CHAMPAIGN — Illinois football has added a former four-star recruit to its defensive line unit.
Virginia Tech transfer Alec Bryant verbally committed to Bret Bielema’s Illini on Tuesday afternoon, announcing his decision via Twitter with the message, “I’m in a different mode! #Illini LETS WORK.”
Bryant’s decision comes roughly one month after he announced his intention to leave the Hokies’ program following a single season in Blacksburg, Va.
“I want to thank VT for everything. With a heavy heart I have decided to enter the transfer portal and move on to a different path,” Bryant wrote on Twitter back on July 12. “This has nothing to do with my coaches or the program, but this is the best thing to do for me and my future. #GODBLESS.”
Bryant and other football players were required to inform their teams of any intention to transfer by July 1, which makes it unclear if Bryant will be eligible to play for Illinois this coming season.
Bryant is a native of Pearland, Texas, and was the state’s 35th-ranked recruit by the end of his career at Shadow Creek High School, according to Rivals.
Bryant received an offer from Lovie Smith’s Illini staff and possessed additional offers from Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Houston, Indiana, Kansas, Kansas State, LSU, Miami (Fla.), Michigan State, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Oregon, Oregon State, SMU, TCU, Texas Tech, Tulsa, USC, Utah State and Vanderbilt.
The 6-foot-3, 240-pound athlete participated in one game while at Virginia Tech, a Dec. 12 win versus Virginia.
Bryant joins an Illinois roster that has shifted some of its defensive linemen to the outside linebacker position — such as Owen Carney Jr. and Isaiah Gay — since Bielema’s hire last December but recently added Verdis Brown from the offensive line. Among the Illini D-line’s expected leaders are Roderick Perry II and Jamal Woods.
Tabel recognized. Fifth-year Illinois long snapper Ethan Tabel has been named to the Patrick Mannelly Award preseason watch list, the team announced Tuesday.
The honor is bestowed upon Division I’s best long snapper each season. Tabel earned a spot on the award’s 2020 preseason watch list as well.
The 6-foot, 230-pound Barrington native started all eight games for the Illini last season, including the final two with a torn ACL. He’s made 44 starts in his first four years at Illinois and currently is Mel Kiper’s second-rated NFL draft long snapper prospect.