CHAMPAIGN — Illinois football tapped back in to what’s been its most fertile recruiting ground in the Class of 2021 early Friday afternoon for one commit. Then the state that’s given the Illini fits proved fruitful Friday evening for another.
Illinois’ 2021 recruiting class jumped to 15 total commits Friday with verbal pledges from unranked Pace (Fla.) cornerback Tyler Strain and three-star Plainfield East offensive lineman Zachary Barlev. Strain is the Illini’s eighth commitment in the class out of the Sunshine State, while Barlev is Lovie Smith and Co.’s second in-state snag.
Strain chose Illinois out of a group of four total offers that included South Alabama, South Florida and Tulane. The 5-foot-10, 180-pound cornerback is unranked by both 247Sports and Rivals.
The Milton, Fla., native attends nearby Pace High School. The Patriots went 3-7 last season. Strain finished his junior season with 34 tackles, four pass breakups, two blocked field goals, one interception, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery.
Spain is also a track athlete. He ran 10.96 seconds in the 100-meter dash this past track season and has also been clocked at 4.43 seconds in the 40-yard dash.
Friday was a busy day for Barlev. The in-state offensive lineman decommitted from Bowling Green just before noon and then announced his commitment to Illinois approximately six hours later. Barlev, who checks in at 6-4 and 292 pounds, initially committed to Bowling Green on July 4 and cited “personal reasons” in his decommitment tweet.
Barlev is not only Illinois’ second in-state recruit, but he’s also the Illini’s second in-state offensive lineman. Loyola Academy’s three-star center Josh Kreutz — the son of former Chicago Bears Pro Bowl center Olin Kreutz — committed to the Illini earlier this month.
Illinois has added 14 commitments to their 2021 recruiting class since May. That came after three-star DeSoto (Texas) quarterback Samari Collier was the only commit in the class for five months after giving his pledge on Dec. 7.
May’s recruiting successes included three-star DeSmet (Mo.) offensive lineman Brody Wisecarver, three-year Winter Park (Fla.) cornerback Daniel Edwards, three-star Westalke (Ga.) defensive end Sedarius McConnell, three-star Griffin (Ga.) wide receiver Prince Green and three-star South Sumter (Fla.) linebacker Trevor Moffitt. The Illini followed that up in June with commitments from three-star Atlantic Coast (Fla.) wide receiver Patrick Bryant, three-star Fort Myers (Fla.) safety Joriell Washington, three-star Mainland (Fla.) athlete Theodore Lockley and three-star East Lake (Fla.) linebacker Dylan Rosiek.
Friday’s commitments from Strain and Barlev make for five in July, which includes Kreutz. Illinois’ other July commitments came from Tampa Catholic (Fla.) safety DD Snyder, and Stuart (Va.) linebacker Kalen Villanueva.