Illinois is in a chicken-and-egg quandary.

Coach Tim Beckman needs strong recruits to build the struggling football program. Strong recruits generally want to play for a program that already is built, which is not the case for an Illini team coming off a 4-8 season with one Big Ten win.

That's a major reason the 18-player class Illinois signed Wednesday ranked 13th out of 14 Big Ten teams, according to 247sports.com's composite rankings. The class includes five junior-college players.

"I think that's why they chose the Illini," Beckman said of the junior-college signees, "because they know that they can make an impact in our program quickly."

The Illini signed only five players from Illinois, an area the coaching staff is concentrating on improving.

"We continue to strive to recruit our state and fill the roster with Illinois players," Beckman said, noting 52 players on the roster are from Illinois. Ten in this class are from what Beckman refers to as "Illini Nation," a six-hour radius from Champaign.

The in-state signees are Neuqua Valley receiver Mikey Dudek, Springfield Sacred Heart-Griffin receiver Malik Turner, Lincoln-Way East offensive lineman Nick Allegretti, Mount Carmel running back Matt Domer and Lincoln-Way North athlete Julian Hylton.

Beckman took a shot at rival Northwestern, which picked up four players from Illinois, including three four-star recruits.

"We signed four players out of the 'state of Chicago,' as we call it," Beckman said at a news conference. "That was more than the actual team that is in Chicago."

Rivals.com does not rate any of the Illini's signees higher than three stars.