As said in Part 1, the Illini football team should be healthy with plenty of new talent and a schedule that proves capable of a very successful season.
Now, let’s talk about the actual roster. The Illinois football team will be quite possibly the most experienced team in the Big Ten next year. 15 of Illinois’s 22 starters next year will be seniors, almost all of whom have been starters for multiple years already.
On the offensive side of the ball, Illinois should be set to have one of the more explosive attacks in the conference. Senior QB Brandon Peters will be set to have a very good season after an 18 TD, 1,900-yard campaign in 2019 in just 9 full games.
Senior WR Josh Imatorbhebhe could battle for an All-Big Ten selection this year after hauling in 9 touchdowns and averaging over 19 yards per catch a year ago. A rushing attack of juniors Mike Epstein and Chase Brown will provide enough, especially with the offensive line being a major strength.
4 of the 5 starters offensive line will be seniors led by RT Alex Palczewski, an All-Big Ten selection, C Doug Kramer, Mel Kiper Jr.’s 5th ranked center on his 2021 NFL Draft big board, and LG Kendrick Green, who ranked as Pro Football Focus’s 7th highest-graded offensive lineman in 2019.
The defense may raise a few eyebrows, but it certainly has the potential to create problems for opponents. The linebacker group is talented and deep, with defensive captain, Jake Hansen, leading the way. Hansen is coming off a mind-blowing 7 forced fumbles in 9 games last season.
The secondary could quite possibly be one of the best in the Big Ten as well, as the FBS’s 4th best defense in turnovers from last year come back with senior CBs Nate Hobbs and Tony Adams, S Sydney Brown who was T-2nd in the NCAA in interceptions in 2019, and the aforementioned Marquez Beason who was a Top 100 player in the 2019 class.
Not to mention one of the best special teams units in the country, with K James McCourt being one of 5 FBS kickers to nail 4 kicks from 50+ yards in 2019, and P Blake Hayes widely regarded as the best punter in the country.
With a well-rounded roster, with many players returning from injury, the Fighting Illini may suprise people as an top 5 team in the Big-10.
Photo: Gabe Salgado/Athlon Sports