Preview 2019: Previewing and looking ahead to the Illinois Fighting Illini season with what you need to know.
– What You Need To Know: Offense | Defense
– Top Players | Key Players, Games, Stats
– What Will Happen, Win Total Prediction
– Recruiting Class Analysis | Schedule Analysis
– Illinois Previews 2018 | 2017 | 2016 | 2015
2018 Record: 4-8 overall, 2-7 in Big Ten
Head Coach: Lovie Smith, 4th year, 9-27
5. WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE ILLINOIS OFFENSE
– It wasn’t consistent, and it stalled way too often, but when the Illinois offense found a groove, it showed off something special. It ripped Minnesota for 55 points and scored 31 points or more six times in the first ten games, and then came the power outage to close things out over the final two. With seven starters returning and some big prospects coming in, there’s a lot to get excited about, starting with …
– The quarterback situation will be very, very interesting. Sophomore MJ Rivers was slightly ahead in the starting chase coming out of spring ball to replace AJ Bush … and then he entered the transfer portal. And why?
The Illini landed dual-threat star recruit Isaiah Williams out of Missouri, and it’s a question of when the new guy has the job not if. But if Williams needs a little time, redshirt freshmen Coran Taylor and Matt Robinson will keep the battle going for the starting gig unless Michigan grad transfer Brandon Peters can take over.
– It would’ve been really, really nice if Jeff Thomas was part of the fun. Miami’s leading receiver was all ready to transfer to Illinois, but Mark Richt quit, Manny Diaz got the job, and Thomas kept his talents on South Beach. The same goes for AD Miller, who was coming in from Oklahoma … until he wasn’t.
6-1, 205-pound Ricky Smalling led the team with just 33 catches for 406 yards and five scores. He’s good, but the Illinois could’ve really, really used an infusion of top talents.
Big-time recruit Marquez Beason out of Texas might be that guy, and four of the top five wideouts are back along with USC transfer Trevon Sidney, but it’s going to take something special for this group to shine. Getting Georgia transfer tight end Luke Ford is a big help … for next year. The NCAA ruled him ineligible for this season.
– The running game that had its good moments gets back leading man Reggie Corbin after his 1,085-yard, nine-touchdown season. He’s not alone in a promising group with juniors Mike Epstein and Ra’Von Bonner to veteran options for the rotation. Throw in 215-pound senior Dre Brown – and production from the quarterbacks – and the ground attack should be solid, but …
– The offensive line has to be stronger. The starting five will be solid with four starters returning and the addition of grad transfer Richie Petitbon from Alabama, but the Illini have to be a whole lot better after allowing way too many plays behind the line. The biggest problem is the depth with five linemen transferring.