Bret Bielema completes his first signing class as head coach


CHAMPAIGN (WCIA) — Bret Bielema has rounded out his first signing class as the Illinois Football head coach, landing two Class of 2021 recruits during the February signing period.

Bielema’s first two high school signees include Dwayne Johnson out of Georgia, and Alabama native Josh McCray. Johnson is a 3-star linebacker, at 6-foot-3 and 230 pounds. Meanwhile, McCray will add a boost to the running back room as a 3-star prospect. The two February signees will join the 14 other players who signed back in December during the Lovie Smith tenure. The Class of 2021 is ranked 14th in the Big Ten, and 75th in the country.

Along with 16 high school recruits, Bielema adds in six transfers to program, while retaining more than a dozens seniors that are pursuing an extra season of eligibility.

“I am excited I think we brought some new blood in, but also recruited blood that was in our program to stay here,” says Bielema. “We may add one on at the end, but all focus is onto the 2022 family.” 

“Every player gets the opportunity to come in here and do what they do, they’re going to be given every opportunity to be successful, and I think a lot of them will take advantage of it. The [December signees] obviously recruited into a system or a scheme that existed before I got here, so we definitely had a conversation with all of them about where we are, how excited we are to have them, and now the true test will come once they hit campus.”

Bielema says he didn’t fill all of his scholarship spots in case more opportunities open up after spring ball. He’s also looking forward to a unique experience of evaluating high school players this spring, since high schools in the state don’t start their season in March.

“I purposely didn’t sign any more extra bodies,” said Bielema. “If there was someone that we really felt was going to help us in a big way we would have of course moved forward, but really just wanted to make sure that we had a couple opportunities for anything that may happen as we move forward.”

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