Best Illinois Offensive Player
WR Ricky Smalling, Soph.
A strong recruit for the program, the 6-1, 205-pounder led the team with 31 catches for 510 yards and two scores, showing off good deep speed and the upside to be the go-to target. If the quarterback play starts to improve, look out. Smalling leads a corps with six of the top seven pass catchers back.
2. QB A.J. Bush, Sr.
3. WR Mike Dudek, Sr.
4. QB Isaiah Williams, Fr.
5. OT Larry Boyd, Soph.
Best Illinois Defensive Player
S Stanley Green, Jr.
In just ten games, the 5-11, 195-pound safety finished second on the team with 70 tackles with an interception with three forced fumbles. There’s hope for more production overall with just enough promise among all of the young players to think things will be better, with Green being a key in all areas. A hitter, he cranked up eight stops or more in each of his last six games before missing the finale against Northwestern.
2. LB Del’Shawn Phillips, Sr.
3. DE Bobby Roundtree, Soph.
4. S Bennett Williams, Soph.
5. LB Dele Harding, Jr.
Key Player To A Successful Season
QB AJ Bush, Sr.
Let’s try this again. Last year, the Illinois quarterback situation was supposed to be a positive with Virginia Tech’s Dwayne Lawson transferring in, but he couldn’t get eligible. Now comes another Hokie in Bush to try saving the situation.
Cam Thomas is a veteran who can run, and while he might be a great fit for the system, he has to prove he can throw. Star recruit Isaiah Williams will get every shot to take over the job, and there are a few other young parts, but the hope is for Bush to step in and be the man right away this summer.
The 6-4, 220-pound Bush has the arm and can run, but he would’ve been stuck behind Josh Jackson at Virginia Tech. Now it needs to be his time to instantly crank up the Illini attack.
Key Game To The Illinois Season
USF, Sept 15
This is measuring stick time. Last year, Illinois started out the year a solid 2-0 with a whole lot of promise and potential, and then …
USF 47, Illinois 23.
This time around, the game is in Chicago with Illinois needing to look and play like the Big Ten team in the room. Win, and the Illini will surpass their 2017 two-win total – they start out against Kent State and Western Illinois – by mid-September. With Penn State at home to follow, the team needs some momentum and confidence. Beating a good USF team would help.
2017 Illinois Fun Stats
– 1st Quarter Scoring: Opponents 86 – Illinois 38
– 4th Down Conversions: Opponents 12-of-18 (67%) – Illinois 4-of-10 (40%)
– Rushing Yards Per Carry: Opponents 4.8 – Illinois 3.3