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Is Illinois Football Nearing a Big Addition?

After taking multiple visits, a big time Illinois Football target is nearing a decision. Are the Illini in the mix?



Is Illinois Football Nearing A Big Addition?
Nov 13, 2021; San Antonio, Texas, USA; UTSA Roadrunners wide receiver Zakhari Franklin (4) runs after a catch in the first half against the Southern Miss Golden Eagles at the Alamodome. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Dunn-USA TODAY Sports

Is Illinois Football Nearing a Big Addition?

The Illinois Football program is in need of a quality veteran pass catcher, and luckily for them, their top priority is near a decision. After making a trip to the University of Washington, Ole Miss transfer Zakhari Franklin appears to be finished with official visits. Certainly, news on the young man has been few and far between. However, that may be a positive sign for the Illini.

The fact that Franklin made it out of Seattle without a commitment bodes very well for Illinois. Zakhari visited Champaign first and got a great feel for the program. After taking an official with the Huskies, it appears the talented wideout still feels a decision needs to be made. Of course, Franklin’s connection to offensive coordinator Barry Lunney Jr doesn’t hurt either. Lunney Jr was Franklin’s offensive coordinator at UTSA before both parties decided separately to depart from the program. Barry took over offensive coordinator duties at Illinois, while Zakhari made the transfer to the SEC (Ole Miss). With such a solid history and familiarity between the duo, look for the Illini to be in a good place with Franklin. Additionally, with the current timeline of teams reporting to campus, look for a decision soon.

Player Breakdown – Zakhari Franklin

Familiar name Illini fans? That’s because Franklin used to play for UTSA. Of course, the Roadrunners came into Memorial Stadium in 2021 and delivered a gut-punching 37-30 loss in Champaign. A game in which, Zakhari put on a show vs the Illini. The C-USA all-conference receiver snagged 10 catches, 155 yards, and a touchdown to lead UTSA past a Big Ten foe in Illinois Football.

After two straight 1,000-yard seasons, and being named a back-to-back first-team All-Conference recipient, Franklin departed from USTA. He decided to transfer to Ole Miss in 2023, to take on bigger competition in the SEC. However, he only caught 4  passes for 38 yards and a touchdown. Unfortunately, the 6-foot, 190-pound wide receiver was injured during fall camp. This nagging injury held him back physically and held him out of the first 3 games of the season for Ole Miss. From then on, Zakhari struggled to find playing time behind starters Tre Harris, Jordan Watkins, and Dayton Wade. The native of Cedar Hill, TX will certainly find himself on the Illinois staff’s radar, especially with the connection of OC Barry Lunney Jr. Lunney Jr was the coach called the plays for UTSA when the Roadrunners came into Illinois and offensively dominated.

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Kirkland is a go-to source for Illinois athletics news. He is the lead Football analyst at Armchair Illini and has been featured in top media publications like Bleacher Report, Yard Barker, Autograph, Newsbreak, CBS Sports and more.