In-State Recruiting Remains the Key

CHICAGO - What is the approach coach Tim Beckman and his staff are using to recruit players to Illinois?

CHICAGO - Sitting in a room in the Chicago Hilton amid the hustle and energy-filled flow of Big Ten Media Days, Tim Beckman fielded all kinds of questions of all kinds of variety.

None of the topics were more important, to Beckman's cause at least, as those pertaining to recruiting.

After all, it is the lifeblood of the coaching business. The question was posed many times over: why would a recruit come to Illinois?

Beckman gave the usual spill about tradition and academics and so on before providing some insight into why the Illini were able to put together the fifth-best 2013 recruiting class in the Big Ten despite underachieving on the field.

"I think what we do a little bit differently than a lot of people do is we're a family," Beckman said. "I know a lot of people talk about being a family, but this is not about three or four year relationships. This is a lifetime relationship. I tell every recruit that comes in, after you've gotten your degree and you go in the NFL and win the Super Bowl and it's about time to be done playing, you're going to call me and you're going to call your position coach because of the relationship you've built in these times. That's what I think enabled us to have a top tier recruiting class last year with only two wins because players realize we're genuine in what we say and our coaches believe in making the best out of our student athletes."

Not surprisingly, the Illini staff has focused it's efforts in-state. The message to those football recruits in the Prairie State has been 'Our State, Our Team,' as the staff has gone to work to convince kids that a first-class education and a winning football program can be had without going too far from home.

Chicago is treated as it's own separate entity. Each coach on staff recruits some part of the Windy City. Beckman and his boys don't refer to Chicago as a city. Instead, the staff calls it the 'State of Chicago.'

"We did a study last year and just based on guys that had been at the (NFL) combine in the last ten years, what states are they coming from? Illinois happened to be sixth," Beckman said. "You're going to recruit those areas. It's our philosophy, as it is any state institution, to keep your players home. That's what we have to build because that's not the structure that was built prior to. We're going to recruit the state of Illinois, the city of Chicago."

Obviously creating relationships and becoming a destination point on the college football landscape don't happen overnight.

Last year's recruiting class saw highly thought of players in quarterback Aaron Bailey and athlete Darius Mosely sign with the home state school. But in total, only eight of the 25 signees were from Illinois.

After coaching at Toledo, Ohio State and Bowling Green, among other places, Beckman had to work some of his past connections in Ohio to fill out the class.

Five players, including Caleb Day, Jarrod Clements and Austin Schmidt, helped make the 2013 class pop.

With two Ohio kids committed int he current recruiting cycle, don't expect that connection to break down anytime soon.

"We're going to try to get the best players there," Beckman said. "… We'll try to build relationships with those kids and understand that we are competing against, as I've said, the loyalty factor with Ohio and the players that do go to Ohio State. We'll continually try to get that built here in Illinois because we'd love to be able to keep the best in this state at home."

The current class boasts in-state products in Nick Allegretti, Mike Dudek, Matt Domer, Malik Turner and Julian Hylton. That's a solid group, but Beckman says the staff will continue to work hard to keep the best of the best in Illinois from leaving to go play elsewhere.

"Stay home, just like they do in other states because really Illinois is your state and your team as we tell the prospects and the coaches."

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