Tim Beckman understands the importance of Chicago from a recruiting aspect.
So much that the Illinois football coach shares a similar thought that many other Land of Lincoln residents acknowledge.
"We call Chicago a state," Beckman said at last Wednesday's press conference announcing the signing of 25 players for the Class of 2013. "Every one of our coaches recruits Chicago as well as they all recruit the state of Illinois. I believe recruiting is relationships and building relationships with players. We've only had that opportunity to do that as a full staff starting last May, so I think our coaching staff did an excellent job ... in that area."
That last comment may make for some lively debates with Illinois fans.
Beckman and Co. only signed three from the surrounding suburbs in Bolingbrook quarterback Aaron Bailey, Plainfield Central defensive tackle Bryce Douglas and Crete-Monee defensive back Jaylen Dunlap.
If you want to stretch the geography and count Ottawa among the Chicago suburbs, then it's four with the addition of wide receiver Michael Hermosillo, a running back during his prep career.
A few players, like Caleb Day from Darby (Ohio) High School and Darius Mosely from O'Fallon (Ill.) High School just to name two, could wind up either at a wide receiver or defensive back, depending on necessity for Illinois in 2013.
"If Caleb Day can be a receiver that plays a lot for us, then he'll play receiver," Beckman said. "We feel he can be a definite factor for us as a defensive back."
A large chunk of the class is already on campus, with 10 early enrollees.
Of the 10, five are junior college players. Illinois recruiting coordinator Alex Golesh said tapping into the JUCO ranks might happen again in the future for Illinois, albeit not on the scale former Illinois coach Mike White brought those players to Champaign-Urbana in the 1980s.
"I think we learned a lot this year in terms of our admissions and in terms of what it takes to get into school here with the junior college guys," Golesh said. "We're going to get through spring, see if there are still needs and then re-evaluate in May. I'd be willing to bet that we will probably continue to recruit junior colleges until we feel like we don't need any more junior college guys."
Even if the junior college trend doesn't continue for Illinois, Beckman is fine in making sure future classes consist of early enrollees on campus.
"I like bringing them in early so we can develop their bodies," Beckman said. "A lot of them played other sports, so now they're just solely working on football (and) working on strength. They've done a fabulous job."
Beckman had equal praise for the work Golesh put in.
"I think he's outstanding with families and outstanding with prospects. He's very thorough," Beckman said. "It really does mean everything to him. Just like an offensive coordinator or a defensive coordinator, maybe his job is just as more, if not more, important than any other coordinator. He's the recruiting coordinator, (so) he must bring in players that fit what we want to do. They're not all four-stars or five-stars. He brings those players in because he knows that they can help us just by the type of people they are."
While Illinois didn't overwhelm the team rankings with this class, checking in at 46th with Rivals.com and 39th with Scout.com, the real value of the first full recruiting class Beckman and his staff brought in during his Illinois tenure most likely won't be felt until the 2014 or 2015 seasons.
"In all honesty, the school sells itself," Golesh said. "We've sold everything but the two wins, and we've used the two wins in a really positive way in (saying) 'Commit and be the reason why we get this thing turned.'"