Jeremy Werner

Werner's Whits: 2016 Illini depth chart projection

Illini Inquirer publisher was asked what he thinks next season's Illini football depth chart will look like. He takes a crack at it.

Note: This is not a "Well, this season is over" post. I was sent this question on Twitter on Friday, and thought it'd make for a good topic in this piece. By the way, if you have a topic you want me to discuss in the "Whits," just tweet me and I'll consider it.

Excuse Aaron. He likes ALL CAPS!!!

Of course, we don't know exactly who will be back. Will anyone leave early for the pros? Dawuane Smoot or Chunky Clements would seem to be the only candidates, but I don't think that'd be smart for either.. Will anyone transfer? With a coaching change seemingly inevitable, that'll likely happen with a few players. Which commits will actually sign? It's safe to say that several -- maybe up to half? -- the guys committed to Cubit will reconsider if Cubit is not kept.

The Illini return a lot of its two-deepBut they do lose several key seniors. If I had to rank them in terms of importance, I'd go:

  1. Josh Ferguson, RB: Illinois should be deep at RB, but few are as versatile
  2. Jihad Ward, DE: Smoot and Phillips for a great pass-rushing duo, but neither is as strong against the run. The Illini have no depth at SDE, a huge challenge for the next head coach, who may use a different scheme.
  3. Clayton Fejedelem, S: The Illini are really, really weak at safety -- the biggest worry on defense for me next season -- and Fejedelem was the team's best tackler this season, even if he's sometimes shaky in coverage.
  4. Geronimo Allison, WR: G-Mo has been phenomenal, but Dudek's return and hopefully someone else's rise helps somewhat negate his departure.
  5. Ted Karras, G: Almost put him above G-Mo. The Illini interior is so sketchy. They're going to miss Karras' reliability.
  6. V'Angelo Bentley/Eaton Spence, CB: I put them together, because ... well ... they've always been together. Neither is great, but both are solid. Bentley is fast but limited by his height. Spence is physical but limited by his lack of great quickness. I'm high on Jaylen Dunlap. But I'm skeptical of Darius Mosely. Needless to say, I'm worried about the secondary next season.
  7. Mason Monheim, LB: Mason has been so solid, but Illinois needs more speed at the position. Julian Jones could be an intriguing option to replace him.
  8. Tim Clary, H-Back: Most underrated player of the first two games. The Illini have really missed him as a dual-threat.
  9. Eric Finney, STAR: Solid player, but James Crawford should be fine as the starter.
  10. Chris Boles, G: I'd hope Illinois can find a capable replacement. Candidates: Zach Heath, Nick Allegretti and Gabe Megginson

That's a good list of players. Not a great, or very deep, one. But still enough to have some big conerns. WIthout further ado, my projection for 2016.

QB - Wes Lunt SR / Jimmy Fitzgerald R-Fr / Chayce Crouch SO / Jeff George R-Fr / Eli Peters FR

I thought of this after the game: Lunt could be a fifth-year transfer -- not that I expect him to -- if he doesn't like the new coach's offensive style. I know people now want to go to a dual-threat, but that'd be a huge loss, of course. Lunt is talented. He needs to improve, but he more importantly needs a run game. Crouch is the best runner of the group -- but as you saw late on Saturday -- he's, umm, not a thrower. I think Jimmy Fitzgerald has a better balance of all the skills, though he's not great at one specific skill. Peters would redshirt.

RB - Ke'Shawn Vaughn SO / Dre Brown R-FR / Kentrail Moran FR / Reggie Corbin R-FR / Henry Enyenihi SR / Kendrick Foster JR

The next head coach will have a potentially great group here. The top three guys all are pretty good and all have different skills. Vaughn is going through some growing pains -- he looks like he's thinking too much right now -- but you've seen the potential. The Illini could've really used Brown -- a strong strider -- this season but the positive is that he has four years of eligibility left. Moran doesn't have the burst of the top two guys, but is a tough runner.

WR - Mikey Dudek SO / Desmond Cain SO /  Dionte Taylor SR

WR - Justin Hardee SR / Marchie Murdock JR 

WR - Malik Turner JR / Sam Mays SO / Dominic Thieman FR

Plenty of talented options, assuming they stay healthy of course. Lunt will improve just by Dudek's presence and Hardee gives the Illini much-needed speed at the position. Cain, Murdock and Taylor are solid underneath options. But can Turner and Mays get over the confidence hump and take over as chain-movers?

TE - Tyler White SR / Andrew Davis JR / Caleb Reams R-FR / Griffin Palmer FR

This is a big position of worry. White isn't a great receiver but when healthy, he's basically been a sixth offensive lineman for the Illini. Davis has receiver skills but needs to gain 10-15 more pounds -- if he can. Confidence (always difficult  for JUCOs making the transition) might be a worry with him. I'm tempted to put Reams as the second guy. His height (6-2/6-3) might make him more of an H-Back. The next coach needs to address this position.

LT - Austin Schmidt SR / Gabe Megginson / Jordan Fagan SO

LG - Nick Allegretti SO / Zach Heath R-JR / Connor Brennan 

C - Joe Spencer SR / Nick Allegretti SO

RG - Gabe Megginson R-FR / Zach Heath R-JR

RT - Christian DiLauro JR / Adam Solomon R-FR

Basically, I see six guys for five spots. The good thing is this group has some versatility. Both Spencer and Allegretti can play center and guard and Megginson could play guard or tackle. Heath could push all of those guys for a starting spot. The Illini will be strong on the perimeter, but that interior is worrisome. Megginson is talented but will undoubtedly go through growing pains. Heath hasn't played in a Big Ten game yet.

DE - Dawuane Smoot SR /  Brandon Roberts JR 

DT - Chunky Clements SR / Jamal Milan R-FR 

DT - Rob Bain SR / Teko Powell SR?JR? / Tito Odenigbo SO 

LEO?/DE - Carroll Phillips SR / Henry McGrew SO / Sean Adesanya JR

I didn't put any of the freshmen in the two-deep because they all need to redshirt. That front four is a pretty intriguing pass-rushing group. But notice, all of them are seniors. 2017 could be a scary season on the defensive line. The Illini really can't rely on Teko Powell and that foot, but I think he'll try to come back. We'll see if he gets another medical redshirt.  Milan should be a very good rotation player next year, though, and Odenigbo had some moments during camp. He could be a solid rotation player. The depth at DE is bad. Henry McGrew is a solid run stuffer but Roberts is a walk-on. Simply, the Illini have to get as much as they can out of this strong unit next season because it could get ugly after that.

LB - T.J. Neal SR / Tre Watson SO / Mike Svetina SR

LB - Julian Jones SO / LaKeith Walls SR / Tim Walton FR

STAR?/LB - James Crawford JR / Cedric Doxy SR / Justice Williams R-FR

This is a tough group to evaluate because a change in defensive scheme could change some of their responsibilities. One thing is for sure, they need more speed. Jones could do that. He's long, rangy and athletic. He put on a lot of strength last offseason and should look like a Big Ten linebacker after an offseason. Tre Watson has a lot of similarities to Neal. This group should be OK. Jones and Crawford are the guys with play-making ability. I wanted to see more Crawford this season.

CB - Jaylen Dunlap JR / Chris James R-SO / Unsigned recruit

CB - Darius Mosely SR / Cameron Watkins R-FR / Unsigned recruit

There's a reason the current Illini staff wants to add two long, athletic corners. I think Dunlap is a starter. He's taken over as the third corner lately because of his combo of length and athleticism. Also, Mosely just hasn't played well since fall camp. He scares me as a third corner, let alone a starter. And Chris James is behind him on the depth chart for a reason. Cameron Watkins is really, really fast. Is he strong enough yet? The coaches could move Desmond Cain or Caleb Day here -- they might have to.

S - Taylor Barton SR / Patrick Nelson R-FR / Darwyn Kelly JR

S - Caleb Day SR / Jevaris Little SR / Juwane Parchman FR

Thank goodness Barton is back or this secondary could get really, really ugly. Day is the best athlete in the secondary, but that hasn't translated to a good football player. Little is a special teams ace but has few reps on defense. Nelson would have played this season had he not suffered a torn ACL during the spring. He adds physicality. Parchman, a smooth athlete, may have a chance to make an early impact.

K - David Resiner SR / James McCourt FR

P - Ryan Frain SR / Luke Nelson SR

Not a lot that rocks you to sleep here.

My biggest concerns in order would be...

1. Secondary

2. Interior offensive line

3. Defensive end depth

4. Kicking game

5. Tight end

6. Playmaking linebacker

The next head coach (Cubit or other) is set up with some very good skill players on offense. But the staff inherits a sketchy situation up front and in the secondary. Illinois must prioritize adding Big Ten linemen to each side of the ball, especially on defense. There are a few intriguing line prospects (Megginson, Allegretti and Solomon), including the current 2016 class (Jake Cerny, Tre'vour Simms and Kurt Gavin). The staff also must add much more speed and length to the back seven on defense.


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Excuse Aaron. He likes ALL CAPS!!!

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Of course, we don't know exactly who will be back. Will anyone leave early for the pros? Dawuane Smoot or Chunky Clements would seem to be the only candidates, but I don't think that'd be smart for either.. Will anyone transfer? With a coaching change seemingly inevitable, that'll likely happen with a few players. Which commits will actually sign? It's safe to say that several -- maybe up to half? -- the guys committed to Cubit will reconsider if Cubit is not kept.

\n

The Illini return a lot of its two-deepBut they do lose several key seniors. If I had to rank them in terms of importance, I'd go:

\n
  1. Josh Ferguson, RB: Illinois should be deep at RB, but few are as versatile
  2. \n
  3. Jihad Ward, DE: Smoot and Phillips for a great pass-rushing duo, but neither is as strong against the run. The Illini have no depth at SDE, a huge challenge for the next head coach, who may use a different scheme.
  4. \n
  5. Clayton Fejedelem, S: The Illini are really, really weak at safety -- the biggest worry on defense for me next season -- and Fejedelem was the team's best tackler this season, even if he's sometimes shaky in coverage.
  6. \n
  7. Geronimo Allison, WR: G-Mo has been phenomenal, but Dudek's return and hopefully someone else's rise helps somewhat negate his departure.
  8. \n
  9. Ted Karras, G: Almost put him above G-Mo. The Illini interior is so sketchy. They're going to miss Karras' reliability.
  10. \n
  11. V'Angelo Bentley/Eaton Spence, CB: I put them together, because ... well ... they've always been together. Neither is great, but both are solid. Bentley is fast but limited by his height. Spence is physical but limited by his lack of great quickness. I'm high on Jaylen Dunlap. But I'm skeptical of Darius Mosely. Needless to say, I'm worried about the secondary next season.
  12. \n
  13. Mason Monheim, LB: Mason has been so solid, but Illinois needs more speed at the position. Julian Jones could be an intriguing option to replace him.
  14. \n
  15. Tim Clary, H-Back: Most underrated player of the first two games. The Illini have really missed him as a dual-threat.
  16. \n
  17. Eric Finney, STAR: Solid player, but James Crawford should be fine as the starter.
  18. \n
  19. Chris Boles, G: I'd hope Illinois can find a capable replacement. Candidates: Zach Heath, Nick Allegretti and Gabe Megginson
  20. \n

That's a good list of players. Not a great, or very deep, one. But still enough to have some big conerns. WIthout further ado, my projection for 2016.

\n

QB - Wes Lunt SR / Jimmy Fitzgerald R-Fr / Chayce Crouch SO / Jeff George R-Fr / Eli Peters FR

\n

I thought of this after the game: Lunt could be a fifth-year transfer -- not that I expect him to -- if he doesn't like the new coach's offensive style. I know people now want to go to a dual-threat, but that'd be a huge loss, of course. Lunt is talented. He needs to improve, but he more importantly needs a run game. Crouch is the best runner of the group -- but as you saw late on Saturday -- he's, umm, not a thrower. I think Jimmy Fitzgerald has a better balance of all the skills, though he's not great at one specific skill. Peters would redshirt.

\n

RB - Ke'Shawn Vaughn SO / Dre Brown R-FR / Kentrail Moran FR / Reggie Corbin R-FR / Henry Enyenihi SR / Kendrick Foster JR

\n

The next head coach will have a potentially great group here. The top three guys all are pretty good and all have different skills. Vaughn is going through some growing pains -- he looks like he's thinking too much right now -- but you've seen the potential. The Illini could've really used Brown -- a strong strider -- this season but the positive is that he has four years of eligibility left. Moran doesn't have the burst of the top two guys, but is a tough runner.

\n

WR - Mikey Dudek SO / Desmond Cain SO /  Dionte Taylor SR

\n

WR - Justin Hardee SR / Marchie Murdock JR 

\n

WR - Malik Turner JR / Sam Mays SO / Dominic Thieman FR

\n

Plenty of talented options, assuming they stay healthy of course. Lunt will improve just by Dudek's presence and Hardee gives the Illini much-needed speed at the position. Cain, Murdock and Taylor are solid underneath options. But can Turner and Mays get over the confidence hump and take over as chain-movers?

\n

TE - Tyler White SR / Andrew Davis JR / Caleb Reams R-FR / Griffin Palmer FR

\n

This is a big position of worry. White isn't a great receiver but when healthy, he's basically been a sixth offensive lineman for the Illini. Davis has receiver skills but needs to gain 10-15 more pounds -- if he can. Confidence (always difficult  for JUCOs making the transition) might be a worry with him. I'm tempted to put Reams as the second guy. His height (6-2/6-3) might make him more of an H-Back. The next coach needs to address this position.

\n

LT - Austin Schmidt SR / Gabe Megginson / Jordan Fagan SO

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LG - Nick Allegretti SO / Zach Heath R-JR / Connor Brennan 

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C - Joe Spencer SR / Nick Allegretti SO

\n

RG - Gabe Megginson R-FR / Zach Heath R-JR

\n

RT - Christian DiLauro JR / Adam Solomon R-FR

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Basically, I see six guys for five spots. The good thing is this group has some versatility. Both Spencer and Allegretti can play center and guard and Megginson could play guard or tackle. Heath could push all of those guys for a starting spot. The Illini will be strong on the perimeter, but that interior is worrisome. Megginson is talented but will undoubtedly go through growing pains. Heath hasn't played in a Big Ten game yet.

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DE - Dawuane Smoot SR /  Brandon Roberts JR 

\n

DT - Chunky Clements SR / Jamal Milan R-FR 

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DT - Rob Bain SR / Teko Powell SR?JR? / Tito Odenigbo SO 

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LEO?/DE - Carroll Phillips SR / Henry McGrew SO / Sean Adesanya JR

\n

I didn't put any of the freshmen in the two-deep because they all need to redshirt. That front four is a pretty intriguing pass-rushing group. But notice, all of them are seniors. 2017 could be a scary season on the defensive line. The Illini really can't rely on Teko Powell and that foot, but I think he'll try to come back. We'll see if he gets another medical redshirt.  Milan should be a very good rotation player next year, though, and Odenigbo had some moments during camp. He could be a solid rotation player. The depth at DE is bad. Henry McGrew is a solid run stuffer but Roberts is a walk-on. Simply, the Illini have to get as much as they can out of this strong unit next season because it could get ugly after that.

\n

LB - T.J. Neal SR / Tre Watson SO / Mike Svetina SR

\n

LB - Julian Jones SO / LaKeith Walls SR / Tim Walton FR

\n

STAR?/LB - James Crawford JR / Cedric Doxy SR / Justice Williams R-FR

\n

This is a tough group to evaluate because a change in defensive scheme could change some of their responsibilities. One thing is for sure, they need more speed. Jones could do that. He's long, rangy and athletic. He put on a lot of strength last offseason and should look like a Big Ten linebacker after an offseason. Tre Watson has a lot of similarities to Neal. This group should be OK. Jones and Crawford are the guys with play-making ability. I wanted to see more Crawford this season.

\n

CB - Jaylen Dunlap JR / Chris James R-SO / Unsigned recruit

\n

CB - Darius Mosely SR / Cameron Watkins R-FR / Unsigned recruit

\n

There's a reason the current Illini staff wants to add two long, athletic corners. I think Dunlap is a starter. He's taken over as the third corner lately because of his combo of length and athleticism. Also, Mosely just hasn't played well since fall camp. He scares me as a third corner, let alone a starter. And Chris James is behind him on the depth chart for a reason. Cameron Watkins is really, really fast. Is he strong enough yet? The coaches could move Desmond Cain or Caleb Day here -- they might have to.

\n

S - Taylor Barton SR / Patrick Nelson R-FR / Darwyn Kelly JR

\n

S - Caleb Day SR / Jevaris Little SR / Juwane Parchman FR

\n

Thank goodness Barton is back or this secondary could get really, really ugly. Day is the best athlete in the secondary, but that hasn't translated to a good football player. Little is a special teams ace but has few reps on defense. Nelson would have played this season had he not suffered a torn ACL during the spring. He adds physicality. Parchman, a smooth athlete, may have a chance to make an early impact.

\n

K - David Resiner SR / James McCourt FR

\n

P - Ryan Frain SR / Luke Nelson SR

\n

Not a lot that rocks you to sleep here.

\n

My biggest concerns in order would be...

\n

1. Secondary

\n

2. Interior offensive line

\n

3. Defensive end depth

\n

4. Kicking game

\n

5. Tight end

\n

6. Playmaking linebacker

\n

The next head coach (Cubit or other) is set up with some very good skill players on offense. But the staff inherits a sketchy situation up front and in the secondary. Illinois must prioritize adding Big Ten linemen to each side of the ball, especially on defense. There are a few intriguing line prospects (Megginson, Allegretti and Solomon), including the current 2016 class (Jake Cerny, Tre'vour Simms and Kurt Gavin). The staff also must add much more speed and length to the back seven on defense.

","mobileBody":"

Note: This is not a \"Well, this season is over\" post. I was sent this question on Twitter on Friday, and thought it'd make for a good topic in this piece. By the way, if you have a topic you want me to discuss in the \"Whits,\" just tweet me and I'll consider it.

@JWernerScout I KNOW ITS A LITTLE EARLY BUT IF YOU COULD DO A NEXT YEAR DEPTH CHART FOR OUR ILLINI HOW WOULD IT LOOK???

— AARON BURTON-BURNETT (@SO_SMOOVE_AARON) October 30, 2015

Excuse Aaron. He likes ALL CAPS!!!

Of course, we don't know exactly who will be back. Will anyone leave early for the pros? Dawuane Smoot or Chunky Clements would seem to be the only candidates, but I don't think that'd be smart for either.. Will anyone transfer? With a coaching change seemingly inevitable, that'll likely happen with a few players. Which commits will actually sign? It's safe to say that several -- maybe up to half? -- the guys committed to Cubit will reconsider if Cubit is not kept.

The Illini return a lot of its two-deep. But they do lose several key seniors. If I had to rank them in terms of importance, I'd go:

  1. Josh Ferguson, RB: Illinois should be deep at RB, but few are as versatile
  2. Jihad Ward, DE: Smoot and Phillips for a great pass-rushing duo, but neither is as strong against the run. The Illini have no depth at SDE, a huge challenge for the next head coach, who may use a different scheme.
  3. Clayton Fejedelem, S: The Illini are really, really weak at safety -- the biggest worry on defense for me next season -- and Fejedelem was the team's best tackler this season, even if he's sometimes shaky in coverage.
  4. Geronimo Allison, WR: G-Mo has been phenomenal, but Dudek's return and hopefully someone else's rise helps somewhat negate his departure.
  5. Ted Karras, G: Almost put him above G-Mo. The Illini interior is so sketchy. They're going to miss Karras' reliability.
  6. V'Angelo Bentley/Eaton Spence, CB: I put them together, because ... well ... they've always been together. Neither is great, but both are solid. Bentley is fast but limited by his height. Spence is physical but limited by his lack of great quickness. I'm high on Jaylen Dunlap. But I'm skeptical of Darius Mosely. Needless to say, I'm worried about the secondary next season.
  7. Mason Monheim, LB: Mason has been so solid, but Illinois needs more speed at the position. Julian Jones could be an intriguing option to replace him.
  8. Tim Clary, H-Back: Most underrated player of the first two games. The Illini have really missed him as a dual-threat.
  9. Eric Finney, STAR: Solid player, but James Crawford should be fine as the starter.
  10. Chris Boles, G: I'd hope Illinois can find a capable replacement. Candidates: Zach Heath, Nick Allegretti and Gabe Megginson

That's a good list of players. Not a great, or very deep, one. But still enough to have some big conerns. WIthout further ado, my projection for 2016.

QB - Wes Lunt SR / Jimmy Fitzgerald R-Fr / Chayce Crouch SO / Jeff George R-Fr / Eli Peters FR

I thought of this after the game: Lunt could be a fifth-year transfer -- not that I expect him to -- if he doesn't like the new coach's offensive style. I know people now want to go to a dual-threat, but that'd be a huge loss, of course. Lunt is talented. He needs to improve, but he more importantly needs a run game. Crouch is the best runner of the group -- but as you saw late on Saturday -- he's, umm, not a thrower. I think Jimmy Fitzgerald has a better balance of all the skills, though he's not great at one specific skill. Peters would redshirt.

RB - Ke'Shawn Vaughn SO / Dre Brown R-FR / Kentrail Moran FR / Reggie Corbin R-FR / Henry Enyenihi SR / Kendrick Foster JR

The next head coach will have a potentially great group here. The top three guys all are pretty good and all have different skills. Vaughn is going through some growing pains -- he looks like he's thinking too much right now -- but you've seen the potential. The Illini could've really used Brown -- a strong strider -- this season but the positive is that he has four years of eligibility left. Moran doesn't have the burst of the top two guys, but is a tough runner.

WR - Mikey Dudek SO / Desmond Cain SO / Dionte Taylor SR

WR - Justin Hardee SR / Marchie Murdock JR

WR - Malik Turner JR / Sam Mays SO / Dominic Thieman FR

Plenty of talented options, assuming they stay healthy of course. Lunt will improve just by Dudek's presence and Hardee gives the Illini much-needed speed at the position. Cain, Murdock and Taylor are solid underneath options. But can Turner and Mays get over the confidence hump and take over as chain-movers?

TE - Tyler White SR / Andrew Davis JR / Caleb Reams R-FR / Griffin Palmer FR

This is a big position of worry. White isn't a great receiver but when healthy, he's basically been a sixth offensive lineman for the Illini. Davis has receiver skills but needs to gain 10-15 more pounds -- if he can. Confidence (always difficult for JUCOs making the transition) might be a worry with him. I'm tempted to put Reams as the second guy. His height (6-2/6-3) might make him more of an H-Back. The next coach needs to address this position.

LT - Austin Schmidt SR / Gabe Megginson / Jordan Fagan SO

LG - Nick Allegretti SO / Zach Heath R-JR / Connor Brennan

C - Joe Spencer SR / Nick Allegretti SO

RG - Gabe Megginson R-FR / Zach Heath R-JR

RT - Christian DiLauro JR / Adam Solomon R-FR

Basically, I see six guys for five spots. The good thing is this group has some versatility. Both Spencer and Allegretti can play center and guard and Megginson could play guard or tackle. Heath could push all of those guys for a starting spot. The Illini will be strong on the perimeter, but that interior is worrisome. Megginson is talented but will undoubtedly go through growing pains. Heath hasn't played in a Big Ten game yet.

DE - Dawuane Smoot SR / Brandon Roberts JR

DT - Chunky Clements SR / Jamal Milan R-FR

DT - Rob Bain SR / Teko Powell SR?JR? / Tito Odenigbo SO

LEO?/DE - Carroll Phillips SR / Henry McGrew SO / Sean Adesanya JR

I didn't put any of the freshmen in the two-deep because they all need to redshirt. That front four is a pretty intriguing pass-rushing group. But notice, all of them are seniors. 2017 could be a scary season on the defensive line. The Illini really can't rely on Teko Powell and that foot, but I think he'll try to come back. We'll see if he gets another medical redshirt. Milan should be a very good rotation player next year, though, and Odenigbo had some moments during camp. He could be a solid rotation player. The depth at DE is bad. Henry McGrew is a solid run stuffer but Roberts is a walk-on. Simply, the Illini have to get as much as they can out of this strong unit next season because it could get ugly after that.

LB - T.J. Neal SR / Tre Watson SO / Mike Svetina SR

LB - Julian Jones SO / LaKeith Walls SR / Tim Walton FR

STAR?/LB - James Crawford JR / Cedric Doxy SR / Justice Williams R-FR

This is a tough group to evaluate because a change in defensive scheme could change some of their responsibilities. One thing is for sure, they need more speed. Jones could do that. He's long, rangy and athletic. He put on a lot of strength last offseason and should look like a Big Ten linebacker after an offseason. Tre Watson has a lot of similarities to Neal. This group should be OK. Jones and Crawford are the guys with play-making ability. I wanted to see more Crawford this season.

CB - Jaylen Dunlap JR / Chris James R-SO / Unsigned recruit

CB - Darius Mosely SR / Cameron Watkins R-FR / Unsigned recruit

There's a reason the current Illini staff wants to add two long, athletic corners. I think Dunlap is a starter. He's taken over as the third corner lately because of his combo of length and athleticism. Also, Mosely just hasn't played well since fall camp. He scares me as a third corner, let alone a starter. And Chris James is behind him on the depth chart for a reason. Cameron Watkins is really, really fast. Is he strong enough yet? The coaches could move Desmond Cain or Caleb Day here -- they might have to.

S - Taylor Barton SR / Patrick Nelson R-FR / Darwyn Kelly JR

S - Caleb Day SR / Jevaris Little SR / Juwane Parchman FR

Thank goodness Barton is back or this secondary could get really, really ugly. Day is the best athlete in the secondary, but that hasn't translated to a good football player. Little is a special teams ace but has few reps on defense. Nelson would have played this season had he not suffered a torn ACL during the spring. He adds physicality. Parchman, a smooth athlete, may have a chance to make an early impact.

K - David Resiner SR / James McCourt FR

P - Ryan Frain SR / Luke Nelson SR

Not a lot that rocks you to sleep here.

My biggest concerns in order would be...

1. Secondary

2. Interior offensive line

3. Defensive end depth

4. Kicking game

5. Tight end

6. Playmaking linebacker

The next head coach (Cubit or other) is set up with some very good skill players on offense. But the staff inherits a sketchy situation up front and in the secondary. Illinois must prioritize adding Big Ten linemen to each side of the ball, especially on defense. There are a few intriguing line prospects (Megginson, Allegretti and Solomon), including the current 2016 class (Jake Cerny, Tre'vour Simms and Kurt Gavin). The staff also must add much more speed and length to the back seven on defense.

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