginia Tech, among several others.

Injury update

Starting quarterback Brandon Peters left last week’s game in the second quarter with an undisclosed injury and did not return. Bielema said Monday that the sixth-year senior “will be limited this week but should be back with us again next week.”

Linebacker Jake Hansen also exited the game in the second quarter with an undisclosed injury. The sixth-year senior was already sidelined for back-to-back games against Purdue and Charlotte, and the Wisconsin matchup marked his short-lived return.

“Jake Hansen is still going through some tests,” Bielema said. “Hopefully he’ll be able to give me some information here sooner than later.”

Linebacker Seth Coleman and wide receiver Deuce Spann were both out against Wisconsin. Coleman sustained a leg injury against Charlotte, and Bielema expects him to be back in the lineup at Penn State. Spann pulled his hamstring in practice last week and will be sidelined this week and “possibly” next week against the Nittany Lions, Bielema said.

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