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3 Key Newcomers for Illinois Football this fall



Illini football added talent and depth to the roster.

Illini football fans must be excited about their prospects for another solid season. For the second consecutive season, the Illini upgraded at quarterback. Last season’s starting quarterback, Tommy Devito, was solid. Luke Altmyer has the potential to be the best quarterback Illinois has had in a long time. In Barry Lunney’s offense, quarterback turned wide receiver Isaiah Williams has grown into an excellent wide receiver. One of the most critical factors with many of these new players is that the competition for playing time will increase.

Keep an eye on these three players to make an impact this fall for the Illini.

Malik Elzy, WR:

Wide receiver is one of the more exciting positions for Illini football this fall. Last season, they could bully opponents with Chase Brown and company running the football, using play action to throw off the running game. Unless one of their running backs — and they have about five to choose from — immediately breaks out, the Illini might have to throw to set up the passing game. Last season’s leading receiver, Isaiah Washington, averaged under ten yards per reception. If the Illini are going to throw more this season, they need someone to stretch the defense.

Simeon High School product Malik Elzy could be just what the doctor ordered. He is one of the best wide receiver prospects the Illini has signed in some time. Elzy has college size already at 6-foot-2 and 204 pounds and has excellent start-stop ability as a route runner. Elzy is not a burner per se, but he has playmaking ability with the ball in his hands. Keep an eye on another frosh receiver, Kenari Wilcher. Recruited as an athlete, his transition to full-time receiver is going better than imagined. He’s a certified burner who could do much damage in the slot.

Denzel Daxon, DT:

Defensive coordinators Aaron Henry and Terrance Jamison must be excited about the returning defensive line depth. Not only is there depth along the defensive front, but there is also talent. The key to what the Illini want to do defensively is nose tackle. The Fighting Illini have two good nose tackles in Northwestern transfer TeRah Edwards and Ohio transfer Denzel Daxon. Both Edwards and Daxon give Illinois football much-needed size, but Daxon also gives them some versatility.

Daxon can play directly over the center, between the center and guard, or directly over the guard. Daxon can play next to Edwards in a rotation, given a specific down and distance. Daxon’s size is ideal in a 3-4 base because he can play the more traditional 3-4 defensive end with his ability to set the edge or take on multiple blockers for an outside linebacker to get to the quarterback.

Demetrius Hill, DB:

The Illini had to replace three defensive backs, Sydney Brown, Jartavius Martin, and fifth overall pick Devon Witherspoon, who were drafted. Illinois added Louisville transfer Nicario Harper who has been in Champaign since spring. The Illini signed one of the top defensive backs in the portal in Florida International transfer Demetrius Hill. This defense has high expectations, and signing a Freshman All-American helps replenish one of the better secondaries in college football.

Hill comes in to play free safety, taking Kerby Joseph’s place. However, when the Illini want to use five defensive backs, Hill does have the skill set to come down and cover the slot. Hill is not a lock to start, however. Sophomore Matthew Bailey looks to figure into the defensive back rotation, along with Harper and redshirt sophomore Kionte Curry. Summer practice will be intense to see who starts this fall in the secondary.



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.