CHICAGO - Illinois released its media guide on Monday, the first day of Big Ten Media Days at the Hyatt Regency Chicago McCormick Place. Illini quarterback Wes Lunt is the lone cover boy (see the picture above).
But the most intrigue in the book comes with the Illini's first released post-spring depth chart.
While the depth chart does not include any incoming freshmen or transfers -- graduate transfers Hardy Nickerson is expected to start at middle linebacker and Gimel President will play a big role in the defensive line rotation -- it does give us some idea of what first-year coach Lovie Smith thinks of his personnel.
Here are some highlights:
- Chayce Crouch is listed as the No. 2 quarterback. Garrick McGee has said he hopes the media never learns his number two, meaning that Lunt will stay healthy all year. Crouch is the best runner of the group, but Jimmy Fitzgerald is a more well-rounded quarterback, and Jeff George Jr. has the best arm and played very well during the spring scrimmage.
- Redshirt freshman Gabe Megginson is listed as a starting guard. The redshirt freshman is the most talented of the group competing for the only open offensive line job. Senior Connor Brennan pushed Megginson during the spring and could continue that this fall. Junior Zach Heath returns from injury to give the Illini another option.
- Tyler White and Andrew Davis are listed as co-starters at tight end. McGee loves to use the tight end as a versatile weapon. White, coming off a torn ACL, is the best blocker of the group but has inconsistent hands. Davis had a strong spring but is still slender.
- Julian Jones is listed as the starting strongside linebacker after returning from suspension. He is the most talented of the younger 'backers. Nickerson will slide in as starting Mike, allowing Watson to possibly push Jones.
- Austin Roberts is listed as linebacker on the depth chart but has moved to running back.
- Ahmari Hayes is a bit of a surprise as the listed starting cornerback. The JUCO transfer is long but Cameron Watkins and Chris James both had strong springs.
- The Illini list a starting "nickel." Illinois will often use five defensive backs, and the nickel will basically be a hybrid safety in the box who will come up and help in run support but also cover slot receivers. Dillan Cazley seemed to become a coach's favorite this spring and carved out this role.
- The Illini do not list returners. Expect Reggie Corbin, Caleb Day, Darius Mosely, Dionte Taylor, freshmen Mj McGriff and possibly others to compete for this role in the fall.
- The depth chart lists WR Mike Dudek and Dre Brown as "out at start of 2016."
|QB||Wes Lunt, SR||Chayce Crouch, R-SO||
Jimmy Fitzgerald, R-FR - OR-
Jeff George Jr., R-FR
|RB||Ke'Shawn Vaughn, SO||
Reggie Corbin, R-FR
Kendrick Foster, R-JR
|WR||Malik Turner, JR||Sam Mays, SO|
|WR||Justin Hardee, SR||Dionte Taylor, SR|
|WR||Desmond Cain, SO||Zach Grant, SR|
Tyler White, SR
Andrew Davis, SR
|Ainslie Johnson, SR||
Caleb Reams, R-FR
|OT||Austin Schmidt, SR||Jordan Fagan, JR|
|OG||Gabe Megginson, R-FR||
Zachary Heath, JR
|C||Joe Spencer, SR||Zeke Martin, R-FR||Harry Black, JR|
|OG||Nick Allegretti, R-SO||Connor Brennan, SR|
|OT||Christian DiLauro, R-JR||Adam Solomon, R-FR|
|DE||Dawuane Smoot, SR||Brandon Roberts, JR|
|DT||Chunky Clements, SR||Jamal Milan, R-FR|
|DT||Robert Bain, SR||Tito Odenigbo, R-SO|
|DE||Carroll Phillips, SR||Henry McGrew, R-SO|
|WLB||James Crawford, JR||Justice Williams, R-FR|
|MLB||Tre Watson, SO||Mike Svetina, SR|
|SLB||Julian Jones, SO||Austin Roberts, So.|
|CB||Jaylen Dunlap, JR||
Cameron Watkins, R-FR
Frank Sumpter, R-FR
|CB||Ahmari Hayes||Chris James, JR|
|FS||Caleb Day, SR||Julian Hylton, SO||Trenard Davis, FR|
|SS||Taylor Barton, SR||Darwyn Kelly, JR||Patrick Nelson, R-FR|
|Nickel||Dillan Cazley, SR||Darius Mosely, SR|
|K||David Reisner, SR|
|P||Ryan Frain, SR||David Reisner, SR|
Ryan Frain, SR
Zach Grant, SR
|LS||Michael Martin, SR|