New Illini coach — a Prophetstown native — making homegrown talent a priority

College Sports

Incoming Illinois football coach Bret Bielema speaks at a news conference at Smith Football Center in Champaign, Illinois. (Michael Glasgow/University of Illinois Athletics via AP)

New Illinois football coach Bret Bielema hopes to have a coaching staff in place by early January.

He also says he is already concentrating on homegrown recruiting.

Recently fired Illini coach Lovie Smith was often criticized for his recruiting efforts, especially from among Illinois high schools.

Both Bielema and Illinois athletic director Josh Whitman said they understand the need to recruit top talent from within the state.

Bielema, a native of Prophetstown, Illinois, replaces Smith, who went 17-39 overall in his five-year tenure and posted a 10-33 Big Ten record.

Bielema’s initial contract is for six years beginning with an annual salary of $4.2 million.

Illinois went 2-6 this season.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.