Jared Badie’s growing list of college suitors last year included one conspicuous omission.
That changed with a calendar change, and a coaching change in Champaign.
“I had not previously spoken to anybody from Illinois before [head coach Bret] Bielema and his staff came aboard,” said Badie, Oswego East’s rising senior outside linebacker. “This new staff is doing a great job making us a priority and I really think that is important because the amount of talent Illinois holds is amazing.”
Badie this week joined a growing group of that talent base that’s staying home.
Badie, a three-star recruit and the 14th-ranked prospect in Illinois’ Class of 2022 by the recruiting website 247Sports.com, made his verbal commitment to first-year head coach Bielema and the Illini.
Badie, the most heavily-recruited player in Oswego East program history, chose Illinois from 18 scholarship offers, six from the Big Ten alone. He made official visits in the last month to Illinois, Tennessee, Michigan State and Minnesota, who all had offered him, and said he always planned to make his decision after those visits. Badie made two visits to Champaign in June, an official and unofficial.
Illinois offered Badie in January, at the time his 10th offer.
“I chose Illinois because of the amazing family atmosphere that they have created and the opportunity to come in and help create a winning culture,” Badie said.
It’s been a decade since Illinois’ last winning season, or bowl win.
But Bielema, hired in December to succeed Lovie Smith, has made winning over in-state talent a clear priority to turning around the program. The native of Prophetstown in western Illinois took Wisconsin to three straight Rose Bowls in his seven seasons in Madison. He later coached at Arkansas for five years before serving as a defensive assistant with the NFL’s New England Patriots and New York Giants the last two years.
Oswego East coach Tyson LeBlanc said he received texts from every coach on the Illinois’ staff on a holiday last December.
“More texts than from their entire staff the last three years, definitely a different program priority,” said LeBlanc, who sent a player of his while at Curie to Wisconsin during Bielema’s tenure. “They’re doing what they are saying they would do.”
Indeed, Badie becomes the seventh player among the top 30 recruits in Illinois’ Class of 2022 to pledge to the Illini. That is more than the previous four recruiting classes’ combined.
Badie said he is good friends with other recent Illinois recruits in this class including Joliet Catholic’s Malachi Hood and Jordan Anderson and Fenwick’s Eian Pugh, who have been dubbed “The Illini Boys” by the Twitter fan base. Keion Battle, a former teammate at Oswego East, is also at Illinois after transferring from Northern Illinois.
“I knew Illinois was the place for me because it gives me the opportunity to come in and help lead my class while being able to play early and leave my legacy as one of those guys that helps Illinois win again,” Badie said. “What also helped me decide was that I could sense that the new staff and the players that were already there all said and portrayed the same thing. They were on the same page about loving each other as family and winning again, and I knew I wanted to be a part of that change.”
Badie, a long, athletic, 6-foot-5, 218-pound edge outside linebacker who has run a 4.49-second 40, started all 10 games at Oswego East as a sophomore. His recruiting took off last summer and fall after Iowa State offered him in late July.
As a junior the Record Newspapers All-Area pick had 36 tackles, including 25 solos, with 5.5 tackles for loss, three sacks and two pass deflections.
Badie said that Illinois liked his explosiveness paired with his length and ability to change directions and run down plays in space and on the line.
“I think from a pure athletic standpoint he is a guy who has a chance to play [professionally] on Sundays,” LeBlanc said. “I think this is a good move for him and a good fit for him. Thinking as a coach and parent, it’s maybe an opportunity for his parents to see him play more. What they’re going to do with him on the defensive side of the ball is similar to with us, he’ll be a 3-4 edge outside linebacker. All those things, it’s a good situation for him.”