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CHAMPAIGN — Less than a week ago, Malachi Hood didn’t have a scholarship offer from the Illinois football program.

Now, he’s the newest member of Bret Bielema’s first full recruiting class with the Illini after Hood verbally committed on Monday.

And a notable one at that.

Not only is Hood, a 6-foot-2, 210-pound linebacker, the second member from a vaunted program in Joliet Catholic picking the Illini in this latest recruiting cycle.

He’s also the first defensive commit in the Class of 2022.

Hood is rated a three-star prospect, according to 247sports, but is unranked according to Rivals. He’ll work with either linebackers coach Andy Buh or outside linebackers coach Kevin Kane when he arrives at Illinois.

He joins Joliet Catholic teammate Jordan Anderson in committing to the Illini ahead of their upcoming senior seasons with the Hilltoppers.

Illinois is the only offer for Hood at the moment. But he didn’t waste long in picking his future college home, with other Big Ten schools like Northwestern, Purdue and Wisconsin showing interest.

Hood’s commitment on Monday came after an official visit to Illinois this past weekend, a big weekend for Bielema and his staff in welcoming prospects to campus for the first time in their tenure. The NCAA ended an almost 15-month dead period for recruiting on June 1 in response to the COVID-19 pandeimc. In explaining his commitment, Hood thanked his parents, family, coaches and others before announcing his decision.

“Finally, I want to thank Coach Bielema, Coach Buh and Coach Kane for taking a chance on me, a choice they will not regret,” Hood wrote. “With that being said, I have decided to continue my academic and athletic career at the University of Illinois.”

Along with Anderson, Hood joins Rochester wide receiver Hank Beatty, Brother Rice tight end Henry Boyer and Iroquois West offensive lineman Clayton Leonard as in-state 2022 commits.

Quarterback Donovan Leary (Sicklerville, N.J.), tight end Owen Anderson (Princeton, N.J.), offensive lineman Joey Okla (Hartland, Wis.), and offensive lineman Hunter Whitenack (New Carlisle, Ind.), are also part of the class that is ranked 27th according to Rivals and 29th by 247sports.

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