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Depending on when you read this, the report published Thursday night on FootballScoop’s web page could be a confirmed reality. Or, it may still be a report.

Either way, it’s an item of interest regarding Illinois football and its ongoing recruiting push during Bret Bielema’s first two months on the job with the Illini.

Bielema told media members on a Zoom call earlier this month that he intends to have multiple individuals running the Illini recruiting department, with incumbent recruiting director Pat Embleton being one of them.

According to FootballScoop’s John Brice, former Illinois staffer Nathan McNeal will be another.

McNeal served as the Illini’s director of high school relations between 2016 and 2019. The Northern Illinois graduate has been with Temple as the Owls’ director of player personnel since February 2019.

The Illini had not confirmed McNeal’s rehiring as of Friday afternoon.

Considering McNeal’s past role at Illinois, which he held during Lovie Smith’s tenure, it would stand to reason he’d focus on the prep side of recruiting once again.

“Pat will kind of oversee everything, but I’ll have a personnel department that will have a college personnel director and a high school personnel director,” Bielema said earlier this month.

Bielema said he’s taking this approach to staffing his Illini recruiting apparatus after seeing NFL teams do the same during his three seasons with the New England Patriots and New York Giants.

Professional organizations, he said, carry a wing that focuses on talent coming out of college and another that focuses on trades and free agency.

“So we’ll do kind of the same thing where we’ll have a traditional high school personnel director that works on high school film ... especially in the state of Illinois,” Bielema said, “and then I’ll have a college personnel director that will also be an NFL liaison, who will work specifically on grad transfers, regular traditional jucos and also, obviously, portal transfers.”

Bielema signed two Class of 2021 athletes earlier this month, in addition to the 14 who inked with Illinois in December after committing to Smith.

Six transfers also have committed to the Illini since Bielema’s Dec. 19 hiring, including players from Alabama, Notre Dame, Georgia and Michigan State.

Should McNeal’s hire become official, we likely will hear from him shortly afterward.

Colin Likas covers Illinois football and high school sports at The News-Gazette. He can be reached at

College/Prep Sports Reporter

Colin Likas covers Illinois football and high school sports at The News-Gazette. His email is, and you can follow him on Twitter (@clikasNG).

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