On paper, the tight end position is in good shape, in similar fashion to the offensive line, for the upcoming season. Jon Davis and Matt LaCosse are both seniors will plenty of talent and plenty of experience. Those two should command the bulk of the reps and targets, with sophomore Tyler White a promising rising talent and junior Tim Clary acting as the utility man, a versatile, big, strong guy that's suited for multiple roles.
There is the injury issues of Davis and LaCosse to point out. While the past may make some uneasy, it could also be argued that Davis and LaCosse have a lot still to prove — always a useful mindset for a football player.
If healthy, the 6-3, 240-pound Davis is a threat from tight end, wide receiver and the backfield. He can catch, run and block, the all-around package if not for the problems staying in the lineup because of the injuries.
LaCosse is more the prototypical tight end, a 6-6, 245-pound former high school quarterback that has the strength, speed and hands to be a college quarterback's best friend. Again, health is the only knock. LaCosse and Davis missed most of spring drills due to injuries. Both are expected to be 100 percent for fall camp.
There is a contingency plan if either Davis or White miss time in 2014. White could be the best tight end of the bunch, he's just not quite on the same level, physically or mentally, as his older peers. The gap is closing, though. Look for White to make a move this season, as he should see plenty of playing time and targets after spot-duty as a true freshman last year.
Also on the roster, former offensive lineman Dallas Hinkhouse moved to the position prior to spring drills, Trevor Kanteman redshirted as a freshman last season and big-bodied wideout Kenny Knight could be moved in a pinch.
Recruiting Needs & Top Targets
Clearly Illinois is in ideal shape for 2014. Two seniors should lead the way, with a useful junior and a potential rising sophomore star.
Next season though, White would be the only "No. 1-type" tight end on the roster. Perhaps Kanteman makes a leap, but even then, depth wouldn't be in good standing. While a schemer like coordinator Bill Cubit can get by without a traditional stockpile at tight end, signing at least one player with impact potential down the road is a must in the 2015 class.
Luckily, there's a few in-state targets the Illini have a good shot of landing.
David Edwards - Downers Grove, Ill, 6-6, 225: Could this be Matt LaCosse 2.0? Edwards currently plays quarterback, but his future is at tight end. It's shaping up as a Big Ten battle for his signature, with the Illini in good position. Edwards visited in March, April and May — he's clearly intrigued by staying home.
Caleb Reams - Gurnee, Ill., 6-3, 220 - The one-time Western Michigan commitment has seen his stock rise big-time this spring/summer. Big Ten programs are showing serious interest, but it was Illinois that was in heavy pursuit before any other staff in the conference.
The tight end position is good to go for 2014 with Davis and LaCosse, and the future is fine as well with rising star Tyler White still with three years of eligibility.
Still, the Illini didn't sign a tight end in 2014 and the in-state talent is too great for another cycle to go by without a win. Edwards would be a major pull, another four-star player to add on offense with Gabe Megginson and Dre Brown. Reams would work, too, an athlete with serious potential and a frame to grow into.
Landing one or both of those players would go a long way for the Illini offensive staff to reach it's goal — to sign a well-rounded class with as many weapons as possible.