College Football Preview: The 2014 Illinois Fighting Illini
Illinois looks for more defense to help their scoring in 2014.
2014 College Football Preview
The Illinois Fighting Illini look to take a few steps forward and build for future success in 2014.
Overview: The offense did their share of scoring in 2013 but the team finished 4-8 which doesn't say much for the defense. With a new quarterback and new receivers the offense might need more help from their counterparts on the other side of the football.
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Offense: Who will take over for Nathan Scheelhaase under center? Scheelhaase threw for nearly 3,300 yards and was the 3rd leading rusher with 487 yards. Wes Lunt played for Oklahoma State in 2012 and threw for over 1,100 yards and seems like the top choice in the spring. Steve Hull departs as the top receiver with 993 yards leaving RB Josh Ferguson (520 yards) and possibly Juco transfer Geronimo Allison as the top options. Ferguson is also the top runner with 779 yards and is one guy the Illini need on the field every Saturday. Donovonn Young was a nice guy to throw in the mix in the backfield but more of a grinder and getting four starters back on the line will only help whoever has the ball.
Defense: The defense was on the young side in 2013 but that should not be the excuse this season. Seven of the top ten players that saw the field in at least ten games are back but lose Houston Gates and Tim Kynard who spent the most time in the backfield with a combined 18 TFL and six sacks. The linebacking unit returns five of six but it's the one that's gone that is causing worry. Jonathan Brown takes a team high 90.5 tackles, 15 TFL and five sacks with him. The secondary returns all 12 players from a young group in 2013 so hopefully experience counts for something because this unit was ranked in the bottom quarter versus the pass.
Special Teams: P Justin DuVernois was decent enough at 41 yards per boot while Taylor Zalewski 12-17 on field goals including a 2-5 mark from 40+ yards. V'Angelo Bentley returned punts and kicks and had touchdowns on both.
Outlook: If Wes Lunt produces through the air the offense should be able to score. The defense has plenty of players back but the ones gone were pretty good on a unit that struggled. Assuming the offense comes together and the D gets a bit better this team will provide stiffer competition but I hesitate to say we'll see a huge 2014.