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What Josh McCray Can do for Illinois Football



What Josh McCray Can do for Illinois Football
Jan 2, 2023; Tampa, FL, USA; Illinois Fighting Illini running back Josh McCray (0) stiff arms Mississippi State Bulldogs linebacker Jett Johnson (44) during the first half in the 2023 ReliaQuest Bowl at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

What Josh McCray Can do for Illinois Football

There is no secret that Illinois Football has a lot of production to replace. At the running back spot, Chase Brown had over 70 percent of all carries over the 2022 season. This was obviously not intentional, however was probably also out of necessity. Josh McCray was in line to be the second back behind Brown after a stellar freshman season. Unfortunately, McCray was hurt in the first game against Wyoming and missed practically the entire season. He did attempt to return against Michigan State, however McCray reaggravated an injury that would then sideline him until the bowl game. Regardless, McCray never found his footing after missing so much time.

Not only is McCray healthy again, the guy who had 70 percent of the carries is now in the NFL. McCray is in line for a huge bump in activity and he should be ready.

A Standout Freshman

Josh McCray was one of the first recruits that Bret Bielema signed during his time at Illinois. McCray was a late add to the class, however held power five offers from several SEC programs to play linebacker. That is no surprise when you look at the 6 foot 1, 235 pound back from Enterprise, Alabama. Bielema, who has had success with larger backs, believed in McCray to play running back instead. McCray looked like he would have a quiet freshman season. He was learning the position and behind Chase Brown and Mike Epstein. Reggie Love is also in the room who was a top 500 recruit.

Brown and Epstein had their injuries to start the 2021 season off. McCray was thrown into the fire out of necessity and immediately shined. Who could forget the life that he injected into the team in the Maryland game? McCray also followed that up with a 24 carry 156 yard performance against Purdue. He then followed that up with a 24 yard 142 yard game against Penn State

Head of the room.

Both Josh McCray and Reggie Love have shown glimpses of brilliance. It is now time for both to show that they are every down backs. With the passing game hoping to improve, Illinois needs their running back room to be a consistent force. McCray and Love are backed by many talented, but young prospects. Aidan Laughery, Kaden Feagin and Jordan Anderson are all prominent parts of the future. However, Love and Josh McCray need to assert their dominance as the every day backs from day one.

Alex is the Owner of, your go-to source for in depth coverage of the Illinois Fighting Illini. Alex is a Resident Physician in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation for Northwestern Medicine and has had articles featured in top media publications like Bleacher Report, YardBarker, Verbal Commits, CBS sports and more.