4. College Football News Preview 2020: Illinois Fighting Illini Defense 3 Things To Know
– It’s been one of the stranger disappointments in the Lovie Smith era. He’s an elite defensive football coach who crafted some killers in the NFL, and yet he hasn’t been anything special at Illinois. It’s his D – he’s the coordinator – and it’s been great at forcing takeaways and getting into the backfield – but it’s been blasted too easily against the run and it’s been way too inconsistent overall.
– Leading tackler Dele Harding is done, but hitting-machine Jake Hansen is back after missing most of the back half of the year hurt. Combine him with former Washington transfer Milo Eifer, and the Illini have a terrific linebacking duo the work around. The defensive front, though, has holes to fill with Oluwole Betiku bolting early for the NFL and with the tackle situation a bit thin.
– The top three options on the inside of the line are done, and finding more pass rushing help on the outside has to come from somewhere. For what seems like the 19th year in a row, Illinois is going young up front, but the pass rush will be there in time. The key is to keep the good linebackers is relatively clean.
The secondary did its job and should be a plus again, starting with big-hitting safety Sydney Brown along with a veteran corner tandem of Tony Adams and Nate Hobbs. Combine this group with the solid linebacking corps, and this should be the best defensive back seven in the Lovie Smith era.