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When Kalen Villanueva put pen to paper, it had been nearly 12 hours since Illinois football received its first signed National Letter of Intent today.

Villanueva wraps up the expected signings and raises the Illini's haul to 14 for the early signing period.

Kalen Villanueva

Justice High/Falls Church, Va.

6-foot-1, 203 pounds

Linebacker

Rivals: 2-star

247sports: 3-star

Other offers: Penn, William & Mary

Check out Thursday's News-Gazette for capsules about the 13 early signees and a recruiting story with comments from Rivals.com national recruiting director Mike Farrell.

* * *

Joriell Washington decommitted from Illinois on Sunday, following Lovie Smith's firing. But Washington apparently had another change of heart Wednesday, as his signing with the Illini was announced a little after 3:30 p.m.

Joriell Washington

Fort Myers High/Fort Myers, Fla.

6-foot-2, 178 pounds

Safety

Rivals: 3-star

247sports: 3-star

Other offers: Iowa State, Kentucky, Oregon, Purdue, Southern Mississippi

* * *

The biggest fish in the Illini's Class of 2021 pond has signed with the program, as offensive lineman Brody Wisecarver's inking became official around 1:25 this afternoon.

Wisecarver is a top-500 recruit nationally according to the 247sports composite, which rates him 25th at guard and sixth overall in the state of Missouri.

Brody Wisecarver

De Smet Jesuit High/St. Louis

6-foot-5, 300 pounds

Offensive tackle

Rivals: 3-star

247sports: 3-star

Other offers: Arizona, Indiana, Iowa State, Kansas, Kent State, Kentucky, Louisville, Michigan State, West Virginia, Western Michigan

* * *

Illinois will not ink the entirety of its previously-expected early signing class, as receiver Chevalier Brenson announed via Twitter he's reopening his recruitment in response to Lovie Smith's firing.

The 6-foot-4, 195-pound ahtlete out of St. Louis holds 19 offers, incuding the Illini's.

* * *

Josh Gesky is staying in-state and became the third offensive lineman to sign with the Illini on Wednesday.

Josh Gesky

Manteno High/Manteno

6-foot-5, 265 pounds

Offensive tackle

Rivals: 3-star

247sports: 3-star

Other offers: Arkansas State, Dartmouth, Eastern Illinois, Eastern Michigan, Florida International, Fordham, Kansas, Montana State, Southern Illinois, Syracuse, Tennessee-Martin, Western Illinois

* * *

Daniel Edwards became the third cornerback to officially sign with Illinois on Wednesday, picking the Illini out of 12 total offers.

Daniel Edwards

Winter Park High/Winter Park, Fla.

6-foot, 165-pounds

Cornerback

Rivals: 3-star

247sports: 3-star

Other offers: Bowling Green, Cincinnati, Florida Atlantic, Georgia State, Kent State, Liberty, Louisville, Miami, Middle Tennessee State, Southern Mississippi, Western Michigan

* * *

Samari Collier was the first verbal commit of Illinois' Class of 2021 group of 14, offering his pledge in December 2019. Patrick Bryant, who already is signed to the Illini, indicated to The News-Gazette on Monday that he and Collier had a conversation after Lovie Smith's firing and convinced one another to stick with Illinois.

Samari Collier

DeSoto High/DeSoto, Texas

6-foot-3, 210 pounds

Quarterback

Rivals: 3-star

247sports: 3-star

Other offers: New Mexico State, Toledo

* * *

After a two-hour break in the Illini's early signing day action, Prince Green upped the team's total haul to eight by inking in Georgia.

Prince Green

Griffin High/Griffin, Ga.

6-foot-2, 190 pounds

Wide receiver

Rivals: 3-star

247sports: 3-star

Other offers: Kentucky, Minnesota

* * *

Half of the Illini's expected class now is signed today, with Tampa cornerback DD Snyder choosing Illinois over a host of other offers.

DD Snyder

Tampa Catholic High/Tampa, Fla.

6-foot, 170 pounds

Cornerback

Rivals: 3-star

247sports: 3-star

Other offers: Bethune-Cookman, Bowling Green, Buffalo, Coastal Carolina, Colorado State, Duke, Florida Atlantic, Georgia State, Indiana, Liberty, Louisville, Marshall, North Carolina State, North Dakota State, Rhode Island, South Alabama, South Florida, Tennessee State, Tennessee-Martin, UCF, Washington State

* * *

Just minutes after Josh Kreutz's signing bolstered Illinois' offensive line ranks, Zach Barlev joined Kreutz by remaining in-state to play in the trenches.

Zach Barlev

Plainfield East High/Plainfield

6-foot-4, 292 pounds

Offensive tackle

Rivals: 2-star

247sports: 3-star

Other offers: Bowling Green, Bryant, Columbia, Eastern Illinois, Fordham, Harvard, Indiana State, Penn, Southeast Missouri State, Southern Illinois, Western Illinois, Western Kentucky, Yale

* * *

Josh Kreutz is the son of former Chicago Bears star center Olin Kreutz, who played for Lovie Smith in the NFL. Even though Smith no longer is with the Illini, Josh Kreutz decided to maintain his college commitment.

Columnist Bob Asmussen caught up with Josh Kreutz a couple days after the youngster verbally committed last July.

Josh Kreutz

Loyola Academy/Wilmette

6-foot-2, 265 pounds

Center

Rivals: 3-star

247sports: 3-star

Other offers: Ball State, Central Michigan, Northern Illinois, Western Kentucky, Wyoming

* * *

Nearing 90 minutes into the early signing period, the Illini gained their fourth athlete of the morning in Florida's Tyler Strain.

Tyler Strain

Pace High/Milton, Fla.

5-foot-10, 175 pounds

Cornerback

Rivals: 2-star

247sports: 3-star

Other offers: South Alabama, Southern Florida, Tulane

* * *

Defensive end Sedarius McConnell got in under the 7 a.m. Central hour and became the third player to sign with Illinois.

Sedarius McConnell

Westlake High/Atlanta, Ga.

6-foot-2, 259 pounds

Defensive end

Rivals: 3-star

247sports: 3-star

Other offers: Coastal Carolina, Duke, Kansas, Liberty, Louisville, Minnesota, Pittsburgh, Toledo, Vanderbilt, Wake Forest, West Virginia

* * *

Receiver Patrick Bryant joined Dylan Rosiek in officially inking to the Illini a little more than 10 minutes after Rosiek on Wednesday morning. Bryant held offers from six Big Ten schools, Illinois among them.

Patrick Bryant

Atlantic Coast High/Jacksonville, Fla.

6-foot-2, 180 pounds

Wide receiver

Rivals: 3-star

247sports: 3-star

Other offers: Appalachian State, Arkansas, Cincinnati, East Carolina, Florida International, Florida State, Georgia Tech, Indiana, Iowa, Liberty, Marshall, Miami, Nebraska, Penn State, Rutgers, South Florida, Southern Mississippi, Syracuse, UCF, Vanderbilt, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest

* * *

Illinois' first signing of the day, announced by the team at 6:25 a.m., comes courtesy linebacker Dylan Rosiek, out of Tarpon Springs, Fla.

Rosiek was recruited by Miles Smith, who will not coach in Saturday's Big Ten Champions Game at Penn State, as he departed the team with father Lovie Smith. Rosiek tweeted not long after Lovie Smith's ouster that he still planned to sign with the Illini.

Dylan Rosiek

East Lake High/Tarpon Springs, Fla.

6-foot-1, 210 pounds

Inside linebacker

Rivals: 2-star

247sports: 3-star

Other offers: Air Force, Army, Bowling Green, Buffalo, Coastal Carolina, Colorado State, Georgia State, South Florida, UCF

* * *

Illinois football finds itself in a challenging position, as the early signing period and a Saturday Big Ten Champions Week matchup with Penn State follow last Sunday's firing of coach Lovie Smith.

Smith's ouster apparently hasn't dampened the fire of the Illini's 2021 recruiting class. Fourteen high-schoolers verbally committed to the program prior to Smith's departure, and many have said in some form or fashion that they plan to sign their National Letter of Intent on Wednesday.

Three-star receiver Patrick Bryant and two-star defensive back Tyler Strain (rankings according to Rivals.com) told The News-Gazette on Monday they plan to sign with the Illini on Wednesday despite Smith's firing.

Numerous other commits β€” including three-star offensive linemen Brody Wisecarver and Josh Kreutz, three-star defensive end Sedarius McConnell and two-star linebacker Dylan Rosiek β€” have tweeted their intention to sign with Illinois on Wednesday.

The Illini's 2021 class currently is rated 75th by Rivals.com, including 13th of 14 in the Big Ten. Mike Farrell, Rivals' national recruiting director, told The News-Gazette on Tuesday that Smith's firing so close to the early signing period should "lead to a smaller class," but Farrell added that "it's not going to kill them" if the Illini have to make some recruiting sacrifices in the wake of Smith's departure.

Of course, with the COVID-19 pandemic leading to an extra year of eligibility for all upperclassmen who desire it, it's currently impossible to tell exactly how Illinois' roster might look in the fall of 2021 regardless of the team's high school signings leading up to that point.

Follow along here and through the Twitter account of beat writer Colin Likas as the Illini announce their early signings throughout Wednesday.

Colin Likas is the preps coordinator at The News-Gazette. He can be reached at clikas@news-gazette.com, or on Twitter at @clikasNG.

College/Prep Sports Reporter

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

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