Illinois offensive coordinator and receiver coach Paul Petrino looks forward to working with the newcomers in Camp Rantoul this summer. Receivers Jordan Frysinger, Kenny Knight and Jeremey Whitlow add quality depth while possessing attributes Petrino hopes to exploit.
"I think between them, each one brings something different. You've got Jordan, who played predominately at running back, who will be real good carrying the ball after the catch and can make things happen.
"You've got the big kid from Detroit (6'-4" Knight). He's kind of like Anthony Williams. He's tall, he's long, he can catch the ball when he's covered. I think he has a chance to be real good on fades and slants. He's got long arms, and he high-points the ball real well.
"Jeremey is probably a little bit more advanced at knowing all the routes and doing the different things."
Petrino has the option of using Frysinger on running plays as well if he chooses.
"He gives you that flexibility that you have a one-back set and put him in motion back there. Definitely, that's something we can do."
None of these receivers ranked high nationally, but the Illini trust their own evaluations. Each athlete was high on the Illinois recruiting board.
"Different people evaluate film different ways. We had a whole bunch of receivers who led the country at Louisville and Arkansas, and none of them were those so-called 'five-stars.' So I think you've just got to believe what you see on tape, recruit them and then coach them up to get them better.
"So it's a nice crew. It's a nice mixture of things they can do different. I'm excited to get them in here."
He's also excited about tight ends Jon Davis and Matt LaCosse. Davis has the skills to be an outstanding offensive threat early in his career. But Petrino doesn't want anyone overlooking the 6'-7" LaCosse. Both can add an extra dimension to his play-calling creativity.
"Yeah it does. And Matt is really athletic. You go watch him play basketball, he's aggressive, he's an ornery kid, he's tough and competitive. He's got a chance to play early. Any time you can get longer and taller and faster, it makes you a better offense in my opinion."
Petrino also looks forward to working with running backs Donovonn Young and Josh Ferguson. Young is a power back from a big-time Texas program who many think can challenge for playing time as a freshman. But the smallish Ferguson brings a special dimension otherwise lacking to the running back corps.
"The two running backs are guys that can really make plays. Josh is fast. There were some different times this year we would be scheming for a play, and we'd say, if only we had a guy who could just take it and fly. Get him on a pitch here, or get him out on the edge there.' So there's always a place for that at running back."
Running backs take a pounding as they fight for inside yards against huge defensive linemen. While some presume Ferguson's stature makes him a better fit at slot receiver, Petrino isn't ready to move him there.
"I want to use him at running back. I think he'll have a chance to be real successful there. He isn't big, but he's thick and strong. He runs with great pad level, so I think he'll do just fine."
The Illini wanted two backs this class, and Petrino feels they got what they wanted.
"We set out to grade our running backs in two different categories, a fast back and then a big back. We pretty much got the top guy we wanted in each category. So that's really exciting."