If you ask any fan of the University of Illinois football team what frustrates them most about following the team and you'll find one consistent answer. The inability to recruit in state talent.

There are some LEGENDARY high school football programs in the state of Illinois that regularly churn out Division I talent but not much of it ever seems to stay in state to play for the Illini.

This was something the new Illinois football coach Brett Bielema wanted to change when he took over the program from Lovie Smith. Coach Bielema started the in state recruitment by personally calling every high school football head coach in the state over the summer and is continuing to strengthen the bond between Champaign and the Illinois high school football landscape with the newly installed "Wall Of Fame" and the impressive football facility that was recently built on campus.

...in order to honor the entire history of IHSA football, Bielema and the Illini staff decided on building a Illinois High School State Champions wall. The display would showcase the most recent 1A-8A state champions while also recognizing every championship team in IHSA history.

Will this start an instant flood of 5-star recruits to Illinois? No, it won't and the 1-2 start to the 2021 Illinois football season proves that there is still a long way to go but this is a great idea.

One just needs to look at the other revenue-generating sport on campus to show what even a single in state recruit can do for a team. Ayo Dosumno was a 5-star recruit out of Morgan Park that could have picked pretty much any program in the country to continue his basketball career. He chose to stay in state and raise the profile of his home state university and the Illinois basketball program is at a level they haven't seen in decades.

Will Bielema's attempt at fostering relationships with Illinois high school football programs pay off with some in-state kids staying home? It will take a few years to find out but I, as a fan of the program, like the direction the new coach is taking things.

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