"I've gone through the whole year and put in a lot of work. It paid off."
Whitlow wanted to play this season, but competition was intense at the three receiver positions. Looking back, he realizes redshirting was in his best interest.
"At the beginning, it was kind of frustrating. But I knew being on the scout team was an opportunity for me to get better. I took it in stride and worked all year."
Former receiver coach Paul Petrino prepared him for future years.
"I learned a lot working with all the good receivers we have, and I learned from Coach Petrino."
What did he think when Petrino departed after head coach Ron Zook was fired?
"I'm gonna miss him, he's a real good coach. But things like that happen. It is out of my control, so I'm gonna keep on doing as good as possible. Try to get better."
The 6'-2", 205 pounder improved his body considerably this past summer.
"I gained about 13 pounds since getting here. I started at 5.3% body fat, and I'm down to 4.6% body fat."
Whitlow identified some fellow Illini players with whom he has developed friendships.
"Out of the older guys, Ryan Lankford. He was my guide on my recruiting trip, so we've been close since then."
The Cleveland native has also benefitted from the tutelage of senior star A.J. Jenkins.
"He's been a real good mentor. Whenever I have questions, he helps out. Just watching him, he's a great leader and sets a great example."
Quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase has also been a big help to Whitlow.
"He's been a great leader. He helps me out with spots I'm supposed to be in. He's like a coach. He knows where everyone's supposed to be."
Whitlow believes he is ready to compete for playing time, especially with his physicality. But he knows he must improve as well.
"Route running is number one. You can't be a good receiver unless you're a good route runner. Explosiveness and speed too. Coach Petrino said that that's what I need to work on."
Whitlow will be working with a new receiver coach this year, and that person has not been announced as yet. But he trusts new coach Tim Beckman.
"I met him before when he was at Toledo. He was recruiting me. I think he's a pretty good guy. He comes from a good system at Toledo. I'm looking forward to working with him."
He is a hard worker, so he looks forward to whatever is required of him.
"Yeah, it's more physically and mentally demanding. I feel like I can catch on quickly, and once I get everything together I'll be great."