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3 Illini Football Players make 247sports Big Ten Football Rankings



Oct 15, 2022; Champaign, Illinois, USA; Minnesota Golden Gophers quarterback Athan Kaliakmanis (8) passes the ball past Illinois Fighting Illini defensive lineman Keith Randolph Jr. (88) during the second half at Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ron Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

3 Illini Football Players Make 247sports Big Ten Football Rankings

One of the reasons so many pundits like Illinois to contend in the last year of the Big Ten West is the amount of talent returning to Champaign in 2023. According to Bill Connelly, the Illini return 63% of its production from last year. However, it is more than a notion to replace the production they lost last season. Offensively, the Illini have to replace Chase Brown and Tommy Devito. Defensively, Illinois has to replace the likes of Devon Witherspoon and Jartavius Martin.

What’s encouraging is the talent depth in Champaign. There are several Illini featured on several preseason All-American and All-Big Ten watch lists. Every summer, puts out the top 25 players for every conference in college football. The Illini have three players who made this list. Here’s a look at the three players who made the 247sports Big Ten Football rankings:

The Players

24. Keith Randolph, Jr., DL: The 6-foot-5, 270-pound strong side end from Belleville, Randolph, gives off serious Richard Seymour vibes with how he plays as a 3-4 defensive end. Randolph can drop anchor, set the edge against the run, and give you some pass rush. He finished second on the team in sacks (4.5) and tackles for loss (13). Randolph and bookend lineman Jer’Zhan Newton will wreak havoc on opposing offensive lines.

22. Isaiah Williams, WR: The 2023 Fred Biletnikoff Award watchlist is not released until August 7th. Expect redshirt junior wide receiver Isaiah Williams to be on that list. Last season, Williams led the Illini in receptions (82), yards (715), and touchdowns (five). Illinois has added speed and size around him at receiver. Expect the East St. Louis native to have another high-volume catch season and his yards and touchdowns to increase this season. With a quarterback that can get the ball down the field and more speed on the perimeter, Williams will have more room in the slot to operate.

11. Jer’Zhan Newton, DL: Expect Newton to be in the mix to be the first interior defensive lineman taken in the 2024 draft. Newton is the anchor of Illinois’ defensive front. Newton led the Illini in tackles for loss (14.5) and sacks (5.5) last season. Newton’s versatility is what makes him so attractive to NFL teams. Not only can he play on the end, but he can also play on the interior. There might be some criticism because of his height (6-foot-2). There have been plenty of linemen that did not have ideal height — insert Dwight Freeney here — that had great pro careers.

Armchair Illini is a comprehensive site dedicated to covering University of Illinois Athletics owned and operated by Alex Kyi. Dante Pryor has been writing about College Football for years on Saturday Blitz and is now the Lead Football Author for Armchair Illini.