Illinois coach Bret Bielema defends controversial comments about roster

Per Adam Rittenberg of ESPN, Bielema attempted to clear the air Thursday and said he’s been “very complimentary about the staff and the players that they’ve left us, repeatedly.” He also confirmed that he’s spoken with his current players about his words. 

“I was stating facts about where we are when I mentioned offensive linemen and defensive linemen,” Bielema explained. “That is a position of need because of numbers, not because of who I do or don’t have. We don’t have the numbers at the offensive and defensive line, which is a premium in our program. We went from a defensive front that has two defensive linemen to now the one that has three defensive linemen, so we don’t have the numbers. That’s strictly it.

“If you want to take it in any other direction, that’s your prerogative, but that’s not the intent whatsoever, and it wasn’t anything derogatory at the past staff.” 

While Bielema added his players responded positively after meeting with them, he said his original words were “completely taken out of context” by media members searching for “clickbait” while covering a 2-5 team. 

Unfortunately for Bielema and company, things get no easier for them this Saturday, as Illinois play at the No. 7-ranked Penn State Nittany Lions.

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