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Sources: Illinois coach Bielema bringing McNeal home for key role


Nathan McNeal is coming home, and Bret Bielema is continuing his work to lock down the borders of Illinois.

Sources tell FootballScoop that McNeal is returning to Champaign, Illinois, as Bielema's Director of Recruiting for the Illini.

Bielema has shown a direct emphasis on locking down recruiting in Illinois since landing the head job earlier in this coaching cycle after Bielema's time with the New England Patriots in the NFL.

For McNeal, a former Northern Illinois player and graduate, it's a return to his roots after spending the 2020 season as Temple University's Director of Player Personnel.

Previously, McNeal served as Illinois' top high school relations liaison under previous Illini head coach Lovie Smith.

Bielema and his staff have been active in recent weeks on social media, reaching out to high school coaches around the state of Illinois and being the beneficiary of those coaches making public their talks with Illinois' new staff.

Illinois has made a concerted effort on social media to emphasis its new #famILLy hashtag that promotes what Bielema's new staff projects as the advantages of staying home and playing at the in-state flagship institution.

McNeal is a bit of an institution in Illinois; he spent three years at his alma mater, NIU, under then-head coach Rod Carey before he vaulted to a key role for Smith's Illini program.

McNeal rejoined Carey at Temple a year ago but elected to return home for this opportunity with Bielema, the former Wisconsin and Arkansas head coach who has returned to the college ranks after three years as an NFL assistant.

As always, stay tuned to The Scoop for the latest news and notes.