Connect with us


Illinois Football Struggles are No Surprise



Illinois Football Adds Kicker From SEC Program
Sep 2, 2023; Champaign, Illinois, USA; Illinois Fighting Illini head coach Bret Bielema reacts after a play against the Toledo Rockets during the second half at Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ron Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Illinois Football Struggles are No Surprise

This stinks. Illinois Football had built up quite the buzz last November. They were sitting at 7-1 in the midst of a 6 game winning streak. They sat atop the meek Big Ten West with a chance to win the conference. Finally, after a decade of rolling around in mediocrity, Illinois Football was back and ranked. Recruiting continued to build, and Bret Bielema gained traction that alums like me have only dreamed of. However, it has been rough sliding since then. Since that 7-1 record, the Illini have put up a 2-5 record. Most recently, they looked lost and sheepish on the national stage against Kansas. 

They are one prayer of a throw and catch by Luke Altmyer and Casey Washington from being 0-2 to start the season. Despite this, I am not surprised by any of this

Realize what we lost on Defense:

Everyone knows what we lost. Illinois lost a lot of talent, but also lost a ton of experience. In the list below, take note of how many of these meaningful contributors were experienced. On Defense:

  1. Devon Witherspoon
  2. Sydney Brown
  3. Quan Martin
  4. Kendall Smith (5th year)
  5. Isaac Darkangelo (5th year)
  6. Calvin Avery (5th year)

4 out of 6 of these guys are currently on NFL rosters. Additionally, Smith made plays in the NFL preseason, however did not make the final roster. We replaced this list with the one below

  1. Tyler Strain (Sophomore, first time playing extended snaps), and Taz Nicholson who is clearly struggling being the number 1 corner
  2. Matt Bailey (injured). Clayton Bush (first time at the high major level)
  3. Xavier Scott (True Sophomore)
  4. Miles Scott (former walk-on wide receiver)
  5. Dylan Rosiek (first time playing extended snaps)
  6. Denzel Daxon (first time playing extended snaps and on the high-major level).

Realize what we lost on Offense:

  1. Tommy Devito
  2. Chase Brown
  3. Alex Palczewski
  4. Brian Hightower
  5. Alex Pihlstrom

Again, 3 out of these 5 are on NFL rosters. We replaced this list with

  1. Luke Altmyer (doing great)
  2. Reggie Love and Josh McCray (unfortunately hard to tell given the early deficits we have faced)
  3. Josh Gesky (First time playing extended snaps)
  4. Pat Bryant and Casey Washington (this is literally their 4rd qb in 4 years)
  5. Josh Kreutz (first time playing extended snaps)


There is an insane amount of players at key positions that are being relied on for the first time. Additionally, these are some young players in general. Because of this, Illinois has found themselves in big holes early. This has led them into shootout games. This team is not built for shootouts, and need to find a way to start games better. Regardless, Illinois Football was going to have growing pains early on. Unfortunately, the timing and manner in which they are experiencing those pains are truly tough for a beaten down fanbase to handle.

I am confident that Illinois will find its footing later in the season. However, given their schedule, I am worried that it may lead to a mediocre season record. They have to grow up fast, otherwise the fanbase will quickly fall off again.

Alex is the Owner of, your go-to source for in depth coverage of the Illinois Fighting Illini. Alex is also the lead content creator and lead editor of all articles on Armchair Illini. He has had articles featured in top media publications like Bleacher Report, YardBarker, Verbal Commits, CBS Sports and more.