CHAMPAIGN (WCIA) — Illinois football coach Bret Bielema was named to midseason watch lists for both the Dodd Trophy and Paul “Bear” Bryant Coach of the Year awards on Wednesday. In his second season with the Illini, Bielema has orchestrated a program turnaround, with the team already qualified for a bowl game at 6-1. Illinois is ranked No. 18, the first time in the AP Top 25 since 2011, and is on a five-game winning streak, tied atop the Big Ten West standings at 3-1 in league play.

The Illini are currently only their second bye week giving the starters time to rest and recover but there is no downtime for the coaches. Bielema and his staff are out in full force on the recruiting trail, selling all the recent success to recruits across the country for both next season and beyond.

“At this time of the year a lot of recruits change their minds, we’ve seen that recently in the last 24 hours, where we can see people that we’ve had interest in and maybe they’ve had interest, but we’re just kind of a different Illinois than we were last June so hopefully that draws peoples attention,” Bielema said on Wednesday. “We offered a young man yesterday, I believe about 2 o’clock in the afternoon, and by midnight he had 12 other offers, right? And it’s just people are following us, people know what we’re doing, but I don’t really care where we get players. I don’t care if we find them at Walmart.”

Illinois currently has 15 commits in the Class of 2023, a group ranked 58th in the country, according to 247Sports.