Bielema complimented Penn State’s skill players, both past and present.
In coach James Franklin’s tenure, Penn State’s put players such as Saquon Barkley, Jahan Dotson and Chris Godwin in the NFL, and barring a surprise, current running backs Nicholas Singleton and Kaytron Allen will be joining them.
But this line from the third-year Illinois coach was a little more intriguing.
“They do a tremendous job in recruiting,” Bielema said, “and they’re allowed to do things there at Penn State to allow them to get a lot of skill players in the program.”
Bielema wasn’t asked to elaborate, so it’s not clear what he meant.
The PSU Twitter world speculates that it could be a reference to Name, Image and Likeness.
If this is indeed what Bielema was referring to, it would be somewhat ironic.
PSU fans have criticized the university for what they’ve perceived as a poor NIL inititive, and comments made by Franklin and former basketball coach Micah Shrewsberry have helped fuel that criticism.
Franklin told reporters after a spring practice in April that Penn State was progressing, but “two years behind” in NIL.
Shrewsberry told Blue-White Illustrated’s Nate Bauer this past December that, out of 14 Big Ten schools, Penn State was either last or second to last in its NIL efforts.
When Shrewsberry left for Notre Dame in March, many people felt Penn State being behind in NIL was one of, if not the main reason.
What’s ironic is that, in the same interview, the program Shrewsberry cited as the model for NIL in the Big Ten was Illinois.
Although it’s unclear what the “things” Penn State can do Bielema was referring to, what’s clear is that Bielema knows planning for Penn State’s offense will be a challenge.
“Very explosive,” he said. “Very productive. They have a lot of different weapons at all skill positions. A good offensive line. Guys that we recruited.”
Bielema mentioned Penn State center and Cornell transfer Hunter Nourzad, who visited Illinois while he was in the portal in January 2022.
Bielema also spoke highly of Penn State defensive coordinator Many Diaz, saying he’s known him for “a long time.”
“I don’t believe we’ve ever crossed paths on the field,” he said, “but (I have) tremendous respect for him as a coordinator and what he does, and they bring a lot of different looks, a lot of different pressures. So, (they will be) a tremendous challenge.”
Penn State and Illinois are scheduled to kickoff at noon on Fox.