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Key Position Battles heading into summer: Pt. 1 the offense



Position Battles

Keep an eye on these position battles through the summer in Champaign:

It has been a while since the Illini have gone into summer and fall camp with expectations. There is a lot of change atop the Big Ten West; therefore, Illinois is a dark horse West division contender. A lot has to go right for the Blue and Orange to represent the West Division in Indianapolis. That is why these position battles are so crucial. Let’s take a look at some key position battles on offense for Illinois.

1. Interior Offensive Line:

The middle of the offensive line is what made the running game go last season. Center Alex Pihlstrom is gone this year, and Josh Kreutz is taking over there. That last name is familiar to Bear fans that also root for the Illini. His father, Olin, played for a decade in Chicago. The battle is going to be at offensive guard. Redshirt senior Isaiah Adams, Redshirt sophomore Zy Crisler, and transfer Desmond Schuster are competing for two guard spots. Redshirt senior Jordyn Slaughter also figures to be in the mix.

2. Wide Receiver:

This is one of the two most interesting battles of the summer and fall. Chase Brown’s departure from the program will be felt immediately. The passing game thrived when Brown was wrecking opposing defenses. Teams had to play a lot of man-to-man because of Brown. Chances are quarterback Luke Altmyer, and the Illini will throw more this season until they prove their running game is as potent as last season.  Casey Washington, Pat Bryant, and Isaiah Williams return this season, but they’ll have competition for snaps from some frosh receivers. Kenari Wilcher is a speedy athlete making the transition to receiver. If he or fellow freshman receiver Malik Elzy can stretch the field, that can open the middle of the field for Williams.

3. Running back

Losing a player the caliber of Chase Brown has to hurt some. What is going to be interesting is the weight of Brown being in the NFL. Illinois returns a veteran offensive line, so the Illini should be able to replace the production. Can they replace the intangibles Brown brought to the table? The likeliest scenario is a running back by committee situation with Reggie Love III as the first running back in the rotation. Josh McCray is a big physical running back who battled injuries last season. Keep an eye on incoming freshman Kaden Feagin. Recruited as an athlete, he’s settling in as a running back. He’s got the size at 6-foot-3 and 221 pounds coming onto campus. Feagin is raw but might be the playmaker the Illini are looking for.

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.