Illinois football ranks last in offseason recruiting following Redbox Bowl

By Nathan DeHaan, Staff Writer

Feb. 5 was a monumental day for college football programs around the country. National Signing Day is one of the last major dates for college football recruiting. It rounds out each class, putting on display who did well on the recruiting trail and who didn’t do so well.

However, Illinois was among one of the teams that didn’t achieve its goals this offseason.

According to 247sports, Illinois’ class of 2019 ranked 53rd nationally and 13th of 14 in the Big Ten.

After taking the Illini to a bowl game for the first time since 2014, fans hoped head coach Lovie Smith and his coaching staff would continue to build the momentum around the program by improving the overall level of talent on its roster with a strong recruiting class. However, the Illinois 2020 class ranks 87th nationally and dead last in the Big Ten. The Illini have 13 incoming freshmen and one transfer, outside linebacker Derrick Smith, in their most recent class. Derrick Smith is a three-star prospect out of high school who’s transferring to Illinois from the University of Miami.

Fourteen commits are, by far, the fewest of any team in the Big Ten. Illinois is one of two teams in the conference without any enrollees, alongside Northwestern. All 13 of Illinois’ high school prospects have already signed their national letter of intent, and every member of the 2020 class is a three-star prospect.

Illinois continued the trend of primarily recruiting out of Florida and the St. Louis area, with nine of the 14 coming from those two hot spots, including six of the highest-rated recruits in the class.

This recruiting class might not damage fans’ expectations going into the 2020-2021 season, as Illinois will also be adding the best two players from its 2019 recruiting class back to the lineup in 2020: cornerback Marquez Beason and tight end Luke Ford. Beason missed the entire 2019 season due to injury, and Ford was forced to sit out due to the NCAA transfer policy.

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