Tim Beckman: 'It is our prerogative to recruit this state'

For Illinois head football coach Tim Beckman, National Signing Day started at 5:30 a.m. Wednesday, but it was well worth the early morning wake-up. Beckman and his staff added 15 recruits to the program’s 2013 class. The 15 signees join 10 mid-year recruits who enrolled at the University in January. The 2013 class is Beckman’s first full recruiting class since becoming head coach following the 2011 season. 

“We didn’t win many football games (in 2012), but our staff went out and was still able to get one of the top recruiting classes, at least in the top half of the country,” Beckman said at a 1 p.m. news conference. “(We told) these student-athletes that they have opportunity, but they are also going to be taken care of. They are going to be pushed to be the best that they can be, on the field and off the field.”

Rivals.com ranks Beckman’s class No. 46 in the nation and seventh in the Big Ten.

Recruiting “Illini nation” 

Fifteen of the 25 total recruits are from what Beckman calls “Illini nation,” a six-hour radius around Champaign. Another four are from the Chicago area. In all, eight recruits are from Illinois, the most of any Illinois recruiting class since 2008.

“We believe in this state and we understand that this state has very competitive and very well-coached football teams,” Beckman said. “It is our prerogative to recruit this state and be involved in this state as much as we possibly can.”

Headlining the 2013 class is quarterback Aaron Bailey from Bolingbrook High School in Bolingbrook, Ill. Bailey is rated as a four-star recruit and is the ninth-ranked quarterback in the country, according to Rivals.com. He led Bolingbrook to a state championship as a junior in 2011.

Beckman said he talked to Bailey as many as four times a week during the recruiting process. Other Illinois recruits include defensive back Jaylen Dunlap of Crete-Monee High School, in Crete, Ill., and Kendrick Foster, a running back from Richwoods High School in Peoria, Ill.

Who needs a coach?

The Illini signed five defensive linemen Wednesday despite not having a defensive line coach. Former defensive line coach Keith Gilmore left Illinois two weeks ago for the same position at North Carolina. All of the linemen recruits stayed committed to the program, and the Illini even picked up another late signee in Paul James.

The Miami-native verbally committed to Illinois on Jan. 30. Illinois tight ends coach and recruiting coordinator Alex Golesh said if anybody recruited James, it was current Illinois defensive lineman Teko Powell, who played with James in high school. 

“I’ll give (Powell) all the credit in the world because I don’t know how many phone calls he made,” Golesh said. “We never asked him to make any, but every day he’d come in and say I think Paul’s coming.”

Golesh also said, at one point, four Illini coaches flew to Miami to persuade James to become an Illini. The message to all of the defensive linemen was the same: Beckman is going to hire the best man he can for the job. But Golesh said these recruits chose Illinois because of the opportunities the University provides, not because of a specific coach.

Jockeying for position

With the spring season looming, a number of Illini have changed positions, notably former safety Steve Hull, who will play wide receiver in 2013 as a senior. Freshman lineman Robbie Bain also has been moved from the offensive line to the defensive line.

For the incoming recruits, positions are not set in stone either. Caleb Day, from Hilliard, Ohio, chose Illinois over Ohio State, among other schools. Day, also a four-star recruit, according to Rivals, is listed as a defensive back but could potentially play wide receiver.

Martize Barr, a transfer from Iowa Western Community College who is already enrolled in the University, is listed as a wide receiver, but Beckman said he could be used as a defensive back. 

Spring practice begins March 5 for the Illini, and Beckman announced Wednesday that all Friday practices will be open to the public. The spring game is scheduled for April 12 at 8 p.m. at Memorial Stadium. It will be televised live on Big Ten Network.

Sean can be reached at sphammo2@ dailyillini.com and @sean_hammond.

Pick up tomorrow's Daily Illini for full coverage of National Signing Day.