Pro Potential?

A look at the Illinois players who could hear their names called during future NFL drafts...

Wes Lunt: You don't start as a true freshman at Oklahoma State (the first ever to do so) and not be on NFL team's and evaluator's radars. Lunt has a pro arm, make no mistake. He's going to be in future draft conversations because of his tools and physical traits. Winning at Illinois would grab attention, too.

Josh Ferguson: What NFL team couldn't use a running back that's hard to tackle and is exceptional as a receiver, too? If Ferguson has a strong year in 2014, the durability concerns from the beginning of his career will be long gone. And the thing about Ferguson — his size could lead to stereotypes as a scat back or change of pace guy, but that's not the case. He likes running between the tackles as much as any other Big Ten back. Don't let the measuring tape fool you, he has a tough runner's mentality, no matter the run call. He can run around or through defenses.

Jon Davis/Matt LaCosse/Tyler White: Davis has the versality, LaCosse has the prototypical frame and White brings the athleticism. There's a lot to like about the tight end position at Illinois, it's just that's there's a lot to prove, too. Davis stays injured, LaCosse hasn't made enough plays (due to depth at the position and injuries of his own) and White is still finding his way entering his sophomore season.

Geronimo Allison: Is this premature? Of course. But Allison has the raw talent and ability to play professionally. He's all upside and potential right now as a kid who didn't play much in high school (due to grades) and didn't always get the proper nutrition and weight training at junior college. With everything Illinois can provide in all areas football, why can't a kid with the talent of Geronimo's make it big?

Darius Mosely/Jaylen Dunlap/Caleb Day: Hey, there's enough athleticism in this group for one of them to make it to the next level. Am I right? The only thing holding this group back is they're all essentially competing for playing time at the same position. Wait, that's actually probably helping each player get better on a daily basis. Day could thrive on offense, defense or special teams. Finding a home at either corner or safety is key for him. Mosely has the talent and long arms a corner needs. Dunlap has the upside and a chip on his shoulder from being lightly recruited out of high school. There's a success story in this bunch, one, two or three just waiting to unfold.

Taylor Zalewski: People who can kick 60-yard field goals don't just fall out of the sky. Zalewski may not have the accuracy or consistency that a pro kicker needs, but he's got a season left to improve those areas. His leg is big enough to earn workouts. Once he gets to that point, he'll have a chance to kick his way on to a roster.

Dawuane Smoot: Because there has to be a defensive player in the front seven with a shot at the League, right? Smoot and T.J. Neal are probably the best bet. Smoot has the size (260) and the quick, explosive pass rush that disruptive quarterback chasers need. He's all potential right now (kind of like Allison and a few others listed), but he'll have a chance to fulfill that in 2014.

Austin Schmidt/Simon Cvijanovic/Ted Karras: Cvijanovic and Karras could be All Big-Ten in 2014, something that will surely serve notice to NFL scouts. Schmidt could start as a sophomore. There's plenty of experience (already with Simon and Teddy and awaiting for Schmidt to gain), a valuable asset for a lineman to sell themselves to NFL teams with.

V'Angelo Bentley: There's a lot of playmaker in V'Angelo Bentley. He's going to score touchdowns in a variety of ways at Illinois — heck, he already has on kick and punt returns. Entering his third season, Bentley should just now be hitting his mental and physical prime.

Paul James III/Teko Powell/Jarrod Clements/Joe Fotu/Jihad Ward: Each of these players has potential. James, Powell and Clements each have the desirable size to make it to the next level. They each also have reasons for not being sure bets, too, though. James (academics), Clements (inexperience) and Powell (injuries) could be great in 2014. But since we're still typing ‘could be' in those sentences, it's best to keep the wait and see approach. Fotu and Ward are intriguing due to their size, but they've yet to play a game in the Big Ten. Is there an NFL talent or three in this group? Wait and see.


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