The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

4-star running back commits to Illinois football

Illinois football received a commitment from talented running back Ca’Lil Valentine on Saturday afternoon. Valentine, hailing from Chandler, Arizona, is a four-star in the class of 2024 according to 24/7 Sports and was sought after by other high major programs like Miami, Utah, Nebraska, Oregon, Auburn and more.

Running back has been a position of talent and depth for the Illini under current head coach Bret Bielema, making them an attractive option for the 6-foot 180-pound high school senior. While still talented, Valentine does stray from the recent build that Bielema and co. have been pursuing.

Valentine is a two-sport athlete, bolstering an impressive track resume to pair with his football prowess. The track experience is evident in every play with the running back, who used his blinding speed on his way to 1,347 yards in 10 games during his junior season. He averaged 8.6 yards per carry and also caught 22 passes out of the backfield.

The latest top running backs for the Illini: Chase Brown, Josh McCray, Kaden Feagin, etc., still have plenty of speed but are bigger and more physical backs. Valentine has plenty of time to fill out more, but for now, he uses speed and vision to elude defenders, which can be seen in a highlight reel on Hudl. His 22 all-purpose touchdowns are included and could easily be mistaken for clips from a Madden game on rookie mode, the way he is able to run around every defender without being touched.

While the Illini do want to move to a more balanced offensive attack, the running game is a key part of Bielema and offensive coordinator Barry Lunney Jr’s game plan. The dominance from Brown last year will still be possible for the incoming recruits like Feagin and Valentine, especially with defenses paying attention to other talented playmakers on the field.

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    Valentine becomes the 17th commit in the class of 2024 for the Illini and the only running back. The addition gives the Illini the No. 37 ranked recruiting class in the country, per 24/7 Sports, which they are far from done with. The Illini can now focus on other positions, having solidified another talented running back, something that is becoming clockwork for the current staff.

    @benfader7
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    About the Contributor
    Ben Fader, Assistant Sports Editor
    Hello, I’m Ben! I’m a junior at Illinois and assistant sports editor at The Daily Illini. I’m majoring in journalism and minoring in communications and recreation, sport and tourism. This is my third year with The Daily Illini, and I can’t wait to produce some amazing work. Feel free to contact me at my email below with questions or concerns, or if you just want to talk sports!
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