With an upset victory over Minnesota, two-straight wins to close out the regular season and a bowl berth for the first time since 2011, Illinois head coach Tim Beckman was able to salvage his job….at least for the moment.
Along with success on the field in 2014, Beckman showed signs of improvement in the recruiting game, proving he has the Illini football program headed in the right direction.
On Wednesday, Illinois concluded the day with 24 commitments for its 2015 class, eight of which enrolled at the university for the spring semester and practice. Beckman and the coaching staff aren’t just excited about the number of prospects they landed but also the quality of talent headed to Champaign.
Going by rankings provided by 247 sports, Illinois’ recruiting class ranked 45th nationally and 7th in the Big Ten. Those are huge jumps for a program that finished 72nd and 14th when the recruiting period ended a season ago.
But it wasn’t just a massive leap forward from 2014 to 2015 for Beckman and company. The incoming class is the most impressive for the program in the better part of a decade, when Nathan Scheelhaase and Terry Hawthorne signed letters of intent in 2009.
That year, Ron Zook brought in a class that ranked 30th on the national scale and sixth in the conference.
Illinois’ most recent class is highlighted by four-star recruits: Gabe Megginson, a 6-5, 295 lb. offensive tackle and Ke’Shawn Vaughn, a running back who eclipsed 5,000 yards during in his high school career in Tennessee.
Beckman was also able to land a plethora of three-star recruits who will head to Illinois this summer, most of which will be playing offensive roles.
Of the 24 recruits, 13 of them are listed at offensive positions and two more are marked as athletes.
It’s not an overwhelming amount of talent that’s going to be populating Illinois’ roster in 2015, but there’s plenty of meat in the sandwich to show gradual signs of improvement as Beckman attempts to turn the program back into a contender in the Big Ten.
Getting more than one conference win was the first step and reaching the postseason was the second in the grueling process. Now, with a couple of highly-touted recruits committed to wearing the blue and orange next season, Beckman appears to be on the verge of turning the corner for a program that was in the cellar for the past three seasons.
Regardless of the caliber of the recruiting class, Illinois will have to continue to show signs of progress on the field if Beckman hopes to stick around for the entirety of his five-year contract. If the 2014 season and the quality of incoming prospects for 2015 is any indication of things to come, Illinois will continue to improve and gradually become more competitive amongst conference foes.