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Illini football post-spring 2-Deep



Post-Spring Two-Deep

Illini football post-spring 2-deep

Spring football has been in the rear view of head coach Bret Bielema and the Illini Football coaching staff for about a month. As they look forward to fall camp and the beginning of the season, the Illini have some position groups settled. Others, however, are trying to figure out the rotation. The Wide receiver, offensive line interior, defensive back, and running back will need sorting out this fall.

Like most coaches, Bielema won’t release a depth chart until the season begins. Here is a look at the two-deep heading into fall camp.


Starter: Luke Altmyer

Backups: John Paddock, Donovan Leary

Bench: Kirkland MichauxCal Swanson, Jake Huber, and Jameson Sheehan

Though Bielema and offensive coordinator Barry Lunney, Jr. has not officially named a starter heading into fall camp, Altmyer turned down a lot of suitors and chose Illinois. Also, Altmyer is the best prospect in the quarterback room, so it stands to reason that he has the inside track to be the starting quarterback for the Illini this fall. The real competition is going to be for QB2. This coaching staff signed Leary out of high school, and has made strides in his second year in the program. Paddock, a walk-on transfer from Ball State, has 12 starts under his belt. Leary got a lot of second-team starts toward the end of spring. If the redshirt freshman pushes Altmyer, that is good news for the long-term health of the position.

Running Back:

Starters: Reggie Love III and Josh McCray

Backups: Jordan Anderson, Aidan Laughery

Bench: Kaden Feagin

With Doak Walker finalist Chase Brown in the NFL, it stands to reason that Lunney’s approach to the offense and the running game will be different this season. Although there is a lot of potential in the running back room, there is also a lot of inexperience. Josh McCray looked like he and Brown would be thunder and lightning, but McCray dealt with injuries all season. He and Reggie Love are the frontrunners to lead a running back by committee but expect a lot of competition. Aidan Laughery has explosive speed, and Jordan Anderson is a big physical back that can move. Frosh Kaden Feagin has gotten solid reviews during spring despite playing football at a small high school. Feagin is freakish, and his talent could vault him into the rotation.

Wide Receiver:

Starter: Casey Washington, Isaiah Williams, Pat Bryant

Backups: Shawn Miller, Kenari Wilcher, Hank Beatty

Bench: Malik Elzy, Eian Pugh, Collin Dixon, Keion Battle, Ashton Hollins

Wide receiver is the most intriguing group on the offense. There is a lot of experience returning, but not much in the way of perimeter speed. As a result, expect some competition from the younger receivers, pushing the veterans this fall. Frosh receiver Kenari Wilcher has received high praise from coaches as he’s moved to receiver full-time. Fellow freshman Malik Elzy looks like a Power Five receiver coming off the bus and the best prospect they’ve had since five-star Arrelious Benn. There is a lot to love about this group but also a lot of inexperience.

Tight End:

Starter: Tip Reiman

Backups: Tanner Arkin, Henry Boyer

Bench: Griffin Moore, Owen Anderson, Naivyan CargillNathan Guinn,

Reiman is a natural blocker but is expected to improve as a receiver. After losing Michael Marchese and Luke Ford, Reiman is a big part of Lunney’s plans on offense. Colorado State transfer Tannker Arkin and Griffin Moore and great candidates to complement Reiman. Both tight ends are natural pass-catchers, and Moore is the best athlete in the room. Boyer, like Reiman, is a natural big-bodied blocker. However, he has improved as a pass catcher. Henry Boyer is an intriguing prospect at tight end. He’s 6-foot-6 and 250 pounds as a true freshman. Boyer is a natural blocker, but he could be dangerous if his pass-catching skills develop.

Offensive Line:

Starter: LT Julian Pearl, LG Isaiah Adams, C Josh Kreutz, RG Zy Crisler, RT Josh Gesky

Backups: Magnus Moller LT, Jordyn Slaughter RG, Zachary Barlev C, Dezmond Shuster LG, Hunter Whitenack RT

Bench: Brandon Henderson T, TJ McMillen G, Joey Okla C, Clayton Leonard  G, Zach Aamland G

The offensive line might be the best and most influential group on the offense. A good offensive line can open bigger holes for inexperienced offensive linemen and give time to young quarterbacks to acclimate themselves to a new offense. Julian Pearl and Isaiah Adams are on the NFL draft radar and have solidified the left side of the line. They did take a hit with transfer commit Avery Jones flipped to Auburn. Josh Kruetz and Zach Barlev are competing for the starting center job, but expect the Illini to offer a transfer before the season. Zy Crisler, Dezmond Shuster, and Jordyn Slaughter compete for the right guard spot. The Illini like Josh Gesky at right tackle, but big Hunter Whitenack could push Gesky this fall. Bielema has options.

Defensive Line:

Starters: Jer’Zhan Newton, TeRah Edwards, Keith Randolph, Jr.

Rotation: Bryce Barnes, Denzel Daxon, Sed McConnell, Alex Bray

Bench: Evan Kirts, Dylan Davis

If the offensive line is the strength of the offense, then the defensive line is the defense’s strength. Jer’Zhan Newton could be the first interior lineman taken in the NFL Draft. TeRah Edwards and Denzel Daxon are a formidable pair at nose tackle. Both are versatile enough to be on the field at the same. This group is as strong as it is deep. If Sed McConnell can build on his play in the bowl game, the Illini could have one of the best defensive line rotations in the country.

Outside Linebacker:

Starters: Gabe Jacas, Seth Coleman

Rotation: Ezekiel Holmes, Alec Bryant, Jared Badie

Bench: Trey Smith, Pat Farrell

Outside linebacker is as talented and deep as any position group on the team. Jacas and Coleman both will be on NFL rosters barring injury. That said, expect Holmes, Bryant, and Badie to play a load of snaps this fall. Holmes is returning from a knee injury, and Bryant played a career-high 194 snaps.

Inside Linebacker:

Starters: Dylan Rosiek, Tarique Barnes

Rotation: James Kreutz, Kenennea Odeluga

Bench: Ryan Meed, Malachi Hood, Luke Zardzin, Antwan Hayden

Last year’s leading tackler Isaac Darkangleo is in the NFL, so Tarique Barnes coming back was so important. After Barnes, however, the rest of the rotation is up for grabs. Rosiek is a good athlete. Odeluga is a great pass rusher but needs to develop as an inside backer.


Starters: Tyler Strain, Tahveon Nicholson

Rotation: Kaleb Patterson, Elijah Mc-Cantos, Zach Tobe

Bench: Saboor Karriem, Jahiem Clark

Could the Illini send another top cornerback to the NFL? Yes, if Nicholson plays as well as he did before a wrist injury cut his 2022 season short. Tyler Strain looked to have a slight lead for the other corner spot, but there are a lot of talented defensive backs nipping at his heels. Strain got a lot of snaps defending the slot after Nicholson got hurt. Kaleb Patterson is a long, athletic corner but lacks experience. Mc-Cantos looks up to the task of competing for an opportunity on the two-deep as well. The Illini were in the mix for Oklahoma transfer Jaden Davis, who committed to Miami.


Starter: Nicario Harper, Matthew Bailey, Demetrius Hill

Backups: TJ Griffin, Clayton Bush, Solo Turner, Xavier Scott.

Bench: R-Sr.; Nick Fedanzo, R-Jr.; Mac Resetich, Fr.; Miles Scott,

There is an argument that safety could be as talented a group this season as last season. Also, safety could be the most unsettled group on the roster. The Illini brought in three safeties through the transfer portal this off-season. Only the quarterback room had a more considerable facelift during the offseason. By all accounts, the coaching staff loves returning sophomore Matthew Bailey. Don’t count out Xavier Scott, either. He’s another sophomore who played a ton of snaps as a true freshman, albeit most of them at cornerback. It’s hard to imagine that Nicario Harper and Demetrius Hill were brought in to be rotational pieces.


Starter: Caleb Griffin

Bench: David Olano


Starter: Hugh Roberson

Bench: Declan Duley

Olano has generated buzz this spring, but Griffin should start unless he has a disastrous fall. Roberson was a first-year starter in 2022. Duley, who is on scholarship, should push Roberson to be more consistent.

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.