Coach Greg Schiano announced a recruiting class that includes two players - offensive lineman Anthony Davis and linebacker Manny Abreu - who are considered among the best in the country at their position, along with several other players considered among the best in New Jersey.
National recruiting publications have ranked the class in the top two or three dozen in the country.
"I think it says that we're a big school," Schiano said. "We just haven't been that successful on the big football stage. We've started that process, and now we've got to continue it. But it does say a lot."
The Scarlet Knights are coming off a bowl berth in 2005 for the first time in 27 years, followed by an 11-2 record, a No. 7 ranking and first bowl victory in 2006. They were ranked No. 12 in the final Associated Press poll.
HIGH ILLINI HOPES: After doing the catering for Florida's national championship season, Ron Zook brought out some tantalizing appetizers for Illinois' famished football fans Wednesday when he announced his recruiting class.
"This freshman class may be the best around," Zook said. "In three years we'll know."
That's high praise. When Zook was Florida's coach he recruited 20 of the 22 starters on the team that knocked off Ohio State in the BCS championship game.
None of the recruiting gurus are suggesting the 21 recruits who have signed letters-of-intent to play for Zook at Illinois are going to be the second coming of that group of Gators. But their evaluations suggest significant improvement on the Illini's 2-9 and 2-10 records in Zook's first two seasons as their coach.
"It'll take a little bit longer," recruiting analyst Tom Lemming replied when asked if these recruits are up to Zook's Florida standards. "They're not quite up there yet.
"It's an excellent start. It's a deep, solid class. It probably rates about 13th in the country and second in the Big Ten, behind Michigan but ahead of Ohio State, Penn State and Iowa, which also are high nationally."
"I don't get into how people rank them," Zook said. "It's how they perform three, four years down the road."