CHAMPAIGN (WCIA) — The headliner of the Class of 2023 for Illinois football is the WCIA 3 Player of the Year. Arthur-Lovington-Atwood-Hammond senior Kaden Feagin is the top get and the highest ranked recruit out of the 21 players who officially signed their National Letter of Intent to join the team on Wednesday, the opening day of the early signing period.

Feagin is the fifth-ranked player in Illinois, according to 247Sports, and a Top 350 prospect nationally. The 4-star running back picked the Illini back in March, ahead of several other Power 5 offers including Notre Dame, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Tennessee and more.

“I mean I could just see what Coach B is building, especially this year,” Feagin told WCIA 3 last week. “Like I committed before the season but I just knew something was going to happen so to just see this year and them improve a lot, that made a big effect on my decision.”

Illinois head coach Bret Bielema hosted a signing day breakdown of his newest players for media at the Smith Center Wednesday, finally able to talk publicly about his newest additions for the first time after they officially signed. The second-year Illini coach glowed about landing Feagin and the impact he can make moving forward.

“I just was blown away by his size, his athleticism, his maturity,” Bielema said about Feagin. “Jen (Kaden’s mother) and her family have really raised an incredible, young man that I know I say that, but I mean it. He’s just got a little something to him, that when he walks in the room there’s presence.”

Saboor Karriem is the other 4-star recruit in the Class of 2023 for Illinois and the second highest ranked player nationally to sign with the Illini on Wednesday. The West Orange, New Jersey native is a Top 400 prospect and the sixth ranked guy in his state. Karriem will suit up at safety for the Orange and Blue and told WCIA during an interview in New Jersey earlier this month, he was heavily influenced by current Illini defensive backs Quan Martin and Devon Witherspoon during his visit earlier this year.

“Quan was my hostess for my official visit so being around him and Spoon, how being so close, the things that they’ve done, it was really exciting,” Karriem said during an interview earlier this month in New Jersey with WCIA. “I feel like I knew him my whole life because we were all really alike so meeting them was great.”

The other top prospect Illinois was chasing ended up picking Michigan. Kankakee senior Jyaire Hill is the second ranked recruit in the state, according to 247Sports, but put on a Wolverines hat during a commitment ceremony seen LIVE on our WCIA 3 digital channels Wednesday afternoon.

Despite missing out on Hill, Illinois still signed seven in-state players, including punter Declan Duley. The 6-foot-2 El Paso-Gridley native is the 12th-ranked punter in the nation, according to Kohl’s Kicking.

“Coach Bielema is an amazing guy, their culture behind that, I can’t express it enough, they are a family and I’m more than excited to say I’ll be able to part of that family,” Duley said after his signing ceremony on Wednesday.

The Class of 2023 is currently ranked No. 44 in the nation in the 247Sports Composite. It’s the first time since 2008-09 the program has signed back-to-back Top 50 classes.

ILLINOIS FOOTBALL CLASS OF 2023 SIGNEES

NAMEPOS.HT.WT.YR.HOMETOWNHIGH SCHOOL/PREVIOUS SCHOOL
Zach AamlandOL6-6290Fr.South Brunswick, N.J.The Hun School
Alex BrayDL6-4250Fr.Chesterfield, Mo.Marquette 
Jaheim ClarkeDB6-1165Fr.Lehigh Acres, Fla.Riverdale
Collin DixonWR6-2195Fr.Tallmadge, OhioTallmadge
Declan DuleyP6-2195Fr.El Paso, Ill.El Paso-Gridley
Pat FarrellOLB6-5240Fr.Oak Lawn, Ill.St. Rita
Kaden FeaginRB6-2235Fr.Atwood, Ill. ALAH
Nate GuinnTE6-6220Fr.Vero Beach, Fla.Vero Beach
Jojo HaydenLB6-2230Fr.East St. Louis, Ill.East St. Louis
Brandon HendersonOL6-5300Fr.East St. Louis, Ill.East St. Louis
Saboor KarriemDB6-3185Fr.West Orange, N.J.West Orange
TJ McMillenOL6-3275Fr.Naperville, Ill.St. Francis
Mason MuraginDL6-4245Fr.Macomb, Mich.De La Salle
David OlanoK5-11165Fr.Naperville, Ill.Naperville North 
Kaleb PattersonDB6-2185So.Jackson, Miss.Terry/Pearl River CC
Dezmond SchusterOL6-5330So.Gonzales, La.East Ascension/Hutchinson CC (Kan.)
Trey SmithOLB6-4230Fr.Ocoee, Fla.Ocoee
Cal SwansonQB6-3190Fr.Ardmore, Okla.Ardmore
Zach TobeDB6-2180Fr.Ocoee, Fla.Ocoee 
Jeremiah WarrenDL6-3290Fr.Belleville, Mich.Belleville
Kenari WilcherATH6-0170Fr.Clewiston, Fla.Moore Haven

By Position
OL (4), DL (3), OLB (2), LB (1), DB (4), QB (1), RB (1), TE (1), K (1), P (1)

By State
Illinois (7), Florida (5), Michigan (2), New Jersey (2), Louisiana (1), Mississippi (1), Missouri (1), Ohio (1), Oklahoma (1)

By Year
Freshmen (19), Sophomore (2)