The running back spot should be a strength, a definite tool for coordinator Bill Cubit to work with in 2014. Josh Ferguson is perhaps the team's most dynamic player, returning after rushing for 779 yards (5.5 average per) and adding 535 yards on catches, with 11 total touchdowns as a redshirt sophomore.
Ferguson is joined by senior Donovonn Young, who returns after an up-and-down offseason. The former starter went from having his name involved in transfer rumors in December to spreading a story of resurgence in the spring thanks to reading self-help books on positivity.
Ferguson and Young complement each other well, in terms of look and style.
The race for third on the depth chart is between Devin Church and Kendrick Foster, two players with little prior experience. Church redshirted after an injury his freshman year and played little in 2013. Foster redshirted as a freshman last season. Give Church the nod for now. He had a strong spring and can play both from the backfield or split out as a receiver, a clear advantage for seeing playing time.
Incoming freshmen Matt Domer and Julian Hylton are set to join the mix in June. Domer is a smart player, but must add strength and size before he's ready. Hylton was recruited as a cornerback, but should get a chance on offense after posting staggering rushing numbers as a senior.
Signed Under Beckman:
2014: Matt Domer - Chicago, Julian Hylton - Chicago
2013: Kendrick Foster - Peoria, Miguel Hermosillo - Ottawa, Ill. (signed MLB contract)
2015 Recruiting Needs & Top Targets
Put a bow on this thing — it's all wrapped up. Given that Young is gone after this season and Ferguson the next, the Illini needed at least two backs to call this class a success. That happened before the end of May.
Brown is a four-star, in-state guy — who doesn't love those? And Corbin is a multi-purpose back from a familiar recruiting area in the nation's capitol.
Many think of passing and receiving first when Bill Cubit offenses are brought up… running backs get their share, too, though. Ferguson should make a run at 1,000 yards this season and will certainly provide Wes Lunt with an exciting option out of the backfield.
A motivated and focused Young can be very productive as well. Young may not be the No. 1 star some of us (ahem, me) predicted going into 2013, but he's still a valuable member of the offense (when he's on point).
The depth isn't exactly ideal and there's not a clear-cut No. 1 on the roster behind Ferguson. The staff has already addressed those needs. Brown and Corbin are exactly the kind of players Illinois needed to add. It's not even June and it's already done. That means other areas, such offensive line and the entire defense, can receive more attention.