Jeremy Werner

Illini football releases first depth chart

Illini depth chart at least appears to give clarity to key position battles

CHAMPAIGN - Depth charts aren't always to be trusted, given the gamesmanship of coaches and all. But without a game played, the initial depth chart always provides intrigue and Illinois football's first official depth chart of 2016 did just that.

The Illini depth chart (below) seems to provide a few answers to key positional battles, most notably strongside linebacker, strong safety and kicker.

Senior Caleb Day was expected to have the first crack at the starting strong safety spot and split first-team reps with Darwyn Kelly at the position through most of the public portion of training camp. But sophomore Julian Hylton is listed as the starter.

Illinois also repped redshirt freshman Justice Williams almost exclusively with the first team at strongside linebacker. But it's redshirt sophomore Tre Watson listed as the starter alongside senior middle linebacker Hardy Nickerson and junior weakside linebacker James Crawford.

Sophomore Chase McLaughlin appears to have won the starting kicking job, which isn't a surprise after Lovie Smith singled him out as a standout at the position two weeks ago.

Other notables from the depth chart include four possible starters at tight end, Chayce Crouch as the No. 2 quarterback (though not unexpected), no names listed at kick or punt returner and only three freshmen on the depth chart: Darta Lee (offensive guard No. 2), Tre Nation (running back No. 4) and walk-on Sean Mills (long snapper No. 2).

The depth chart also doesn't account for subpackages, including who would play the slot in three receiver sets (likely Desmond Cain or Zach Grant) or who would play nickelback (likely Chris James or Dillan Cazley) in defensive passing situations.

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