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Three Breakout Candidates for the Illini in 2023



Illinois football season preview pt. 3: The Pass Catchers

These three breakout candidates can have a big season in 2023.

After an 8-5 season in 2022, expectations are high this season in Champaign, and they should be. Head coach Bret Bielema and his staff have done an excellent job recruiting high school and the transfer portal. Despite the losses of players like Chase Brown, Devon Witherspoon, and Tommy Devito, Illinois returns outstanding talent from last season’s team. For the Illini to duplicate the success from last season, some players have to step up and play well. Here are three breakout candidates for 2023.

Isaiah Williams, Wr.

The former four-star recruit and Saint Louis native has spent the last two seasons transitioning to playing wide receiver full-time. That said, his usage on the field is limited only by offensive coordinator Barry Lunney, Jr.’s imagination. Williams is a playmaker who only needs the ball and space. With a team-leading 82 receptions last season, he’s shown the ability to handle being a high-volume receiver. Williams does need some things to happen for a breakout season, however. Above all, he — and the offense — need a receiver that is a legit deep threat. Williams gets more room to operate in the slot if the Illini can take the top off the defense. That could be game over for opposing defenses.

Luke Altmyer, QB

Mississippi transfer quarterback Luke Altmyer is due for a breakout season because the Illini need him to have a breakout season. He represents a consistent upgrade at quarterback under Bret Bielema. Altmyer was a better prospect out of high school and in the transfer portal than Tommy Devito and Brandon Peters (Peters was the better high school prospect). The Starkville native has all the tools to take the offense to the next level. He has a giant arm and can push the football down the field. Additionally, the offense will look different because Chase Brown is a Cincinnati Bengal. The passing game must take the next step for Illinois to duplicate the success of 2022; that rests on the right arm of Altmyer.

Demetrius Hill, DB

Miami native Demetrius Hill hopes to help the Illini secondary duplicate the success it had in 2022. The Illini were eighth in the country in passing yards allowed, leading the nation in interceptions (24). Hill was one of the best defensive backs in the portal. He was an FWAA Freshman All-American and has three years of eligibility remaining. Above all, Hill’s versatility makes him a breakout candidate. Hill can play safety if the Illini play cover three; he can cover the field’s slot, boundary, or wide side. He will make a formidable defensive back room alongside fellow transfer Nicario Harper and returning defensive backs Matthew Bailey and Tyler Strain.

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.