Position Probe: Running Back

An in-depth take, position by position, as the Illini transition from spring drills to summer workouts.

Josh Ferguson might be the best running back in the Big Ten… Doesn't sound so crazy, does it?

The junior isn't your traditional Big Ten power runner, but he's not expected to be in Bill Cubit's offense. He's perfect for a schemer like Cubit — a run-catch threat who showed a pretty good arm on a pass attempt in the spring game, too.

Ferguson might not get the credit a Nebraska, Wisconsin or Ohio State back will get this fall, but he's as valuable to the Illini cause as any other player in Orange and Blue.

Health is always the key in football, especially for running backs, but as long as Ferguson is close to 100 percent, he'll be a guy many plays are drawn up for.

Behind him, Donovonn Young didn't leave this offseason. He could have and may very well have explored doing just that. But he didn't. More importantly, he committed to being at Illinois. Tough love talks with Cubit and perusing the self-help and motivation aisles at bookstores helped shape a new mindset for Young, who admitted he felt lost at times as Ferguson was taking off and his own playing time and touches diminished. If he's invested and on board, and he says he is, Young is the perfect north-south style to complement Ferguson's look.

Worry regarding depth should die down thanks to the spring Devin Church enjoyed. He's solidified himself as a back worthy of playing time, a player similar to Ferguson that can run the ball or use excellent route technique to catch passes.

Don't forget about: Kendrick Foster, a redshirt freshman that looks like a bundle of bowling balls at 5-9, 200 pounds and incoming freshmen Matt Domer and Julian Hylton. Foster could be limited by his height, but he might be able to use it to his advantage sneaking in and around the trenches. Domer and Hylton were extremely productive in high school and will make the rep line at practice more rounded and robust than it did in the spring.


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