The Illinois defense started to come around toward the end of the season, but with the amount of youth that had to play on that side of the ball, the Illini may look to add some more veteran presence to the front seven.
One step they recently took was to extend an offer to Garden City Community College backer and former Detroit Cass Tech standout Delshawn Phillips.
Phillips, who is currently committed to the Arizona Wildcats, got the news of his offer from the Illinois head man himself in Lovie Smith.
"It was a nice conversation (with Coach Smith)," Phillips said. "He called and officially offered me, and we also talked about where I would fit in the D. We also talked about what me and some of his former great linebackers have in common."
One of the other parts of the conversation with Lovie that appealed to Phillips centered around the heavy role that his linebackers play in the defensive scheme.
"The more the responsibility the better, Phillips said. "I love leading the way, and I think that's what they want."
On tape, Phillips is an aggressive and disruptive linebacker who can really deliver a vicious hit. Part of that is being able to get himself into the right place at the right time.
"I have a high IQ of the game, and my speed gets me to the ball immediately," he said.
Given Phillips aggressive and physical style of play, it's really no surprise that he compares his style to one of the NFL's more underrated and athletic linebackers from the Steel City.
"I like to play like Ryan Shazier," he said. "He's fast and light but strikes people violently."
Phillips remains committed to Arizona for now, but the Illini continue to cast their nets far and wide for defenders, and wouldn't mind picking up a game-ready player like Phillips.